Cedar uses – and Medicinal Benefits

There are many uses for cedar with many medicinal benefits. It is used for smudging and is popular as an essential oil.

There Are Many Types of Cedar Trees.

The most common is the western red cedar, sometimes called the shinglewood or canoe cedar. It is an evergreen tree that ranges from the southeast part of Alaska thru parts of Canada, to the northern part of California. It is also found in Idaho and Montana.

There are a number of different trees and shrubs that are called “cedar.” In the US, we generally call them Juniper even thou, scientifically, a Juniper is not a true Cedar. The genera to which North American species of red cedar belong include Thuja and Juniperus. Thus, the red cedar and the juniper are within the same family and share many of the same benefits.

NOTE: You may read about the use of the berries from the cedar tree but they don’t have berries. Once again, they are referring to a juniper rather than a cedar.


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A Little History

The Cedar tree played a significant role in ancient culture. The bible mentions the Lebonon cedar and it was used to seal David’s house and to build King Solomon’s Temple. One of the first ingredients in parfume was cedarwood oil that came from various parts of the tree including the wood, roots and foliage.

Cedar in the garden

Cedar mulch is a favorite among gardeners for their landscaping needs. And for good reason. It can help prevent fluctuations in the soil moisture levels along with preventing evaporation. Plus, it generally reduces the amount of water needed.

Red cedar wood chips

Pests don’t like it due to the natural oil it contains. Moths, slugs, snails and army worms will usually avoid areas covered with cedar mulch.

It breaks down very slowly – thus – lasts a lot longer than many of the other natural mulches available.

A Short Story

Just up the road there is a long line of old fence posts along the road. Very old and worn. Some crumbling and falling over.

I noticed one was worked over pretty good. It was, especially worn in the center as if the deer may have been rubbing their antlers on it. All the dark outer color was gone.

I thought it strange that just that one was like that while nearly all the rest seemed to be untouched. With closer inspection it seemed there were a couple of other ones that had been rubbed as well. Just not to that extent. It finally became obvious that some of the posts were different material. My husband suggested that the ones that were rubbed were cedar. Ah.. it made sense then. Deer will do that when they start to shed their velvet because it itches and, apparently they really liked that cedar.

Medicinal Uses

Many north American Natives who lived in or passed thru the area where the western red cedar trees grew, used the cones, branches, bark and leaves in rituals and as medicine because it was considered to have a cleansing presence.

I would venture a guess that in areas where it did not grow they used other types of cedar and probably – Juniper in the same way.

Cedar is often used in smudging to purify a space or person. It is thought to have similiar properties as Sage and sweet grass in that, when burning, the smoke is a cleansing and protecting agent.


While true Cedar is seldom used in modern herbalism, Native tribes found several medicinal uses. Just a few are —
Boiling up the leaves to make a weak broth for stomach pain, coughs and colds.
Turning the leaves into a powder was sometimes used externally as a poultice for a variety of internal pains. Often for, what we now refer to as arthritis.
Small branches and/or the soft buds from the end of branches could be chewed or boiled for similar use. Or cooked down into an oil and then rubbed on back or chest to treat a bad cough, lung pain or what we may refer to as bronchitis.

The Cedar tree was looked upon as powerful, wise, old spirits and yet today the leaves are used in smudging for protection. To clean a home of any negative influences. Or to smudge your own person or another person for the same reason.

Cedar wood contains many healthy properties. It is said to be fungicidal and insecticidal. It is also know to be an antiseptic, diuretic and astringent.

Cedar leaf branch

Cedarwood Essential Oil

A popular type of cedarwood essential oil (Juniperus virginiana) comes from the Eastern red cedar.

The most well researched medicinal properties of cedarwood are as follows:
Reduces Inflammation.
Prevents Infections.
Relieves Symptoms of Seborrheic Eczema.
Eliminates Cough and helps expel phlegm.
Relieves Spasms.
Works well as an insect Repellant.
May reduces Fungal Infections.
It may reduce inflammation
Stop itching, relieve tension
Regulate menstruation
Clear up acne
Induce better sleep.

Cedar wood oil may be used as a general health tonic because it stimulates metabolism. It is also thought to tighten and tone muscles and skin. It could further improve one’s overall health by boosting kidney and liver function.

Cedarwood aromatherapy may be recommended for folks with depression, stress and anxiety.

NOTE: As with most essential oils it is suggested that we dilute with a carrier oil if using directly on the skin. Cedarwood essential oils should NOT be taken internally.

If you would like the information in this article as a PDF printable you can find it in the library.


If your interested in learning more about smudging.. You can find my guide in the store.. (see the menu at top for store link)

15 page guide is available in our store

Disclaimer This article is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide or replace medical advice. Neither Linda Carlson nor OnlyToday website takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information within this article.


2 thoughts on “Cedar uses – and Medicinal Benefits

  1. Very interesting! I love the cedar trees because they grow so straight. They never seem to bend or get twisted like some of the other trees.

  2. Mama and I were researching cedars just the other day. We were curious as to why they were always planted in the old cemeteries. And found out it is because they represent everlasting life and it was believed that the spirits of the buried were in the boughs.
    🙂

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