Cedar (Thuja Occidentalis), also known as Arborvtae is one of my favorite trees. Fragrant, beautiful and strong. A symbol of everlasting life providing oxygen, honorable medicinal qualities, shelter , it’s essence and sweet fragrance. Cedar is an evergreen, offering the color green which is the frequency of our hearts (4). Into the depths of winter we are blessed with Cedar’s many gifts.
After “consciously harvesting” this particular batch, I enjoyed making fresh cedar tea while preparing the cedar to be dried. The smell of breaking up fresh cedar has left its imprint in my heart. Ahhhhhh, is what you’ll hear, a soft smile is what you’ll see and an awakened spirit you will sense. Very greatful an entity like the Cedar tree is brought into exisitance and has been on this planet a very very long time.
Properties: Anti-inflammatory, Diaphoretic, Expectorant, Astringent, Anti-microbial, Diuretic, Anti-asthmatic, Anti-fungal
Energetics: Warm, Very dry, astringent
Parts used: Berries (female cones), branches, leaves, bark
Cedar leaves are a diuretic so be mindful if one has kidney issues. Cedar is a low dose herb, not to be used internally in large doses for longer periods of time. It is believed to be a strong emmenagogue. It is generally accepted that it should not be taken in pregnancy. However, this same principle may make it helpful in overdue pregnancies. (2)
As an antirheumatic, it has been documented to assist health by either making a poultice of powdered leaves used externally for swelling and/or decoction of branches in tea. From coughs, to headaches to toothaches this generous tree has much to offer. It has been noted that the leaves were used to repel moths in closets. Some have used the branches in steam baths for mothers after childbirth, an infusion of cones were used for babies with colic, infusion of leaves as a diaphoretic to increase milk flow, and decoction to induce menstruation just to name a few. The strong fragrance in a plant like Cedar indicates the presence of essential and volatile oils. These fragrant oils provide medicinal action that affects the lungs and can be used during respiratory infection as an expectorant. In plants like the volitle oil rich Sage, Angelica, Anise Seed, Ginger, Anise Hyssop, Cinnamon and countless others all share this tendency to promote expectoration.(2)
Not only has this benevolent tree offered its medicinal properties, it’s flesh has been used to create homes, toboggans, canoes, saunas, arrows, basketry, bedding, homes to animals, fire and the very air we breathe.
Thuja occidentalis is called Grandmother Cedar by the Ojibwe and are of spiritual importance as well as historically having a variety of uses. Arborvitae means tree of life in Greek. These names reveal to us that people from very different cultures have similarly recognized that this tree is exceptional. Northern White Cedars can live for a very long time. According to DNR tree expert, Welby Smith, the oldest tree in Minnesota is estimated to be a Northern White Cedar that is estimated to be 1,100 years old (Smith, 2008). (2)
The name “Thuja” was given to this group of trees by the Swedish botanist Linnaeus in 1753; it comes from the Greek word thuo, which means “to sacrifice,” as cedar wood was often burned with animal sacrifices by the ancients to add a pleasing aroma to the fire. The fragrant wood was also used by Native Americans as well as the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans as an ingredient in incense blends. (3)
In Western herbal medicine, cedar leaf oil was used as an emmenagogue, abortifacient, vermifuge, diuretic, and digestive aid. It was applied externally to relieve the pains of arthritis and rheumatism, to treat external fungal infections of the skin (ringworm and thrush), and to remove anal or genital warts . Native Americans used cedar leaf preparations to relieve headache and to prevent scurvy. Cedar leaves and twigs are in fact rich in vitamin C , and it was their effectiveness in preventing or treating scurvy that led to the tree’s being called arbor vitae or tree of life. In addition, recent research has shown that extracts prepared from either Thuja occidentalis or Thuja plicata do in fact have antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties. A group of German researchers reported in 2002 that an extract prepared from cedar leaf, alcohol, and water inhibits the reproduction of influenza virus type A, while a team of researchers in Japan found that an extract of Western red cedar was effective in treating eczema. (3)
I’ve also used Cedar in this Oxymel Recipe.
**Disclaimer** The information in this article is NOT intended to assess, diagnose, prescribe, or promise cure. Its intent is to be purely educational; if suffering serious illness, please contact a professional healthcare provider.
- Daniel E Moreman, “Native Americsn Ethnobotany”, 2012