These notes were originally prepared for CPD
(Continuing Professional Development) "essential oils
refresher" sessions which I led for Professional Aromatherapy
Network in South Yorkshire. I would be glad to lead such
sessions for other groups, e.g. local/regional IFPA or IFA
For list of other essential oil profiles see USES.
To buy cedarwood oil visit the ONLINE
Cedrus Atlantica (Atlas Cedarwood)
Juniperus Virginiana (Virginian Cedarwood)
Some books list only Atlas, some list only
Virginian, but with broadly similar properties. Atlas oil is
sometimes known as libanol. Oils from other trees commonly named
”cedarwood” are available; Himalayan (Cedrus Deodara, sometimes
spelt as Cedrus Deodora) has an aroma in the same area as the
related Atlas, and is used by some therapists. Texas aka Mexican
(Juniperus Mexicana) is more like Virginian.
Origin Atlas - native to Atlas Mountains in Morocco (main
producer) and Algeria. Virginian - USA
Extraction Steam distillation of waste wood and sawdust
(Atlas) or chopped wood, stumps, logs, wood shavings or sawdust
History Atlas - used in ancient Egypt for fumigation and
embalming. Wood used for storage chests as it repelled insects.
Used for incense. Used in the East for bronchial and urinary
tract infections. Virginian - Native Americans used it for
respiratory infections, esp. with catarrh. Also rheumatism,
menstrual delay, skin rashes.
Contra-indications Virginian - some skin irritation
possible in large quantities? Both - pregnancy? John Kerr (1)
argues that contraindications for Atlas (often due to ketone
content) are due to confusion with thuja oil, aka cedarleaf or
white cedarwood. The French government banned “cedarwood” in
1978 due to toxicity - this also turned out to be thuja.
Tisserand & Balacs (2) give no contraindications for either
oil. Lawless says “use Virginian in moderation, and not at all
in pregnancy”, but Burfield (4) says “the scientific basis for
this is not clear”.
Chemistry Atlas - mainly sesquiterpenes (up to 70% beta-,
alpha- and gamma-himachalene). Some alcohols (himachalols),
ketones (atlantones), oxide (himachalene oxide). Virginian -
cedrene (up to 80%), cedrol, cedrenol.
Blending Suggestions Base note. Atlas - benzoin,
bergamot, elemi, frankincense, jasmine, myrtle, neroli, rose,
sandalwood, ylang ylang. Virginian - goes well with some other
base notes, e.g. frankincense, sandalwood, patchouli, vetiver,
for an “exotic” mix. I find Virginian cedar and orange a
cheering bath blend - or can add a drop of coriander. Lavender,
mandarin, myrrh, petitgrain.
Major Properties Antiseptic (urinary, pulmonary),
antiseborrheic, astringent, diuretic, expectorant, mucolytic,
sedative (nervous), stimulant (circulatory).
Uses Stress-related conditions, anxiety,
Bronchitis, catarrh, respiratory congestion, coughs (especially
dry, persistent). Sinusitis?
Cystitis, leucorrhea, pruritis.
Acne, dandruff, dermatitis, eczema, fungal infections, insect
repellent. Listed in many books for oily skin but John Kerr (1)
says Atlas good for dry - thinks Virginian's chemistry more
suitable for oily skin. He also says Atlas good for chronic skin
conditions (blended with myrrh, sandalwood or lavender). Use in
shampoos for healthy scalp and hair.
Tony Burfield says (4) that “Sheppard-Hanger (1995) summarised
the literature ascribing antiseptic (urinary, pulmonary),
antiseborrheic, aphrodisiac, astringent, emollient, expectorant,
fungicidal, insecticidal, & sedative properties” to
cedarwood Atlas oil. “Franchomme & Peneol (1990) ascribe
similar properties to the oil of Cedrus atlantica as they did to
Cedrus deodara: cicatrisant, arterially regenerative,
lymphotonic and lipolytic actions to the oil, indicating its use
in atherosclerosis and for hydrolipid retention and cellulite.
Additionally they indicate potential uses in the case of
bronchitis, tuberculosis, dermatoses and gonorrhea”.
“Sheppard-Hanger (1995) sums up the aromatherapy literature
describing Virginian as antiseborrheic, pulmonary &
genito-urinary antiseptic and analgesic (similar to sandalwood),
antispasmodic, astringent, decongestant, diuretic, emmenagogue,
emollient, fungicide, insecticide, nervous sedative. Franchomme
& Penoel (1990) ascribe venous decongestive effects and
phlebotonic effects to the oil, being indicated for varices,
internal & external haemorrhoids”.
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1) Essential Oil Profile - Cedarwood. John Kerr,
Aromatherapy Today Vol.27 Sep. 2003, p10.
2) Robert Tisserand, & Tony Balacs, Essential Oil Safety,
Churchill Livingstone, Edinburgh, 1995.
3) Julia Lawless, The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils, Element,
Shaftesbury, 1992, p.77.
4) Cedarwood Oils, Tony Burfield, http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~nodice/new/magazine/cedar/cedar.htm.
(Part 1 of this article first appeared in Aromatherapy Times,
Vol 1 No.55 Winter 2002, pp14-15). You may not be able to
navigate from this link as the site uses frames - if so, try http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~nodice/
Other sources for information, present and past; books, articles
or other material by Martin Watt (safety); Jan Kusmirek, Jean
Valnet, Patricia Davis/London School of Aromatherapy, Shirley
Price, Robert Tisserand, Valerie Ann Worwood.
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Paul Boizot. Information revised 19.2.04. Page
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contact me on: 01904
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