CEDARwood, A  Profile of True Cedar
By Jeanne Rose

Image of a Cedar tree with a bottle of its essential oil in front.

Atlas Cedar, Cedrus atlantica, and Deodar Cedar, C. deodara are profiled.


COMMON NAME/LATIN BINOMIAL OF TRUE CEDAR ~   The Cedar tree is so lovely, and it is often confused with every other tree there is.  And other trees that are totally unrelated are called ‘cedar’ by older, ignorant, common usage. There are Pine trees, Cypress trees, Thuja trees, Juniper trees, and Calocedrus trees, all called Cedar, but only the Cedrus genus is the true Cedar tree.

Cedrus libani var. atlantica Manetti (fam. Pinaceae) is a true Cedar, the original one from Morocco. Here we are only discussing the genus Cedrus. There are two main species: Cedrus atlantica, the Atlas Cedar, and C. deodara, the Himalayan cedar.  That is it.


            Atlas Cedar (wood) Cedrus libani ssp atlantica. Cedrus is Latin for evergreen conifers +  libani, meaning Mt. Lebanon, the name of the mountain, and atlantica meaning a large ocean, while the common name of Atlas Cedar means coming from the Atlas mountains. Botanical names always mean something. A majority of the modern sources treat Cedrus atlantica as a distinct species but some sources consider it a subspecies of the Lebanon Cedar (C. libani subsp. atlantica).

See Chapter Two of my book, “375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols,” for the meaning of the other aromatic-therapy plant names.


             Cedar-wood (the dash shows that you know they are not cedars) and is of the Conifer family, Cupressaceae. These are of different genera, in this case, Juniperus and Thuja. The trees have scales and not needles. While true Cedars have needles (Pinaceae) and not scales.

              Juniperus virginiana is indigenous to Virginia and is not an old-world tree. It is called red cedar-wood, and the oil of the bark is both organoleptically and chemically different from true Cedar. It contains cedrol and cedrene. It is used as a slight moth-repellent wood for closets and boxes.   Juniperus virginiana is called Cedar via the ignorance of people coming from the Olde Worlde to the Newe and thinking it looked like what they knew from the past. It should be spelled cedar-wood to separate it from the true Cedar of Cedrus. It is indigenous to Virginia and is not an Olde-Worlde tree. It is called red cedar-wood, and the oil of the bark organoleptic and chemical composition is different. It contains cedrol and cedrene. It is used as a slight moth-repellent wood for closets and boxes.

Other trees called Cedar that are not – African-Cedar  – Juniperus procera, American /red/Pencil-Cedar – Juniperus virginiana  Aka Eastern Red-Cedar, Southern Red-Cedar – Juniperus silicola.

>See Chart at end of Article<

FAMILY ~ Atlas Cedar and Himalayan Cedar belong to the Pine family (Pinaceae), Cedrus genus. They have needles and not scales. The essential oils of the bark are almost identical in organoleptic and chemical composition. They contain the alcohol ‘atlantone.’ This is a wonderful oil to use in aromatherapy.


COUNTRIES OF ORIGINS ~ Cedrus deodara (Deodar Cedar, Himalayan Cedar, or Deodar; Urdu: deodār; Hindi, Sanskrit:  devadāru;) is a species of true Cedar native to the western Himalayas in eastern Afghanistan, northern Pakistan, north-central India, southwesternmost Tibet, and western Nepal, occurring at 1500–3200 m. altitude. It is a large evergreen coniferous tree reaching 40–50 m tall, exceptionally 60 m, with a trunk up to 3 m. diameter. It has a conic crown with level branches and drooping branchlets.

branch of atlas Cedar tree

Our beautiful Cedrus atlantica in Golden Gate Park. So majestic.


Cedar trees – GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF PLANT HABITAT AND GROWTH ~ Fully grown, the Atlas cedar is a coniferous, evergreen tree with wide branches tapering to a height of 50 feet with a trunk diameter of 4.9 to 6.6 ft.  The branches are covered with long needles, having barrel-shaped cones standing upright on the branches.  Some of the Cedars in Lebanon, however, are said to be one hundred feet high and over 2,000 years old.                             

