Essential Oil of the Month
Ancient cedarwood revered in religion and herbalism
IT IS thought that the Lebanon Cedar tree may have been the original cedarwood tree used for oil in ancient times. Its fragrance was useful as an insect, ant and fungus repellent; so was greatly valued as a building material for temples, ships and palaces.
The ancient Egyptians used cedarwood oil to embalm their dead in the mummification process, as well as in perfumery and cosmetics; the ancient Greeks also used cedarwood oil to preserve bodies as they believed it helped to make one immortal.
The tree symbolised spiritual power and strength. King Solomon's temple in Jerusalem was said to be built entirely from cedar from Lebanon.
The original Cedrus libani, or Lebanon cedar, is very scarce due to over-use and only a few hundred trees survive of the once vast forests.
The 12 oldest and largest of these trees are revered by every monotheistic religion, and it is believed that an “evil fate will overtake anyone who harms one of these trees.” The essential oil was one of the ingredients of 'mithridat', a poison antidote used for centuries.
The Native Americans used their type of Cedar oil in medicine and burnt it for purification. These days this cedarwood is often used in the making of pencils and boxes.
In the Far East, cedarwood oil was used as a preservative too, as well as a remedy for treating urinary tract and bronchial infections. The Tibetans used it in traditional medicine and as incense in temples, of which it is still used.
We can learn from the ancient Egyptians who used cedarwood as an anti-putrescent agent in mummification to prevent decay.
Indeed, cedarwood is a powerful antiseptic that prevents and halts infection. It can safely be applied externally on wounds to prevent them turning septic; protecting them from tetanus and in this capacity may be used in herbal antiseptic creams.
Its antiseptic properties make cedarwood useful for treating urinary tract infections, chronic urethritis and vaginitis. In the case of cystitis, accompanied by cramping pain, combine cedarwood with thyme, eucalyptus and lavender and massage into the lower abdomen.
Eczema is a result of the malfunctioning of sebaceous glands causing infection of the epidermal cells; this can cause dry peeling skin particularly from the scalp, eyebrows and wherever there are hair follicles. Cedarwood oil helps control production of sebum and can be beneficial for this inflammatory situation; treating the infection.
Burners and vapourisers: cedarwood oil can be used for arthritis, bronchitis, rheumatism, respiratory problems and as an insect repellent.
Blended in massage or bath oil: to assist with asthma, bronchitis, respiratory problems, catarrh, cystitis, painful joints, oily skin and dandruff. Care must be taken that it does not cause irritation to the mucus membranes.
Added to a cream: Dilute well in creams to combat oily skin, dermatitis and psoriasis.
This oil calms other angry skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis and dermatitis and relieves the skin from itching; this is partly due to its sedating ability. As an emollient it softens and soothes the skin, benefiting the underlying tissue and balances oiliness.
Cedarwood may help stop hair loss, especially related to stress - which is a blessing for those who suffer from alopecia and premature balding. Its astringent action balances scalp conditions and helps to curb dandruff.
Cedarwood Oil has good fungicidal properties and may be employed to prevent and combat fungal infections such as athlete’s foot and ringworm. In perfumery, cedarwood provides a base note with fixative qualities that adds a dry, masculine scent to blends. Its antiseptic and astringent properties make it a valuable addition to cosmetics and soaps.
Cedarwood Oil is a health tonic that strengthens and enlivens the whole body and stimulates metabolism as it stimulates immune system and lymph circulation.
It tones up muscles, skin, nervous system, stomach, digestive system and brain functions. A tonic of the kidneys, spleen and pancreas, it is included in blends to enhance overall energy and to support adrenal function and bring relief from edema and water retention.
Expels excess water and toxins
It is also of value in cases of arthritis and rheumatism because being a diuretic, it expels excess water and toxins such as uric acid from the body.
These toxins and extra water accumulated in the body often contribute to conditions such as obesity, hypertension or high blood pressure and gout.
Include cedarwood in cellulite treatment blends, using hot towel compresses, as this oil is also lipolytic, stimulating the breaking down of fats.
It astringently tightens loosened muscles and gives a feeling of firmness, encouraging contraction of tissues.
Cedarwood oil is an emmenagogue, which means it stimulates and regulates menstruation, assuaging the associated pain, nausea and fatigue. As an antispasmodic, it relieves the menstrual cramping pains plus those spasms that occur in the intestines, muscles, nerves and in the respiratory system.
Vapours of cedarwood oils help in treating breathing problems, easing congested airways in cough and colds. The oil acts as an effective expectorant promoting the removal of mucus from respiratory system. It resolves respiratory infection such as bronchitis and sinusitis and eases catarrh – the inflammation of mucous membranes.
Cedarwood oil is a natural insect repellent and may be used to drive away mosquitoes, flies and other insects from the body and the home. Its scent keeps moths out of woollen clothing. Repel fleas and ticks from your dog by adding cedarwood to your dog shampoo. Use in the diffuser or vapouriser in a sick room to kill airborne bacteria. In the garden it keeps aphids off roses and other plants.
