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essential oil bottle with cedarwood branches

Cedarwood Essential Oil Benefits: A Complete Guide

Throughout history, cedarwood trees have fascinated people across cultures and civilizations. Their grand, towering presence has earned them recognition as a symbol of health and stability. 

The earliest use of cedarwood essential oil originates in ancient Egypt, where it was used as an embalming fluid to preserve the departed. In the present day, cedarwood oil is widely used in aromatherapy. It is also a valued ingredient in a variety of products, including insecticides, medications, and cosmetics. 

An Overview of the Cedarwood Essential Oil Varieties

essential oil bottle with cedarwood chips

These are the four most commonly used varieties of cedarwood essential oil:

  • Atlas Cedarwood Essential Oil
  • Virginian Cedarwood Essential Oil
  • Texas Cedarwood Essential Oil
  • Himalayan Cedarwood Essential Oil

All types of cedarwood essential oils share commonalities between their scent and appearance. The cedarwood oils listed above belong to species from two plant families: Pinaceae (Pine) and Cupressaceae (Cypress). 

Atlas and Himalayan cedars belong to the pine plant family and are ‘true’ cedars. You can identify them by their scientific name, ‘Cedrus.’ However, the Virginian and Texas varieties are not classified as true cedars as they belong to the Cypress family. 

That said, oils from "true" cedars are not necessarily better than oils from cypresses; they simply have different chemical compositions. The chemical profiles contribute to diversity in aroma, therapeutic properties, and potential benefits offered by each cedarwood oil variety. 

Understanding this diversity can help you make a decision that better suits your needs when buying cedarwood essential oil. 

Atlas Cedarwood Essential Oil

Below, what makes Atlas Cedarwood Essential Oil unique is explored.

Origins 

This essential oil is derived from Atlas cedarwood, scientifically known as Cedrus Atlantica. The majestic species is native to the Atlas Mountains of Morocco and Algeria. Essential oil from the Atlas cedarwood is extracted via steam distillation. Parts of the tree used include wood chips, sawdust, or stumps of the tree. 

Texture and Aroma

Atlas cedarwood essential oil has a thin to viscous texture, and ranges from yellow to gold in color. It emanates a warm, woody fragrance with a hint of balsamic sweetness. Atlas cedarwood essential oil is used as a base note and often accompanies 'masculine' scents. Many people find the aroma grounding and calming. 

Benefits of Atlas Cedarwood Essential Oil

The Atlas cedarwood essential oil predominantly contains sesquiterpene compounds known as himachalenes. These compounds contribute to the oil's biological properties and benefits. 

A study conducted found that inhaling Atlas cedarwood oil is a natural painkiller. The oil alleviates pain by interacting with specific receptors in the brain and activating natural pain-relieving pathways. It also inhibits enzymes that break down pain-reducing compounds, prolonging relief. 

Further enhancing its potential as a natural remedy, Atlas cedarwood oil also has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antibacterial properties. The oil's anti-inflammatory effects make it beneficial for addressing conditions, such as arthritis, joint pain, and muscle soreness. 

The antimicrobial properties of Atlas cedarwood oil make it a valuable treatment for skin diseases. A study found it was effective against fungal skin infections and bacterial infections like folliculitis. 

Notably, Atlas cedarwood oil has also demonstrated promise as an alternative therapy for alopecia. A study involving alopecia patients demonstrated a 43% success rate, positioning it as an effective treatment option for this condition.

In aromatherapy, Atlas cedarwood essential oil is often used to promote relaxation, reduce stress, and enhance focus. Its soothing and grounding personality can create a calming atmosphere, making it ideal for meditation or unwinding after a long day.

Sustainability Concerns

When buying Atlas cedarwood essential oil, be sure to check if the oil is sustainably sourced. The population of Atlas cedars has declined by nearly 75% in areas of native growth. As a result, the species has been classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). 

Virginian Cedarwood Essential Oil

Let's explore the distinct qualities of Virginian Cedarwood Essential Oil.

Origins 

Most of the cedarwood essential oil used in North America is of the Virginian variety. It is derived from the Juniperus Virginiana tree, also known as Eastern Red Cedarwood. Virginian cedars belong to the Juniper plant family. 

Often, Virginian and Atlas cedarwood oils are confused with each other as they're both quite easy to find and have similar applications. However, they are from different plant families and have different chemical components. As a result, the biological and therapeutic properties of Virginian and Atlas Cedarwood essential oil are somewhat unique. 

Texture and Aroma

The Virginian cedarwood essential oil is extracted from wood chips by steam distillation. It is slightly less viscous in comparison with Atlas cedarwood and is pale yellow in color. 

The essential oil has a smooth, woody, oily scent with a hint of balsamic sweetness. Its aroma is softer and slightly lighter than that of that Atlas cedarwood oil. 

