Cedar (Xue Song)
Botanical Name: Cedrus libani (Lebanon cedar), Cedrus deodara (Himalayan cedar), Juniperus virginiana (Eastern US cedar).
Cedar has been a revered plant by many cultures throughout history. It is burnt for sacred ceremonies, cleansing energies, healing the lungs as well as used to make teas and infusions to treat a wide variety of ailments. The Cedars of God remain one of the last vestiges of the extensive forests of the Cedars of Lebanon that thrived in ancient times.
Below is an overview of cedar, combining and interpreting the best of Western Science, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shamanism, Folklore and more. Gain a balanced and thorough understanding of the healing properties of cedar.
Western Name: Cedar
Also Known As: Tree of Life, Arbor Vitae, Lebanon Cedar, Red Juniper, Red Cedar, Pencil Cedar
Organs/Systems: Lungs, Skin, Heart, Genitalia
Key Western Actions & Medicinal Uses: Antiseptic, Astringent, Diuretic, Expectorant, Sedative, Expectorant, Inhalant, Disinfectant.
Pin Yin: Xue Song
Also Known As: Red Cedar, Hong Shan Shu
Meridians: Lungs, Kidney, Bladder
Key TCM Actions & Medicinal Uses: Relieves Damp Cold: colds and flus, sore throats, tuberculosis. Relieves Skin Disorders: ringworm, athletes foot.
Parts Most Frequently Used: Oil, Leaves, Wood, Recently Dried Leafy Young Twigs
Flavors/Temps: Bitter, Aromatic, Warming
Caution: Do not use when pregnant.
History/Folklore: Cedars are often confused with cypress trees, over time this has led to many trees being inaccurately named “cedar.” The Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata), Yellow Cedar (Cupressus nootkatensis) and the Mexican White Cedar (Cupressus lusitanica) are all actually cypress trees. The healing properties remain the same as the cedar’s.
Cedar is resistant to decay and termites. Native Americans utilized every part of the tree. Spears and arrows from the wood, leaves and branches were used for insecticides, incense and medicinally to treat a wide range of diseases. Cedar is a strong disinfectant with a long history of treating lung infections. The tips of leaves can be made into a tea to treat coughs and colds and an infusion of the leaves can topically treat athletes foot and ringworm. A decoction of the heartwood is given for chest infections, insomnia and diabetes. The essential oil has been prescribed for syphilis and leprosy. The twigs may produce an abortion by reflex action on the uterus from severe gastrointestinal irritation. Both fenchone and thujone stimulate the heart muscle. An injection of the tincture into venereal warts is said to cause them to disappear. Cedar is commonly used to make shoe trees (wooden inserts for shoes) as they can absorb moisture and deodorize.
Cedar is said to have been brought to Britain in 1566. The timber was used by the Phoenicians, Assyrians, Babylonians and Persians. The Egyptians used it for ship building and the Ottoman Empire used it in railway construction. The cedar is the symbol of Lebanon as it was once shaded by thick cedar forests, called the Cedars of God, now much smaller, these forests survive only in the mountainous regions and slopes of Mount Makmel that tower over the Kadisha Valley.
Volatile oil (including Cedren, Athantol and Atlantone) Fenchone, Thujone.
Gardens of Babylon
It is said that cedar was used to build the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and Solomon’s Temple.
An ancient Lakota legend says the dried herb of the cedar is the Thunder Being’s (Wakinyan) favorite. Wakinyan will not strike cedars with lightening. Wood of the cedar is used to store feathers and other delicate items.
Cedar is specifically mentioned in Homer’s Iliad (book 24) referring to the cedar-roofed storage chamber where Priam goes to fetch treasures to use as ransom.
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