Cedar wood’s unique red hue and pungent smell instantly take hold of the senses. It is easy to distinguish it from any other wood species. The unique qualities of this wood go far beyond what can be seen on the surface, however. The structure of the wood and the oils that it contains make it suitable for a wide array of different projects. Cedar wood oil is also popular for use in cosmetics, embalming, and aromatherapy. When examined in-depth, the versatility of this tree is astonishing.
Thousands of years ago, the ancient Egyptians were tapping into the unique attributes of cedar wood. Ancient records dating back as far as 5000 BC show that they used oils extracted from the tree in incense, preservation, cosmetics, and embalming. This oil contains cedrol, which functions well as a pesticide. Using it in the embalming process kept insects from disturbing the bodies of the dead.
These oils, however, were not readily available in the desert environment in Egypt. The Egyptians had to buy or trade with neighboring countries to obtain cedar and other oils. Lebanon, where the famed Cedars of Lebanon grew plentifully, was a major source of oils for the Egyptians. Eventually, Egypt would incorporate Lebanon into the Egyptian Empire to ensure their access to the essential oils that they sought.
Modern Cedar Oil
Presently, there are not many Cedars of Lebanon left. Closely related trees such as the Atlas or Tibetan Cedar tree are used instead for producing cedar wood oil. Some oils are even made from red cedar or Juniperus virginiana. While this tree is a technically a juniper, and a more distant relative to the original cedars, the oil it produces still contains many of the same substances and properties of cedar oil.
Cedar trees are large trees when fully grown. They may reach 120-180 feet tall when fully grown. The oils are mainly extracted from the foliage of the trees. However, wood and stumps that remain after cedar wood is harvested can also be used. As it takes 29 pounds of dried wood to create one pound of cedar wood oil, a plentiful source of cedar is required to produce marketable quantities of oil. Some have tried to speed up the trees’ growth to harvest the wood and oil sooner. However, slow growth trees yield more oil than those that are rushed.
Cedar Oil Properties
A lot of research has gone into discovering the properties of cedar oil. Those who practice aromatherapy use it for a host of different ailments. Cedar oil has antiseptic and astringent properties that make it an ideal addition to aftershaves and other skin products. It can help keep pores clean and reduce breakouts. It can also be found in hair care products, especially those that claim to reduce hair loss. Cedar oil helps to increase circulation to the scalp, maintaining hair health. It can also balance the release of sebum and other oils from the skin, helping restore balance to both dry and oily skin types. It can be massaged into the skin on the chest to thin mucus and relieve chest and nasal congestion. The scent of cedar oil is also naturally relaxing. Its earthy smell can calm stress and anxiety. Quite often, cedar oil is added to men’s hygiene products for the aroma alone.
Cedar Wood Uses
There are three unique characteristics of cedar wood that make it so universally useful. It is a softwood, often compared to pine in consistency. It is easy to cut, shape, and split, making it an easy wood to work with. Cedar is also considered a stable wood. Changes in humidity and temperature do not cause the wood to shrink or swell significantly. The aroma that is so characteristic comes from the oils within, which give the cedar antifungal and antiseptic properties. These oils not only protect the wood from insects and rot but keep moths and other insects away.
One of the most common places to find cedar is on the roof of a house. Cedar shake shingles are a good choice for a few reasons. Cedar shingles are easy to split on the job site because they are softwood. Thus, cedar shingles are easy to install tightly across the roof.
It is also lightweight so it doesn’t put pressure on the house’s roof that could require additional supports. Add to these benefits the rot resistance native to this wood species, and you have a roof that is easy to install and will repel mold and wood insects for years to come. For these reasons, cedar is commonly used for decking, siding, and fencing as well.
Indoors, cedar is also often used as protection for precious possessions. Cigar boxes, hope chests, and closets are often lined or made from cedar wood. It is an inexpensive way to protect and preserve expensive or irreplaceable items from being eaten by moths.
From its beautiful red wood to its aromatic oils, the cedar is a very versatile tree. Because of the unique properties that it has, it has been incorporated into building projects and consumer products alike.