CYPRESS (Cupressus sempervirens – Cupressaceae)

Cupressus is a genus of about 20 species of columnar evergreen coniferous trees which can grow to about 25 – 45 m (80 -150 ft) in height. Tiny scale-like leaves are pressed against the branches and twigs; male and female flowers are present on the same tree; and the female flowers produce round cones containing small winged seeds. Cupressus sempervirens – the Mediterranean or Italian cedar – is native to Mediterranean Europe, although cypress trees are now cultivated in much of temperate Europe and North America. Planted very close together, they act as a screen in the south of France against the mistral, and they appear in many southern French, Greek and Italian gardens.
Cypress was known to the Ancient Egyptians; many different papyri record its medicinal uses, and sarcophagi were made from the wood. The Ancient Greeks dedicated the cypress tree to Pluto, god of the underworld thus the frequency of the trees in cemeteries. Hippocrates recommended cypress for severe cases of haemorrhoids with bleeding. In fact almost every mention of cypress I have unearthed has recorded its efficacy as a haemostat. Dioscorides and Galen, for instance, recommended macerating the leaves in wine with a little myrrh for a fortnight; this was to be drunk for bladder infections and internal bleeding. As such it was also highly recommended by doctors Leclerc and Cazin.


Description: This is produced by steam-distillation of the fresh leaves and cones. It is colourless or a very pale yellow, with a woody and balsamic, agreeable amber scent.
The principal constituents: Terpenes (65 per cent, in particular B-pinene and terpineol), cedrol, cypress camphor, some acids and tannin.


In illness
Dr Leclerc has also confirmed that cypress acts as a vaso-constrictor, and should be prescribed for all circulatory problems like varicose veins and haemorrhoids. For varicose veins, mix together 50 ml (2 fl oz) grapeseed oil, 3 drops wheat germ oil and 15 drops cypress. Massage the legs every day. As a decoction for the same problems – and for menopausal symptoms, cypress is wonderful at this time – boil 15 g ( 1/2 oz) crushed cypress cones for a few minutes in 1.1 litres (2 pints) water. Infuse for 10 minutes and then drink a cup full three times a day.

Dr Jean Valnet used to use cypress in hospital for coughs and bron¬chitis: a few drops of cypress oil on the patient’s pillow stopped the coughing. I’ve found this effective too. In France, cough pastilles were once made from crushed cypress cones.
(See also arthritis, bruises, dysmenorrhoea, fatigue, fever, frostbite, menstrual cycle problems, oedema and pneumonia.)

In beauty
Broken veins or capillaries are another circulatory problem that cypress can benefit. Mix 5 drops of cypress oil into 25 ml (1 fl oz) almond oil and 3 drops wheatgerm oil. Massage gently into the cheeks twice a day, morning and night, until the symptoms improve.

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