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Juniperus virginiana

Juniperus virginiana

[span class=alert]In regards to the Traditional Use and Therapeutic Action sections of Essential Oils, the oils are rated as is standard practice in the French school of aromatherapy and others. The ratings ranked from one (+) to four (++++) with four indicating the highest value, indicate the oil’s therapeutic value from a practicing clinician’s point of view. The French rating system mentioned are obtained from this book reference entitle ‘Les Cahiers Pratiques D'Aromatherapie Selon L'Ecole Francaise’ (Authors: Francine Baudry, Pascal Debauche & Dominique Baudoux). However, further clarification might be required and will be updated once additional information of the rating system is obtained.[/span]

Family Name


Genus Name


Vernacular Name

Virginian cedarwood, pencil cedar, red cedar, red juniper, eastern redcedar

Original Habitat

The Cedarwood tree is native to the eastern part of the United States, although it is now being cultivated across the world for the wood products industry. J.virginiana trees can grow up to 30 metres tall and have been documented to live for over 800 years.[1] They grow best in well-drained soils and can thrive on rocky slopes.

Plant Part Used



The essential oil of J. virginiana is used in a wide range of foods and beverages (including alcoholic beverages) as a flavouring agent. It is generally used in the fragrance industry due to is woody balsamic aroma to modify other scents.[2] Because of its characteristic scent, the oil is commonly used in cosmetics and colognes for men. In therapeutic aromatherapy, the oil is used as a single oil and in combinations with other oils in a carrier.

There are variations in the quality and chemical makeup of oils extracted from different parts of the tree as well as from trees of different ages. The heartwood of the tree produces the most oil and older trees contain more oil in the heartwood than younger trees.[3]


J. virginiania essential oil is steam-distilled or water extracted from the heartwood of the tree. Its consistency is very thick and it is yellow to yellow-orange in colour. The essential oil is derived from the wood and has a very earthy, ambery and woody scent, most derived from the chemical constituent cedrene.[4]

Chemical Constituents

Sesquiterpenes: Alpha cedrene (20-30%), beta cedrene (5-10%)
Thujospene (15-20%)
Sesquiterpenols: Cedrol (20-35%), gamma eudesmol (4-6%), widdrol (5%) [5]

Medicinal Uses

Blood decongestant ++++
Lymphatic tonic +++

Cercaricidal: Two studies have examined the use of J. virginiana as a biodegradable treatment for water supplies considered to be a source of schistosome cercariae.[6][7]

Traditional Use

Varicose veins, hemorrhoids, congestion in pelvic region, edema of lower limbs+++
Cellulite, water retention +++

Insect Repellant: The essential oil of cedarwood showed repellency at a rate of 67% against red bud borer Resseliella oculiperda, a pest common in apple trees.[1] Cedarwood has also been shown to disrupt the development and reproductive cycle in insects.[9]

Sedative Effects: A human study examined the sedative effects of cedrol, a constituent of cedarwood oil.  Using the vaporization method in face masks, researchers recorded heart rate, blood pressure, and respiratory rates in 26 healthy individuals.  The results showed that inhalation of cedrol had a relaxant effect on the participants.[10]

An animal study also tested the sedative attributes of this J. virginiana oil. When tested in different animals and compared to other oils, sedative effects were seen in all species.[11]

Contraindications and Precautions

Juniper species are known to have abortifacient properties and should be avoided by pregnant women as well as by nursing mothers.[2]

Instances of allergic contact dermatitis have been reported.[12]



[span class=alert]Keep out of reach of children as oils are highly concentrated.Essential oils are irritating to the eyes.  Avoid contact with eye area.Always dilute essential oils with carrier oil, lotion, cream or gel even when using in diffuser or bath.Essential oils are sometimes prescribed to be used internally, but should only be used internally under professional supervision.[/span]


  1. Gymnosperm Database. Available from [Accessed on May 2009].
  2. Lis-Balchan M. Aromatherapy Science: A Guide for Healthcare Professionals. London: Pharmaceutical Press; 2006.
  3. Dunford NT, Hiziroglu S, Holcomb R. Effect of age on the distribution of oil in Eastern redcedar tree segments. Bioresour Technol. Oct2007;98(14):2636-2640.
  4. Panten J. New woody and ambery notes from cedarwood and turpentine oil. Chem Biodivers. Dec2004;1(12):1936-1948.
  5. Eller FJ. Pressurized fluids for extraction of cedarwood oil from Juniperus virginianna. J Agric Food Chem. 21 Apr2004;52(8):2335-2338.
  6. Naples JM, Shiff CJ, Rosler KH. Schistosoma mansoni: cercaricidal effects of cedarwood oil and various of its components. J Trop Med Hyg. Dec1992;95(6):390-396.
  7. Naples JM, Shiff C, Halden RU. Reduction of infectivity of Schistosome cercariae by application of cercaricidal oil to water. Am J Trop Med Hyg. Nov2005;73(5):956-961.
  8. van Tol RW. Repellence of the red bud borer Resseliella oculiperda from grafted apple trees by impregnation of rubber budding strips with essential oils. Pest Manag Sci. May2007;63(5):483-490.
  9. Sabine JR. Exposure to an environment containing the aromatic red cedar, Juniperus virginiana: procarcinogenic, enzyme-inducing and insecticidal effects. Toxicology. Nov1975;5(2):221-235.
  10. Dayawansa S. Autonomic responses during inhalation of natural fragrance of Cedrol in humans. Auton Neurosci. 31 Oct2003;108(1-2):79-86.
  11. Kagawa D. The sedative effects and mechanism of action of cedrol inhalation with behavioral pharmacological evaluation. Planta Med. Jul2003;69(7):637-641.
  12. Franz H. Allergic contact dermatitis due to cedarwood oil after dermatoscopy. Contact Dermatitis. Mar1998;38(3):182-183.

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