There are several examples of the tree in the front center area of the San Francisco Botanical Garden. I have also seen these lovely trees as an entrance allée to the government buildings of Sacramento, all over Golden Gate Park, and near the entrance to the University of Arizona in Tucson.

ENDANGERED OR NOT ~ Cedrus atlantica is grown in many countries; the Lebanese cedar is an endangered species due to over-exploitation and the destruction of its natural habitat, Cedrus libani is vulnerable, and in some areas of its heritage growth, it is endangered.

PORTION OF PLANT USED FOR EXTRACTION, EXTRACTION METHODS; DISTILLATION, HOW DISTILLED, AND YIELDS ~ The wood, chips, and sawdust are steam distilled.  Yield: 3-5%.                                                     


This work is sponsored and supported by Prima Fleur Botanicals.

bottle of Prima Fleur Cedarwood oil,Cedrus atlantica


            Color:                          Deep golden yellow

            Clarity:                        Clear

            Viscosity:                    Non-viscous

            Taste:                          Tastes bitter, camphoraceous, smooth, slightly astringent

                                                           (reminds me of a deep fragrant cave).

            Intensity of Odor:       4

            Tenacity of Odor:        6

CHEMICAL COMPONENTS ~ It contains cadinene, atlantone, cedrol, and alpha and beta Cedrene, and Caryophyllene.

ODOR DESCRIPTION/ AROMA ASSESSMENT of Cedar Oil ~ The oil from the wood has a clean deep gold color with a rich, fruity, floral, wood odor that contains up to 80% Sesquiterpenes and Sesquiterpenols.

(see Scent snapshot at the end, comparing Atlas Cedar and Virginia Cedar-wood).


GENERAL PROPERTIES of Cedar oil and plant

We are only discussing Cedrus spp.

     The EO has antiseptic properties that are especially useful in the respiratory and urinary tract, for inflammation of the urethra or bladder, and to treat bronchitis. A drop of the EO in half a cup of water is an excellent gargle for a sore throat. Add it with a few drops of Eucalyptus EO in a bowl of steaming water to reduce nasal or lung congestion. It can also be used like a homemade “Vicks-Vapo-Rub.” It can be taken internally as a lymphatic tonic and may help reduce water retention. External application of the EO can be used for the scalp, especially for alopecia,  and skin diseases. Add the EO to shampoos or facial washes to reduce oily secretions and combine with Galbanum to support wound healing.

•Physical Uses & How used – Application and in massage; It is used for arteriosclerosis, the retention of fluid in the tissue (edema), cellulite reduction, and in skin care for reducing oily secretions.  It is also used for cleansing, as a general tonic, acne, rheumatism, cystitis, and scalp disorder.

Cedarwood is used by application and inhalation for chest infections and asthma.

A formula by Jeanne Rose for the skin and scalp. Mix together 20 drops each of Thyme borneol, Rosemary cineol, and 40 drops of Atlas Cedar essential oils.  Add 80 drops of  Jojoba oil.  Agitate, and succuss. Use 3-4 drops on your hairbrush and brush your hair from scalp to ends every day. This will encourage hair growth and discourage alopecia.

There was a young man from Natchez,
Whose head was balding in patches.
He used Atlas Cedar for sure,
And Rosemary that was pure
And now he no longer scratches.

            This formula also smells very nice and can be used for facial care when there is acne or even using it to massage over the limbs.

•Properties by Inhalation – Cedar is a tonic to the respiratory system.  When applied in a massage blend it assists as an arterial regenerative, lymphatic tonic, antiseptic, fungicide, tonic, anti-seborrheic, and regenerative.    

•Ingestion – If a drop or two are taken in a teaspoon of honey, it aids in urinary tract infections.

•Emotional Uses –  Used by Inhalation for anxiety. 


DIFFUSE/DIFFUSION ~ EMOTIONAL/ENERGETIC USE ~ The mystery of aromatherapy —Get to know the elusive essence that is able to create such a variety of emotional and physical changes.

            Cultural importance in the Indian subcontinent – The deodar tree is the national tree of Pakistan. Among Hindus, it is worshipped as a divine tree, particularly in Kashmir and Punjab villages, as the name deodar suggests. The first half of the word deva means the words divine, deity, Deus, and Zeus, and the second part connotes durum, druid, tree, and true.

