The landscapes of southern France and Greece are graced with this statuesque evergreen, which first came from the island of Cyprus where it was worshiped as a representation of the goddess Beruth. The tree appears in art and literature as an emblem of generation, death, the immortal soul, and woe. This long association with mortality continues today, for modern Egyptians use cypress wood for coffins, while the French and Americans plant it in graveyards.
Greeks say that cypress clears the mind during stressful times and comforts mourners. Cypress stanches bleeding (Hippocrates recommended it for hemorrhoids) and the Chinese chewed its small cones, rich in essential oils and astringents, to heal bleeding gums.
The Chinese also revered cypress, but associated it with contemplation because its roots grow in the form of a seated man. The greenish essential oil is distilled from the tree’s needles or twigs and sometimes from its cones.
Principal constituents of cypress: Pinene, camphene, sylvestrene, cymene, sabinol
Scent of cypress: It has a smoky, pungent, pinelike, and spicy scent.
Therapeutic properties of cypress: Antiseptic, astringent, deodorant; relieves rheumatic pain, relaxes muscle spasms and cramping, stops bleeding, and constricts blood vessels.
Uses for cypress: Cypress’s specialty is treating circulation problems, such as low blood pressure, poor circulation, varicose veins, and hemorrhoids. Because it helps heal broken capillaries and also discourages fluid retention, it is a favored essential oil at menopause. For these uses, add 8 drops to every ounce of cream or lotion and apply gently to the afflicted region a couple of times a day. You can also alleviate laryngitis, spasmodic coughing, and lung congestion just by putting a drop on your pillow.
A European folk remedy is to inhale smoke from the burning gum resin to relieve sinus congestion, although inhaling a few drops of the essential oil in steam is a healthier approach. Place a cypress compress over the abdomen to quell excessive menstruation, urinary infection, or inflammation. Because of its astringent, antiseptic, and deodorant properties, dilute about 6 drops of cypress essential oil in vinegar or aloe vera for an oily complexion or to reduce excessive sweating.