All About Cedarwood: Scent, Uses, and Benefits
In the world of fragrance and aromatherapy, different essential oils are known for different properties. These properties can vary based on how the oil is used. Although not as well-known as oils such as lavender or peppermint, cedarwood is valued for its many properties and its warm, sweet, woody aroma. It has a long history of use for various applications, many of which are supported by modern science.
What Is Cedarwood?
In technical terms, cedar is a coniferous tree in the Pinaceae (or pine) family. Cedar trees are native to the Mediterranean, Middle East, and western Himalayas region.
Cedar has a history stretching back to antiquity, where its use was well-documented by different civilizations. It is mentioned in such works as the Bible and the Epic of Gilgamesh, and the temple of King Solomon was said to have been built from cedar. Perhaps most significantly, ancient Egyptians used it as a part of the mummification process of their dead.
Lebanese cedar was highly prized and often imported to Egypt and other parts of the ancient world by the Phoenicians. However, due to its widespread popularity, the supply of Cedar of Lebanon has diminished significantly, and this species is now considered vulnerable and no longer used commercially for cedar products. Fortunately, reforestation efforts are underway in its native lands.
Over the years, different types of cedarwood trees have been naturalized throughout much of the world, including Europe and North America. In modern times, most cedar products are sourced from these other varieties.
In addition to Lebanese cedar, variations include Atlas cedar, Himalayan cedar, and Cyprus cedar. You may also hear mention of Virginian cedar and Texan cedar. While these are also conifers, they are actually juniper trees of the Cupressaceae (or cypress) family rather than true cedar. However, in aromatherapy, these “cedars” are often combined under the same umbrella due to the similarities of the oils’ properties.
What Does Cedarwood Smell Like?
True cedar oils contain a chemical compound called cedrene, while the oils of cypress and juniper cedars contain the compound cedrol. These compounds are identical in structure aside from the location of a double bond. Since cypress cedars are more commonly used in modern fragrance production, cedrol is usually the more widely present chemical in aromatherapy.
Cedrol is a sesquiterpene alcohol with a woody, earthy, slightly fruity scent. Its aroma is also described as being sweet or warm.
How Is Cedarwood Used for Aromatherapy?
Cedar is a popular oil in aromatherapy, with potential benefits to both the mind and emotions. One of the most popular uses of cedar in aromatherapy is for anxiety and stress relief. It is shown to have a sedative quality and may help increase the amount of time spent asleep. It can produce a calming effect when inhaled. Lighting a candle with the scent or putting a few drops of cedar oil in a warm bath are some great ways to utilize cedar to reduce anxiety.
Additionally, cedar’s aroma can help improve one’s mood. In addition to the calmness it can elicit, some people find that it helps them achieve a sense of clarity. It may be helpful if you are feeling lost or unsure of something in your life.
Another commonly cited benefit of cedar oil is how it can foster a sense of connection. Perhaps this goes back to the origin of the oil; the oil comes from cedar trees, which often grow in large groups, creating a forest. It is sometimes suggested to diffuse cedar where family and friends gather as a way to strengthen these bonds between people.
What Other Uses Are There for Cedar Oil?
People have utilized cedar for many purposes since ancient times. Evidence suggests that cedarwood is generally safe with a low chance of adverse effects:
- Insect Repellant. Cedarwood has been known for its insect-repelling properties for a long time. In fact, this property is likely one reason that the ancient Egyptian mummification process resulted in such well-preserved remains having been found by archaeologists in recent centuries. In modern times, it is still common to use cedarwood to deter insects from damaging clothing, whether via cedar balls and chips or storage in a cedar chest. It may also be used as an ingredient in bug-repellant sprays.
- Anti-Inflammatory. Some consumers swear by cedar oil as an anti-inflammatory. It may be applied topically to joints to help treat conditions such as arthritis.
- Hair Health. Some studies have shown cedar oil to be beneficial for treating hair loss. In one case, application to the scalp along with other essential oils and a carrier was found to be a helpful treatment for alopecia. This may be due to its stimulation of blood flow as well as its antimicrobial properties.
- Skin Health. Those same antimicrobial properties may also be why cedar oil appears to be helpful in treating various skin conditions. It is sometimes used to treat acne, as well as conditions such as eczema.
- Sleep. When used in aromatherapy, cedar can also improve one’s sleep by helping to relieve stress.
If using topically, it’s always a good idea to conduct a small patch test before proceeding with a full application. Like most essential oils, it’s usually best to dilute it first in a carrier oil (such as coconut or almond oil).
How Can You Experience the Benefits of Cedarwood?
Although some of the more “spiritual” aspects of cedar come from anecdotal reports, many of its physical effects have been proven by modern science. With its low chance of side effects (when used properly) and long history of use through the ages, it can’t hurt to try cedarwood for the ailments – physical and emotional – mentioned here. If nothing else, it is a pleasant scent with which you can fill your home.
If you are a fan of using cedarwood and other aromatherapy scents, be sure to check out Nomad Noé’s line of clean, vegan candles. These luxury candles are crafted in the U.S. from sustainable vegetable wax with top-of-the-line fragrances imported from Grasse, France. All products are 100% cruelty-free and made without parabens, phthalates, or sulfates.