            Forests full of deodar trees were the popular resting places for sages and religious scholars as per ancient Indian mythology.3

            For an excellent Focus Blend to be used in Yoga,  a blend of Cedarwood/Spikenard/Patchouli.

BLENDING & PERFUMERY with Atlas or Deodar Cedar – These Cedrus oils are a wonderful woody, floral, and fruity scent with deep intensity and are excellent in a base note blend for tenacity. They blend Best with citrus, wood, and florals.

formula for a true Cedar perfume, called Green Harmony, from Jeanne Rose Aromatherapy.

HYDROSOL ~ At this time, I have not been able to find and use the true Cedar as a  hydrosol.

PLEASE NOTE: A true hydrosol should be specifically distilled for the hydrosol, not as a co-product or even a by-product of essential oil distillation. The plant’s cellular water has many components; most are lost under pressurized short steam runs for essential oil or by using dried material. We recommend that the producers specifically distill for a product by using plant material that is fresh.

HERBAL USE ~ Construction material  – Deodar is in great demand as a building material because of its durability, rot-resistant character, and fine, close grain, which is capable of taking a high polish. Its historical use to construct religious temples and as a landscape around temples is well recorded. Its rot-resistant character also makes it an ideal wood for constructing the famous houseboats of Srinagar, Kashmir. In India, during the British colonial period, deodar wood was used extensively for the construction of barracks, public buildings, bridges, canals, and railway cars.1

2 side by side photos of true Cedarwood, Cedrus atlantica with a false cedar-wood, Juniperus virginiana


            Fifty years ago, when I first started collecting historical books on plants (herbs and aromatics), I was put off by so many books with the names and history of plants just plain wrong. As a science major at college (1954-1959), I was educated by and the assistant of a botanist who was a stickler in the use of correct Latin binomials and the history of each plant. He said, “You don’t need to pronounce the name correctly, but you do need to spell it correctly”. The Latin names are the same all over the world. 

            One of the first books I obtained was a first-edition book, dated 1951, that stated the trees that were used to build the temple of Solomon in ancient Jerusalem was the American Cedarwood named Juniperus virginiana. Well, anyone with a lick of sense knows that the Temple of Solomon was built around 1000 B.C.E. (before the common era) in the Middle East and that the tree called Juniperus virginiana is a species of Juniper indigenous to and native to eastern North America and was not named or identified or found until the early 1600s. (Yes, the Native Americans of the area used this tree, but these are not the people of Solomon’s era.) I discarded that book immediately and cannot even remember its name.   But I also saw this same misinformation that “Cedrus species is a North American tree…of the family Cupressaceae” in one of our modern books on aromatherapy, published in 1995 by two well-known teachers of aromatherapy.

             In 1972, I also started collecting the true ancient rare historical books, including a copy of Gerard’s Herbal from 1632 and a copy of Plinie’s Herbal published in 1601. These, I used to give me a real background and a good grounding in the aromatic plants and herbs that were to eventually make up my life’s work.

            I enjoy taxonomy now, although not so much back in 1957. Names are important, and you should know the names of the plants that you use, just like you should know the names of the friends that you love. You wouldn’t call every female you know ‘sis’ – would you? So, don’t go calling all the trees cedar, either.

chart of the many trees called 'cedarwood'

KEY USE ~ Prepare the dead and Respiratory disorders.                  

HISTORICAL USES ~  From the Sanskrit for “Timber of the gods”.2

INTERESTING INFORMATION ~ In mummification and to repel vermin. “Repellant to insects.  Used by the ancient Egyptians for mummification and by other ancient cultures for sarcophagi and palace and temple material.  Sometimes called ‘satinwood.’  The Latin name means ‘Atlas Cedar’, the tree growing in the Atlas Mountains that span Morocco and Algeria.  Different species of cedars are found all over the world.  Native Americans use cedar as medicine and burn it for purification”4.

The Cedar of Solomon, with the Egyptian heiroglyphics and a branch of the tree.

