Cedar Lined Path
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Spotlight: White Northern Cedar is More Than Closet Wood.

Disclaimer: This post is for entertainment purposes only. Any medicinal information is not meant to be an endorsement for self -treatment. Please consult a doctor if you have any medical questions, comments, or concerns. 

Arborvitae: Latin for Tree of Life

2021 has started out a little bit rocky. Okay, it’s been very rocky for many. And confusing for others, myself included. 

So I thought it would be nice to take a break from current events, take several deep breaths, and learn a little bit about cedar trees. Northern White Cedar to be exact. 

Thuja occidentalis L.

I’ve always loved cedar, mostly because of the smell. Every time I open my cedar chest I take a deep breath. 

Due to my early cedar wood education I knew the following: 

  •  It was used to make chests to protect clothing from moths. 
  • It smells wonderful.

I know you’re shocked at the breadth of my knowledge. I assumed it was an evergreen and I was right! Woot Woot! 

Like all plants cedars have many different subsets such as Red Cedar and White Cedar. For the sake of simplicity I’ll just be discussing the White Cedar or Thuja Occidentalis L.

Just know that there is much similarity between the two with the Red Cedar being a bit stronger when used in fencing material. 

Like many trees it has a variety of uses in lumber and as a cultivar for yards and parks but lets focus on some of it’s less common attributes. 

Cedar One: Scurvy zero. 

Cedar trees have been considered a healing tree for quite some time. In fact some have believed it to be a “tree of life”. With such an appealing designation I had to know more. 

I quickly learned and verified an interesting tale of Jacques Cartier and his scurvy crew.

Literally. They had scurvy.

It was the winter of 1535-36, Cartier had been sent to find gold, his crew of around 110 men lived in a fort and that winter was exceptionally cold, even by the natives’ standards and the ships became icebound. Fresh fruit and vegetables, their source of vitamin C, ran out. 

Luckily the local native peoples knew about scurvy and how to remedy it, with an infusion made from the bark of white cedar. They came to Cartier’s mens aid, and just in time for most of them. All but ten men were sick with scurvy, twenty-five eventually died. 

It’s an interesting thing, how the lack of one vitamin can cause so much havoc on the body, but this is an issue mankind has dealt with since time immemorial. The real loss is how modern medicine has all but extinguished our knowledge of plants and their benefits. 

But all is not lost and there is a growing interest in natural remedies. Hurrah!

White Cedar Has More Than Vitamin C 

Cedar has a variety of properties that have been shown to be beneficial against fever, chest colds, flu. 

This could be due to its antiviral properties which have also been evident against herpes simplex. In addition it has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and expectorant properties among others. 

These benefits are also in the oil (called arborvitae), and can also be used as an astringent and insect repellent.

That last one should have been obvious since cedar chests and closets have been used for years due to their ability to keep bugs, mold, and mildew away.   

No wonder the native people of Canada as well as Cartier called the White Cedar the tree of life. 

Medicinal Herb Info has some wonderful information on the many, and I mean many, uses of White Cedar. Including how to make a tincture and a salve, though the latter involves lard.

I’ll leave it up to you to investigate. 

Besure To Read The Warnings

Like all medicinal plants, or medicines in general, there’s always a risk involved. 

First: Do not take if pregnant. White Cedar, with all it’s amazing properties, is listed as an abortifacient as it can cause uterine convulsions or contractions. 

Second: Leaf oil is considered toxic as it can cause hypotension and convulsions, and according to one site, deaths have been reported. 

Sounds similar to many other warning labels, but with fewer side effects.

Which is nice but what side effects it can have are rather serious.

Be sure to consult a doctor if planning on consuming any teas or tonics, and probably best not to consume the oil. 

Let’s Burn A Little Incense 

Let’s not end on such a serious note. 

Cedar is said to have a harmonizing effect on the mind and on the emotions when burned as incense. 

If ever we as a nation need harmonizing it is now. I suggest we all go get some cedar incense, light them, and breath in the calming aroma of this beautiful Tree of Life. 

May you all be blessed with harmony in your mind, body, and spirit. May you find comfort, peace and balance in your life. 

Just remember the White Cedar and breathe.

Northern White Cedar
Healing Trees
Northern White Cedar Plant Guide
Jacques Cartier

About Author

Jenn Gaskin

After more than a decade in education I decided to turn my copious skills to writing. I have been freelance writing for Dancing Tree Gifts (formerly Sonora Kay Creations) since 2019. I wear many hats with DTG primarily copy editor, author, and web design.