HINOKI-CYPRESS Essential oil and Uses.

photo of the Hinoki oil showing the color, clarity and name.
Hinoki Oil

Introduction/Synopsis of Hinoki Cypress ~ Japanese False Cypress, Hinoki, is an historical native Japanese tree, now grown world-wide.  Its wood is used as lumber for temples and historical objects, and the essential oil produced from the leaves and twigs has therapeutic (anti-microbial and calming) and the trunk, and root, has commercial uses.

Common Name/Latin binomial ~ Hinoki false cypress, Chamaecyparis obtusa (Siebold & Zucc.) Siebold & Zucc. ex Endl. – There are many varieties and cultivars of this tree.

Family ~  Cupressaceae – Cypress family

Other Names and background ~ Hinoki is often called a cedar tree. This is a serious misnomer as the tree is more closely related to cypress and is in fact in the Cypress family.  Japanese-Cedar, Hinoki-Cedar (root, wood, leaf), the name  means Grows on the ground + rush or sedge-like + obtusa (blunt) leaves.

Countries of Origin ~ native to central Japan and in East Asia, and widely cultivated in the temperate areas of the northern hemisphere, for its high-quality timber and ornamental qualities. There are many varieties.  The San Francisco Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park has many fine examples of this tree.

Hinoki cypress tree in SF Golden Gate Park, Botanical Garden with sign.
Hinoki tree in Golden Gate Park Botanical Garden

Endangered ~ Hinoki Cypress. There is some misinformation on the internet that pops up occasionally, namely that Hinoki is an endangered species.  This  is not true, and the Japanese government is actively promoting the culling of Hinoki, as it (along with Sugi) were used in reforestation after clearcutting mountains during the military era.  This diminished both the beauty and the biodiversity of the forests, and efforts are now being made to cull Hinoki and Sugi, replacing them mainly with deciduous tree original to the area.”3

Hinoki General Description of Plant habitat and Growth ~ This is a slow-growing tree up to 115 feet tall with trunk up to 3 feet. Bark is dark reddish-brown, leaves are scale-like and grow as flat sprays on narrow twigs.  The timber is very valuable as a material for palaces, temples, shrines. Very revered for its damage proof wood.

picture of the palm-size twig with leaves of the 'temple cypress (-cedar)
Hinoki flat sprays – 2010

PORTION OF PLANT USED IN EXTRACTION AND YEILDS ~ Hinoki Essential Oil is steam distilled from Hinoki wood chips. There are some who use the waste from sawmills but often the quality of the resultant essential oil is not what is desired. Always carefully analyze the odor of Hinoki as there are certainly different grades and scents.

 Wood, leaf, root produce different essential oil by SD. Root oil has camphor odor with terpineol and borneol. EO of root by inhalation is considered immune stimulating with ability to kill bacteria. Root oil can be applied as an insecticide and as a mineral flotation oil in mining. Trunk oil contains cadinene. Hinoki leaf and twig oil is fruity and woody and used to scent soap.

Yield ~ In one distillation, 300 kilos of branches and young growth were steam-distilled and produced some 6 kilos of oil.

Organoleptics of Hinoki Wood oil from Japan ~ The oil is colorless, clear, non-viscous (watery), 6 on a 1-10 scale with a good tenacity in a blend and a bitter aromatic taste.
Color – colorless
Clarity – clear
Viscosity non-viscous
Scent Intensity – 6
Tenacity – very good
Description – The wood oil is camphorous, woody, and green more suitable to therapeutics than perfumery.
Taste – bitter and aromatic



Physical Uses ~ The wood oil from Hinoki tree has been discussed and in 1997, was found to be antibiotic to MRSA as well as strongly antibiotic to other bacteria.1 Hinoki essential oil has antiseptic qualities which helps to heal minor cuts, scrapes and wounds. It is also useful in skincare and cosmetics for its ability to kill bacteria, treat sores, pimples, pustules and skin eruptions.

            Hinoki has also been studied to induce physiological relaxation: “This study aimed to clarify the physiological effects of touching hinoki cypress  (Chamaecyparis obtusa) wood with the palm of the right hand on brain activity and autonomic nervous activity. ………… uncoated hinoki was used as tactile stimulation. Marble was used as a control material. …….. In conclusion, our study showed that touching hinoki wood with the palm calms prefrontal cortex activity and increases parasympathetic nervous activity, thereby inducing physiological relaxation.”2

Hinoki oil can be used as an ingredient in a mask for calming the skin, or in moisturizing, as it is very soothing in a blend, for a spot treatment, or makeup removal, as a skin-conditioner, calming mask, or a cleansing water or toner.

            Personally, I like it best in bath soaps, or bathing treatments.

Essential oil of Chamaecyparis obtusa particularly the leafy wood and twig oil showed antimicrobial activity on a relatively broad spectrum of bacterial and fungal species such as Staphylococcus epidermidis was highly sensitive but Streptococcus aureus and Streptococcus mutans were not. Vibrio parahemolyticus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Pseudomonas putida showed sensitivity at the concentration higher than 400 ppm. The growth of a pathogenic yeast Candida albicans was inhibited by the essential oil above 200 ppm. The radial growth of several filamentous fungi was also inhibited. The antifungal activity of the essential oil was effective on two plant pathogens Fusarium oxysporum and Alternaria mali. These results suggest that essential oil of Chamaecyparis obtusa has an antimicrobial activity by inhibiting bacterial and fungal species.4

Hinoki leaf oil for Inhalation ~ The oil can be used in blends for calming and soothing during times of stress. I have found it best when I knew the tree and knew what the actual plant was like and how it smelled.