Native American lore says that when the great mystery gave a gift to each species, the young trees were given a task to stay awake for 7 days and watch over the forest; the trees fell asleep species by species leaving only the young conifers that were so excited that they could not fall asleep. By the 7th night the only trees left awake were the Fir, Pine, Spruce, Cedar, Holly, and Laurel. The great mystery was very happy, “What wonderful endurance you have,” and gave them the gift of forever remaining green – thus the Evergreens. They were proclaimed the guardians of the forest and given exceptional healing qualities. (from the Herbal Studies Course)


ABSTRACT/SCIENTIFIC DATA ~ Arch Dermatol. 1998 Nov;134(11):1349-52. by Hay IC, Jamieson M, Ormerod AD.

Department of Dermatology, Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, Foresterhill, Scotland. ad.ormerod@abdn.ac.uk


OBJECTIVE: To investigate the efficacy of aromatherapy in the treatment of patients with alopecia areata.

DESIGN: A randomized, double-blind, controlled trial of 7 months duration, with follow-up at 3 and 7 months.

SETTING: Dermatology outpatient department.

PARTICIPANTS: Eighty-six patients diagnosed as having alopecia areata.

INTERVENTION: Eighty-six patients were randomized into 2 groups. The active group massaged essential oils (thyme, rosemary, lavender, and cedarwood) in a mixture of carrier oils (jojoba and grapeseed) into their scalp daily. The control group used only carrier oils for their massage, also daily.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Treatment success was evaluated on sequential photographs by 2 dermatologists (I.C.H. and A.D.O.) independently. Similarly, the degree of improvement was measured by 2 methods: a 6-point scale and computerized analysis of traced areas of alopecia.

RESULTS: Nineteen (44%) of 43 patients in the active group showed improvement compared with 6 (15%) of 41 patients in the control group (P = .008). An alopecia scale was applied by blinded observers on sequential photographs and was shown to be reproducible with good interobserver agreement (kappa = 0.84). The degree of improvement on photographic assessment was significant (P = .05). Demographic analysis showed that the 2 groups were well matched for prognostic factors.

CONCLUSIONS: The results show aromatherapy to be a safe and effective treatment for alopecia areata. Treatment with these essential oils was significantly more effective than treatment with the carrier oil alone (P = .008 for the primary outcome measure). We also successfully applied an evidence-based method to an alternative therapy.



Scent snapshots of true cedarwood and Virginia cedar-wood showing the difference in the scent.

1.Wikipedia – Cedrus deodara
3. https://whatsanswer.com/national-tree-of-pakistan/
4. essential aromatherapy, p.122


Herbal Studies Course/ Jeanne Rose & Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books, 1992
Mabberley, D. J. Mabberley’s Plant-Book, 3rd edition, 2014 printing, Cambridge University Press.
Mojay, Gabriel.  Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit.  Rochester, VT:  Healing Arts Press,1999.
Ohloff, Gunther. Scent and Fragrances
Rose, Jeanne.  375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols.  Berkeley, California: Frog, Ltd., 1999
Rose, Jeanne.  The Aromatherapy Book: Applications & Inhalations.  San Francisco, California:
Rose, Jeanne.  The Aromatherapy Book: Applications & Inhalations.  San Francisco, California:
Rose, Jeanne. Certification II Booklet “Botany, Chemistry and More”
Rose, Jeanne. Herbal Studies Course. 1990


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One thought on “CEDARwood

  1. What an informative article! I can’t decide what parts I enjoyed most: the botanical language insights, the limerick and Tomato Tale, or the general inspiration to learn more about Cedrus species. I checked my essential oils and sure enough, I have two bottles labeled ‘Cedarwood’ (no hyphen) that are also identified as Juniperus virginiana. Thankfully, I also have a small bottle from Jeanne Rose Aromatherapy Course for Home & Family labeled: Cedarwood Cedrus atlantica. This decided the aroma exploration I will set up for tomorrow morning’s studies. I am currently re-reading 375 ESSENTIAL OILS AND HYSDROSOLS and was inspired by the introduction by Daniel Penoel, MD to jump ahead and read in Chapter 7 about the Evergreens. Naturally, seeing this new blog post caught my eye and I am so glad I read it right away. Thank you.

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