Benefits of Virginian Cedarwood Essential Oil

Virginian cedarwood essential oil presents an impressive chemical profile with constituents including a-cedrene, b-cedrene, thujopsene, and cedrol. Among these, cedrol emerges as a star player, offering a range of remarkable benefits. 

Thanks to cedrol, Virginian cedarwood oil can be used to alleviate anxiety and reduce stress. The chemical alters the levels of mood-regulating neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine. Studies have also found that Virginian cedarwood oil has sedative properties. Taking center stage yet again, cedrol results in improved sleep quality and prolonged sleep. 

In addition, Virginian oil is antimicrobial and serves as a useful alternative treatment for bacterial infections. Research has shown that it can reliably be used to treat acne and oral infections

Texas Cedarwood Essential Oil

Here, Texas Cedarwood Essential Oil's specific qualities are explained.

Origins 

This variety of cedarwood essential oil is sourced from the aromatic Juniperous Mexicana trees. These trees are native to the southern United States (Texas and part of Arizona), and Mexico. Like Virginian Cedarwood, the Mexican Junipers are not ‘true’ Cedars. 

Along with Virginian cedarwood, Texas cedarwood is one of the two major cedars felled for commercial purposes in the United States. 

Texture and Aroma

Texas cedarwood oil is derived from the heartwood of the Mexican Juniper and has a woody, slightly sweet aroma. It is also mildly balsamic and has a smoky top note. Its scent is often compared with that of fresh pencil shavings. 

Texas cedarwood oil appears pale yellow and has a thin consistency

Texas Cedarwood Essential Oil Benefits

Like all other cedarwood oils, the Texas oil is extracted via the steam distillation method. It is often redistilled to obtain a higher concentration of chemical constituents. 

The oil contains the same key chemical components as Virginian cedarwood, such as thujopsene, a, b cedrenes, and cedrol. Based on this, the oil is presumed to share therapeutic properties with Virginian cedarwood; these include antimicrobial, sedative, and anxiolytic properties. 

Despite this potential, Texas cedarwood has not been used or researched for its therapeutic properties as much as Virginian cedarwood. The commercial use of this oil is more commonly seen in perfumery rather than as an alternative treatment. 

The insecticidal properties of Texas cedarwood have been confirmed by studies, supporting its use as a safe and effective insect repellent. 

Himalayan Cedarwood Essential Oil

Himalayan Cedarwood Essential Oil's properties are reviewed below.

Origins 

The Himalayan variety of cedarwood essential oil comes from Cedrus Deodara, a species of large pine tree native to Eastern Afghanistan and Northern Pakistan. The name 'Deodar' comes from ‘Devadar’ in Urdu, meaning ‘Divine Tree.’ 

The Himalayan cedarwood is a true cedar, like Atlas cedarwood, and has a similar chemical profile. It is extracted through steam distillation from the wood chips of the Deodar tree. 

Texture and Aroma

The distilled oil is slightly viscous and appears yellow to yellow-brown in coloring. It has a complex aroma that is woody, balsamic and has camphoraceous undertones. The scent is considered reminiscent of the Atlas cedarwood oil, but slightly lighter and cooler in temperature. 

Benefits of Himalayan Cedarwood Essential Oil

Himalayan cedarwood oil has a, b, γ himachalenes, and atlantones as its major constituents. These chemicals lend the oil useful biological properties, including anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties. 

In addition, Himalayan essential oil also exhibits insecticidal activity. Its use as an insecticide is especially effective for insects that are formed from larvae.

In traditional Ayurvedic medicine, Himalayan essential oil is used to treat a variety of health issues, such as asthma and arthritis. Scientific studies have provided some support for this use; however, more research is needed to fully understand how it works, how effective it is, and its appropriate dosage.

How to Use Cedarwood Essential Oil

There are two primary ways to use cedarwood oil, both of which are explored below.

Aromatherapy

When dealing with a condition that affects the internal health and organs, such as anxiety, stress, and inflammation, diffusing is an effective option. Diffuse 3-4 drops of your chosen cedarwood oil and inhale. 

Topical Application

If you want to use cedarwood essential oil as a treatment for topical issues, such as acne and alopecia, dilute it with a carrier oil and massage it into the affected area. 

The Takeaways About Cedarwood Essential Oil

essential oil bottle with pine cone

It's clear that while cedarwood essential oils are all derived from cedar trees, they are not all the same. They have similar yet distinct textures and scents, and so have different therapeutic benefits. Certainly, there are overlaps between their applications, such as all of the oils having antimicrobial properties.

Generally, Atlas Cedarwood and Virginian Cedarwood are the most reliable in terms of efficacy as they have been researched extensively. The chemical alternative to Atlas cedarwood is Himalayan cedarwood, although its therapeutic uses lack evidence. Similarly, Texas cedarwood oil can be seen as an alternative to Virginian cedarwood oil. 

When selecting your ideal cedarwood oil, ensure you check the scientific name and opt for sustainably sourced options. By following these guidelines, you can confidently choose the right cedarwood oil for your specific needs.

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