True cedarwood (Cedrus atlantica) essential oil is extracted from the Atlas Cedarwood tree and should not be confused with Texas (Juniperus ashei) or Virginian (Juniperus virginiana) Cedarwood, which are commonly sold in the USA and often under the general term cedarwood. There are also several other trees which yield ‘cedarwood’ oil; Atlas Cedarwood oil is the preferred oil of today’s aromatherapist.
Identification of Atlas Cedarwood
The Atlas Cedarwood tree is of the plant family Abietaceae; it is native to the Atlas mountains of Algeria, hence its name. The Atlas Cedarwood tree is an evergreen tree which grows up to 131 feet in height; it is shaped like a pyramid, has oval cones and gray-green needles. The wood of the Atlas Cedarwood is very aromatic and it is from the wood that the essential oil is extracted and distilled; Atlas cedarwood essential oil is produced in Morocco and Lebanon.
Historical Use Of the Atlas Cedarwood
The ancient Egyptians used cedarwood oil to embalm, for perfumery and in cosmetics; the ancient Greeks also used cedarwood oil to preserve bodies as they believed it helped to make one immortal. It is thought that the Lebanon Cedar tree may have been the original cedarwood tree which was used for cedarwood oil in ancient times, as its fragrance was useful as an insect, ant and moth repellent; it was also used greatly as a building material source.
In the Far East, cedarwood oil was used as a preservative too, in addition as a remedy for treating urinary tract and bronchial infections; cedarwood was also used as an incense. The Tibetans used it in traditional medicine and as an incense in temples, of which it is still used today.
Use of Cedarwood in Aromatherapy
Cedarwood essential oil is antiseptic, astringent, anti-bacterial, a stimulant to the skin and circulatory system, sedative and an aphrodisiac. In aromatherapy, it is useful in the treatment of eczema, dry skin, dandruff, fluid retention, nervous tension, arthritis, rheumatism, cystitis and asthma. Cedarwood also has some other uses.
Other Uses of Cedarwood
Cedarwood is commonly found in men’s fragrances and aftershaves, where it is used for its antiseptic and astringent properties; it is also used in cosmetics, soaps, perfumes and detergents. Cedarwood is frequently used in meditation and is capable of balancing the mind and relieving anxiety; it has strong spiritual connections. Cedarwood essential oil can be used as an alternative to the more expensive sandalwood essential oil, as it possesses similar properties.
Cautions for Using Cedarwood Essential Oil
Cedarwood essential oil should not be used in pregnancy or with young children, due to its toxicity; in France, cedarwood essential oil use is restricted, due to its abortive and neuro toxic abilities. Do not confuse Atlas Cedarwood essential oil with Texas or Virginian Cedarwood as the oils are chemically different. Used with care, Cedarwood can be of great use but, as is the case when using any essential oil, professional advice should be sought, if unfamiliar in the use of essential oils.
Lawless, Julia 1995 The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils UK:Thorsons
Price, Len, Price, Shirley 2002 Aromatherapy for Health Professionals UK: Churchill Livingstone