These notes were originally prepared for CPD (Continuing Professional Development) "essential oils refresher" sessions which I led for Professional Aromatherapy Network in South Yorkshire. I would be glad to lead such sessions for other groups, e.g. local/regional IFPA or IFA branches.

For list of other essential oil profiles see USES.
To buy cedarwood oil visit the ONLINE SHOP.


Cedrus Atlantica (Atlas Cedarwood)
Juniperus Virginiana (Virginian Cedarwood)

Some books list only Atlas, some list only Virginian, but with broadly similar properties. Atlas oil is sometimes known as libanol. Oils from other trees commonly named ”cedarwood” are available; Himalayan (Cedrus Deodara, sometimes spelt as Cedrus Deodora) has an aroma in the same area as the related Atlas, and is used by some therapists. Texas aka Mexican (Juniperus Mexicana) is more like Virginian.

Origin Atlas - native to Atlas Mountains in Morocco (main producer) and Algeria. Virginian - USA 

Extraction Steam distillation of waste wood and sawdust (Atlas) or chopped wood, stumps, logs, wood shavings or sawdust (Virginian).

History Atlas - used in ancient Egypt for fumigation and embalming. Wood used for storage chests as it repelled insects. Used for incense. Used in the East for bronchial and urinary tract infections. Virginian - Native Americans used it for respiratory infections, esp. with catarrh. Also rheumatism, menstrual delay, skin rashes.

Contra-indications Virginian - some skin irritation possible in large quantities? Both - pregnancy? John Kerr (1) argues that contraindications for Atlas (often due to ketone content) are due to confusion with thuja oil, aka cedarleaf or white cedarwood. The French government banned “cedarwood” in 1978 due to toxicity - this also turned out to be thuja. Tisserand & Balacs (2) give no contraindications for either oil. Lawless says “use Virginian in moderation, and not at all in pregnancy”, but Burfield (4) says “the scientific basis for this is not clear”. 

Chemistry Atlas - mainly sesquiterpenes (up to 70% beta-, alpha- and gamma-himachalene). Some alcohols (himachalols), ketones (atlantones), oxide (himachalene oxide). Virginian - cedrene (up to 80%), cedrol, cedrenol.

Blending Suggestions Base note. Atlas - benzoin, bergamot, elemi, frankincense, jasmine, myrtle, neroli, rose, sandalwood, ylang ylang. Virginian - goes well with some other base notes, e.g. frankincense, sandalwood, patchouli, vetiver, for an “exotic” mix. I find Virginian cedar and orange a cheering bath blend - or can add a drop of coriander. Lavender, mandarin, myrrh, petitgrain.

Major Properties Antiseptic (urinary, pulmonary), antiseborrheic, astringent, diuretic, expectorant, mucolytic, sedative (nervous), stimulant (circulatory).

Uses Stress-related conditions, anxiety, nervousness.

Bronchitis, catarrh, respiratory congestion, coughs (especially dry, persistent). Sinusitis?

Arthritis, rheumatism.

Cystitis, leucorrhea, pruritis.

Acne, dandruff, dermatitis, eczema, fungal infections, insect repellent. Listed in many books for oily skin but John Kerr (1) says Atlas good for dry - thinks Virginian's chemistry more suitable for oily skin. He also says Atlas good for chronic skin conditions (blended with myrrh, sandalwood or lavender). Use in shampoos for healthy scalp and hair. 

Tony Burfield says (4) that “Sheppard-Hanger (1995) summarised the literature ascribing antiseptic (urinary, pulmonary), antiseborrheic, aphrodisiac, astringent, emollient, expectorant, fungicidal, insecticidal, & sedative properties” to cedarwood Atlas oil. “Franchomme & Peneol (1990) ascribe similar properties to the oil of Cedrus atlantica as they did to Cedrus deodara: cicatrisant, arterially regenerative, lymphotonic and lipolytic actions to the oil, indicating its use in atherosclerosis and for hydrolipid retention and cellulite. Additionally they indicate potential uses in the case of bronchitis, tuberculosis, dermatoses and gonorrhea”.

“Sheppard-Hanger (1995) sums up the aromatherapy literature describing Virginian as antiseborrheic, pulmonary & genito-urinary antiseptic and analgesic (similar to sandalwood), antispasmodic, astringent, decongestant, diuretic, emmenagogue, emollient, fungicide, insecticide, nervous sedative. Franchomme & Penoel (1990) ascribe venous decongestive effects and phlebotonic effects to the oil, being indicated for varices, internal & external haemorrhoids”.

1) Essential Oil Profile - Cedarwood. John Kerr, Aromatherapy Today Vol.27 Sep. 2003, p10.

2) Robert Tisserand, & Tony Balacs, Essential Oil Safety, Churchill Livingstone, Edinburgh, 1995.

3) Julia Lawless, The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils, Element, Shaftesbury, 1992, p.77.

4) Cedarwood Oils, Tony Burfield, (Part 1 of this article first appeared in Aromatherapy Times, Vol 1 No.55 Winter 2002, pp14-15). You may not be able to navigate from this link as the site uses frames - if so, try

Other sources for information, present and past; books, articles or other material by Martin Watt (safety); Jan Kusmirek, Jean Valnet, Patricia Davis/London School of Aromatherapy, Shirley Price, Robert Tisserand, Valerie Ann Worwood. 

Paul Boizot. Information revised 19.2.04. Page updated 28.10.14

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My address from 30.04.12 is 14 Holly Bank Grove, York YO24 4EA, U.K.

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