CEDARWOOD (Cedrus atlantica Manetti – Pinaceae)
Cedrus, or true cedar, is a genus of four species of evergreen coniferous, hardy and long-lived trees. Cedrus atlantica, the Atlantic or Atlas cedar, is native to the Atlas Mountains of Morocco; C. libani, the cedar of Lebanon, is native to Syria and south-east Turkey; C. libani var. brevifolia comes from Cyprus; and C. deodora, the deodar, comes from the western Himalayas. The needles of the true cedars form in bunches; yellow male flowers appear in early summer, the females appearing as the males shed pollen. Cones take up to two years to ripen and disintegrate on the tree, after releasing seed. The wood is very balsamic and a reddish-brown.
Because cedars are reputed to be very long lived, they have been grown in churchyards. An enormous grove of cedars of Lebanon – from which King Solomon is said to have built his temple – exists still on the slopes of Mount Lebanon. The first cedar of Lebanon planted in Britain was in the Thames valley in 1646 – and it is still alive and healthy. The first Atlas cedar in Britain was planted on the Welsh borders in 1845 and is also still alive. A forest of Atlas cedars, planted in 1862, stands on Mount Ventoux in Provence in the south of France.
Cedars are the trees most mentioned in the Bible, symbolizing every¬thing that was fertile and abundant. The wood and its oil were used in embalming by the Ancient Egyptians. Later, Dioscorides and Galen in the first and second centuries mentioned a species of tree which they called cedrium, whose resin preserved the body from putrefaction. In 1698, Nicolas Lemery mentioned the therapeutic nature of the resinous matter, describing it as a urinary and pulmonary antiseptic. Later research confirmed the therapeutic properties of the oil, and doctors Michel and Gilbert in France recorded in 1925 the good results obtained in cases of chronic bronchitis, and its tonic and stimulant properties.
CEDARWOOD ESSENTIAL OIL
Description: For therapeutic use, the only recognized oil of cedar is that from the Atlantic, or Atlas, cedar which grows in Morocco. The Moroccans produced some 6 – 7 metric tonnes of oil per year in the late 1980s Cedarwood oil is steam-distilled from the wood itself, and it is like syrup, yellowish and very balsamic; it has a turpentine scent, but one which is sweeter and more agreeable, similar in some ways to sandalwood.
The principal constituents: Terpenic hydrocarbons, a little cedro I (which crystallizes when isolated) and sesquiterpenes, especially cadinene.
Dangers: Other varities of ‘cedarwood oil’ that are quite different to the Moroccan oil are on sale, so beware. The cedarwood oil from the USA is obtained from junipers, J. flaccida, mexicano and virginiana. The essential oils of these trees are rich in cedro!. The latter is high in thujone, and is used to falsify sage oil. These American essences are used primarily in perfumary as they give a nice woody base to scents, eau de toilettes and soaps. For therapeutic use, insist on the oil from the true cedar, that from Morocco.
Cedarwood has been prescribed internally in the past, but stomach problems with intense burning sensations, thirst and nausea were recorded. Never take the oil internally. Externally, it can sometimes be used neat or diluted, depending on need.
Over the last 100 years, cedarwood’s beneficial effect on eczema, skin eruptions and disease has been noted, and it is highly valued in dermatology. For eczema and rashes, add 8 drops of cedarwood oil to 20 ml (4 tsp) wheatgerm oil. Apply three to four times daily.
As a stimulant, cedarwood can be added to your body oil, or to men’s products. Add 4 – 5 drops to a cold cream, and apply after shaving.
As the oil is also considered a sexual stimulant, it could be used for men’s body preparations. Cedarwood oil on its own, though, is rather dull, and needs to be mixed with oils with livelier notes like lavender or rosemary. (See also cystitis, dermatitis, oedema and pneumonia.)
Cedarwood has a very therapeutic action on the scalp in cases of alo¬pecia, falling hair and dandruff. In France, it is included in commercial shampoos and hair lotions for alopecia. For any loss of hair – for both men and women, whether after illness, or during stress or pregnancy ¬cedarwood can be very helpful. Mix 35 ml (a good 2 tbsp) grape seed oil, 5 ml (1 tsp) first pressing virgin olive oil, 5 drops of wheatgerm oil and 20 drops of cedarwood. Rub this gently into the scalp a few hours before shampooing. Add 15 drops of cedarwood to an average sized bottle of mild shampoo.
If you have fair hair, use cedarwood with discretion. The oil has a tendency to darken the hair colour.
Cedarwood essences, wood, wood shavings or powders were used in early pot-pourris and anti-moth bags. Many expensive fish are smoked over cedarwood.