Three types of cedar trees produce essential oils for aromatherapy use. Virginia Cedarwood (Juniperus virginiana) oil is steam distilled from the red cedar, which in North America east of the Rocky Mountains and reaches a height of about 33 meters. There are many cultivated varieties of this tree. Cedarwood Texas (Juniperus mexicana) oil is steam distilled from a small tree that grows to about 6 meters high, found in the mountains of the southwestern United States, Mexico and Central American. Both of these belong to the Cupressaceae family and their odors are similar. Cedarwood Atlas (Cedrus atlantica ) oil is steam distilled from the wood of a pyramidal tree closely related to the pines. It belongs to the Pinaceae family and grows to a height of about 40 meters. Found in the Atlas Mountains of Algeria, this oil is produced primarily in Morocco and has different odor characteristics to the other two. The chemical composition of these oils are also somewhat different. C. virginiana contains mainly a and b-cedrene (around 80%), cedrol (3-24%) and cedrenol. J. mexicana has a similar chemical breakdown while C. atlantica contains as its major odoriferous components a – and y-atlantone. Other constituents include acetone, a-ionone and a-caryophyllene.
All three types of cedarwood oils are primarily used as fragrance components or fixatives in cosmetic and household products, particularly soaps and detergents; others include creams, lotions and perfumes. C. virginiana has traditionally been used as an insect repellent. Decoctions of the leaves, bark, twigs and seeds are used to treat various illnesses including coughs, bronchitis, rheumatism, venereal warts and skin rashes. It is also used in microscopy as a clearing agent and together with resins, as an immersion oil. It can serve as a source of cedrene, a starting material for fragrance chemicals. It has a yield of around 3.2% and a distinct pencil-sharpenings note. Considered by many perfumers to have a smoother and finer (but less powerful) odor than Texas oil J. mexicana has a yield of 1 – 5% and is described as having an odor that is like intense pencil sharpenings, smoky, woody notes but drier than other cedarwood oils. C. atlantica is considered to have a dirty-woody, resinous, ruinous odor. Cedarwood blends well with bergamot, clary sage, cypress, juniper, frankincense, neroli, petitgrain, rose, Jasmine, oakmoss, rosemary, sandalwood, vetiver, ylang ylang, patchouli and benzoin.
Psychologically, cedarwood’s calming, sedative properties have been found to be helpful for stress, tension, nervous disorders, fear and anger. On a physiological level, cedarwood is used for many conditions including bronchitis, cough, arthritis and cystitis. It is often used as an insect repellent. Cedarwood helps us to get back in touch with our true reality by affirming and clarifying our focus. It is grounding. Cedarwood can be used to clear and cleanse a room of negativity and bring in positive energy. It clears and steadies the mind and promotes a calm meditative state to better receive healing energy. It strengthens the connection with the Divine. It helps one to maintain a sense of balance and control in life. Cedarwood enhances spirituality. Cedarwood enhances stability, integrity and solidarity in all things. Avoid during pregnancy.
Contraindications:. Generally considered non-toxic, non-irritating and non-sensitizing, it should be avoided during pregnancy and with those who have epilepsy.
Leung and Foster, Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients, John Wiley & Sons, 1996
Beverley Hawkins, Aromatherapy 201 Course 1999 revised 2000, 2001,2002, 2003, 2004