Diffusion ~ Best in blends with other oils, especially the citrus.

Blending Hinoki oil for Various Purpose ~ Bergamot, Virginia Cedar-wood, Cistus or Labdanum; citrus such as Lemon, Mandarin, Neroli, Orange or Tangerine; Clary Sage, Cypress or Junipers, Firs, Jasmine, Lavender, resins such as Myrrh and Frankincense, Rose, Rosemary, roots like Vetiver and florals such as Ylang-Ylang.

            Hinoki oil is used to scent products from skincare to deodorants and soaps and the essential oil from the root is used as an insecticide.

Emotional Use ~ Touching and holding the tree induced relaxation.  Inhaling the essential oil from the tree did the same.  I am assuming that the test subjects had to be familiar with the tree scent for this reaction to happen.

Culinary or Ingestion – None

Herbal ~ The tree leaves and twigs are quite useful in the bath or hot tub as a cleansing, scent-hgealing addition.  They can also be macerated or infused as a beginning ingredient in the making lotions, creams, and bath herbs and solutions.

Ritual Use ~ The wood is used in building temples, traditional Noh theatres, and baths as it is long lasting and highly rot resistant. The bark and leaves have been studied as they calm the mind and soothe an elevated blood pressure.2

Hydrosol ~ I have been able to experience the hydrosol of this tree (leaves and twigs) and very much enjoyed the healing quality of the bath [2 cups of hydrosol per bath]. I also used it to wipe down some counters and the scent was very cleansing to the kitchen.

Key Use ~ An antiseptic oil.

Chemistry and Components – The essential oil obtained from the leaves of Chamaecyparis obtusa was analyzed by GC and GC-MS. alpha-Terpinyl acetate, sabinene, isobornyl acetate and limonene were found to be the major components. The oil showed relatively strong antibacterial activities against Gram (+) bacteria and some fungi.5

Interesting/Science/Historical ~ The durable fragrant wood of the Hinoki is used in hot tubs for bathing, carved for kitchen and household tools, used in building materials especially for temples.

1 A  new substance (Yoshixol) with an interesting antibiotic mechanism from wood oil of Japanese traditional tree (Kiso-Hinoki), Chamaecyparis obtusa. General Pharmacology, 30 Apr 1997, 28(5):797-804. https://europepmc.org/article/med/9184823

2 Physiological effects of touching hinoki cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa) by Harumi Ikei, Chorong Song & Yoshifumi Miyazaki . Journal of Wood Science volume 64, pages226–236(2018
3Japanese Forestation Policies During the 20 Years Following World War II. By Koji Matsushita. Submitted: December 3rd 2014Reviewed: July 27th 2015Published: September 30th, 2015. DOI: 10.5772/61268
4 Antimicrobial effects of Chamaecyparis obtusa essential oil. January 2001. Korean Journal of Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology 29(4):253-257
5 Chemical composition and antimicrobial activity of Chamaecyparis obtusa leaf essential oil, March 2007, Fitoterapia 78(2):149-52, DOI: 10.1016/j.fitote.2006.09.026

This work is sponsored and supported by Prima Fleur Botanicals.



PATCH TEST:  If applying a new essential oil to your skin always perform a patch test to the inner arm (after you have diluted the EO in a vegetable carrier oil). —Wash an area of your forearm about the size of a quarter and dry carefully. Apply a diluted drop (1 drop EO + 1 drop carrier) to the area. Then apply a loose Band-Aid and wait 24 hours. If there is no reaction, then go ahead and use the oil in your formulas. —The Aromatherapy Book, Applications & Inhalations, p. 64

Moderation in All Things.

Be moderate in your use of essential oils as they are just not sustainable for the environment.

Be selective and more moderate in your usage.

Use the herb first as tea or the infusion. —JeanneRose 2014

DISCLAIMER:  This work is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for accurate diagnosis and treatment by a qualified health care professional. Dosages are often not given, as that is a matter between you and your health care provider. The author is neither a chemist nor a medical doctor.  The content herein is the product of research and personal and practical experience. Institute of Aromatic & Herbal Studies – Jeanne Rose©

photo showing essential oil of Hinoki and a leaf/twig.
Hinoki oil and tree twig


6 thoughts on “HINOKI-cypress

  1. This information provided me with the info I needed to identify my neighbors tree of Hinoki on the big island. We are located in the rainforest section of the island. My neighbor wanted to know why this tree never showed the moss and the black fungus on her other trees. Its caused by insect honeydew. Some of her plants and trees have been injured by it. This info has provided an idea. I will distill this tree and try spraying it on some of the plants. Thanks so much for the info, Jeanne!

  2. Pingback: Hinoki Essential Oil Benefits and Uses In Aromatherapy - HowtoBuildBody

  3. Aloha, JeanneRose!

    I enjoyed reading your blog about the Hinoki cypress. It is informative, well-researched, and thoughtfully presented. I especially like that you sought to dispel some common myths about the Hinoki cypress.

    I am the managing editor of a small newspaper in Hawai’i and am doing a story on the Hinoki cypress. This type of Japanese cypress does not grow on my island. May I please ask you if I may use the photo you took of the HInoki cypress at the Golden Gate Park Botanical Garden to run with the story? I would give you photo credit, of course, and reference your blog post for proper attribution.

    Mahalo, JeanneRose. I look forward to hearing back from you.

Thank you for reading and your comments.