Cedarwood, a superb sedative, exerts a soothing, tranquilising and calming effect on the nervous system, relieving tension and anxiety. This oil stimulates the pineal gland, which releases melatonin (a regulator of sleep and dreams) as well as growth hormone and it is helpful for insomniacs, encouraging a good night’s sleep.
Cedarwood is considered antidepressant, countering melancholia, boosting self-esteem and dispelling fear. Fortifying the mind, cedarwood bolsters our courage during the trials of change and upheaval when we need to be stable and grounded.
Cedarwood is frequently used in meditation because of its calming and purifying effects and is capable of promoting meditative states of awareness; it is used as temple incense by Tibetan Buddhists.
Cedarwood was the material used to make the magical wand because of its power to transform the will. This oil enhances subtle energy work, clearing negativity to promote clarity of mind and invoke divine presence and wisdom.
As a base note cedarwood is assigned to the base chakra, Muladhara and it also balances and heals the Manipura chakra of the solar plexus.
The limbic system (center of emotions) is also stimulated by the high sesquiterpene content, this is also the portion of the brain devoted to our sexuality and cedarwood does act as an aphrodisiac by increasing capacity for sexual arousal.
Cedar trees grow all around the world. The name cedar is applied to many different species of trees, some from the pinaceae family, which have the genus name cedrus, others from the cupressaceae family, with either cupressus or juniperus as their genus name. The oils are similar to one another in odour and have a characteristic reddish colour. In aromatherapy the different cedarwoods oils are referred to by their place of origins; for example, Cedarwood atlas, (cedrus atlantica) and cedarwood virginiana, which were first recognised in the state Virginia but is now mostly produced in North Carolina.
Virginian Cedarwood is also known as red cedar or Eastern red cedar and the essential oil is actually from a Juniper - Juniperus virginiana that belongs to the Cupressaceae plant family. The aroma however, is quintessentially that of Cedar - smooth and woody. The Virginian cedar tree is a slow growing evergreen that can reach a height anywhere between 10 to 20 metres and displays a narrow conical habit.
The scent of Virginian cedarwood is sweet, balsamic and faintly reminiscent of pencil wood or more like an old cedarwood chest. Its rich, oily-woody aroma is both smooth and mild and becomes drier and sweeter in the dry down. It is a base to middle note with very good tenacity and can thus be used as a perfume fixative. The oil is pale yellow or orange in colour.
The Atlas Cedarwood tree is of the plant family Abietaceae; and is a cedar native to the Atlas Mountains of Algeria and Morocco. It is basically a plant of cold climate and found in high altitudes. The Atlas Cedarwood tree is an evergreen tree which grows up to 50 metres in height; it is shaped like a pyramid, has oval cones and gray-green needles.
What herb is that?
Leaf wax tough and renewable
CARNAUBA wax is tough with a high melting point and when properly compounded, imparts a fine shine without all the buffing.
Carnauba has a high durability, it is water and evaporation- resistant. As a wood polish ingredient it creates a strong and durable barrier around furniture, keeping wood looking new while repelling unwanted moisture.
Where does it come from?
The Carnauba (Copernica Cerifera) is a palm tree that belongs to the Arecaceae family, endemic of the semi-arid region of northeastern Brazil. It is also well known as the life tree by native South Americans as it offers many uses.
Experiments to adapt the Carnauba palm to other regions have been unsuccessful as the plant is productive only in its original habitat.
What is it used for?
Carnauba is non-toxic and hypo-allergenic, a combination of properties that makes it ideal for many applications including use in food, cosmetics, automobile and furniture wax, moulds for semiconductor devices and as a coating for dental floss.
It is possible that you are using a product that contains carnauba wax every day, though you may not have known what the ingredient was or where it came from. It is one of those extremely useful natural chemicals and renewable resources that doesn’t have a synthetic equivalent.
The Carnauba trunk makes sturdy beams and its leaves are used to weave hats and bags and to thatch the roofs of humble dwellings.
Carnauba's most valuable component, however, is the wax obtained from the film powder that coats its leaves, protecting them from severe climatic conditions of the region. The harvest of the wax follows traditional procedures.
Carnauba wax extraction is a perfect example of sustainable use of natural resources.
The extraction of its wax is ecologically sustainable as it is only made with annual prunings and it is free of any kind of pesticides, herbicides and fertiliser.
The palm leaves are cut when the time is right and packed in fagots, which are laid out in the sun to dry.
This pruning process doesn’t damage the palm tree, which will grow new leaves for the next crop.
The powder is then scraped off the leaves with a machine especially designed for this purpose. Two types of powder are extracted from various parts of the leaf.
Colour and quality of the wax are determined by the age of the leaves and the care used in processing the wax. The Carnauba palm trees are not cultivated in plantations, as they only take about seven years to reach full productivity.
The wax itself is extracted from the two powders by boiling and then filtering it in primitive presses (using water as solvent) or by solvent extractors. After that, the wax is selected and refined, ending the process and the wax is now ready for the market.