Northern White Cedar
- Thuja occidentalis L.
- Biotae orientalis
Parts Usually Used
Leaves, inner bark, leaf oil and seeds.
Description of Plant(s) and Culture
Although a slow grower, Thuja is a well-known ornamental American
evergreen; it can reach 70-80 feet, retaining its dense, pyramidal
form. Some say the northern white cedar is of the cypress family,
some references say it is of the pine family. This hardy evergreen
has dense, scale-like foliage, waxy to the touch, and fragrant. Leaves
in flattened sprays; small, appressed overlapping. Cones bell-shaped,
with loose scales.
A native of the U.S. and Canada, this tree does best in moist, sandy
loam. In a dry situation, it will suffer from both heat and cold.
Found in swamps; cool rocky woods. Most nurseries stock several varieties.
Found growing in the wet ground from New Hampshire to Florida.
Stimulant, astringent, vermifuge, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial,
diuretic, emmenogogue, expectorant, anthelmintic, irritant
Experimentally, leaf oil is antiseptic, expectorant, counterirritant;
extracts have shown antiviral properties against herpes
Legends, Myths and Stories
Native Americans put boughs of cedar on teepee poles, said to ward
off lightning. Thunderbird was said to nest in mountain cedars. Red
cedar (J. scopulorum), used ceremonially on the altar of the sacred
woman at the Sun Dance.
The leaves and tops are used for chronic cough, fever,
and gout. An infusion made of
1 oz. of the tender leaves to a pint of boiling water may be taken
1 tbsp. at a time as a diuretic, emmenogogue, and uterine stimulant.
Applied externally, it is said to remove warts
and fungoid growths. As a counterirritant, it is useful for relief
of muscular aches and pains.
A salve for external application can be made by boiling a quantity
of the leaves in lard.
The oil has been used as an aromatic ingredient in soap liniment.
And the odor of the essential oil is pungent, almost overpowering.
It is matched by a strong bitter taste. Arborvitae oil may be home
distilled and used as an insect repellent.
American Indians used leaf tea for headaches,
colds, in cough syrups, in steam
baths for rheumatism, arthritis,
congestion, and gout; externally, as a wash for swollen feet and burns.
Inner-bark tea used for consumption.
Doctors once used leaf tincture externally on warts,
venereal warts, gonorrhea,
syphilis, prostate problems,
toothache, whooping cough,
bed sores, and fungus
infections. Internally, leaf tincture was used for bronchitis,
disease, enlarged prostate with urinary incontinence.
Folk medicine cancer remedy.
Taken in excess, the oil can produce unpleasant results; it was officially
listed as an abortifacient (a drug or agent causing abortion) and
convulsant in overdose.
Leaf oil is considered toxic, causing hypotension (low blood pressure),
and convulsions. Fatalities have been reported.
Do Not use this herb during pregnancy.
Do Not use without medical supervision.