Cedar

apothecary tips cedar postpartum Jun 12, 2024
cedar tree with berries

The cedar tree is world-renowned and has much ancient history. But for this blog, we'll focus on a few of its herbal medicine actions.

Cedar as a Vermifuge

A vermifuge is something that repels or kills worms, usually those that are pests inside the body. Along with rue, walnut hull, mugwort, juniper and wormwood, cedar bark/leaf/berry can be used as a vermifuge. Most people use it as a tincture because the tea is far too bitter to drink and it would take way too much and simply make you sick. A concentrated tincture can help, though use caution as all vermifuge herbs are naturally very potent and can cause liver and other body system damage if overused.

Because of this action as well as spiritual connections, cedar has long been revered as a ceremonial and cleansing herb, often invited into sweat lodge ceremonies along with sage, tobacco, and sweetgrass.

Thuja spp. and Juniperus spp.

White cedar (in the Cypress family, not a true cedar) is traditionally used as an antimicrobial and an expectorant. Frequently used topically, the leaves (and even the sap) can also be used with discretion for respiratory illnesses such as bronchitis.

Many cedars and junipers share their names, making identification confusing. Red cedar, or Juniperus virginiana, grows throughout the Eastern and central parts of the U.S. and the poles made from its red wood (used as boundary markers by native peoples) were the inspiration for the naming of Baton Rouge by French traders. Known as White Cedar or Arbor Vitae (Tree of Life), Thuja occidentalis L. is used as a fragrance, ceremonial incense, medicine and food. The lacy, flat-scaled leaves and the rough red bark contain the volatile oil thujone, and despite confusion, this tree is not the Juniper (Juniperus Oxycedrus) called prickly cedar.

The Ojibwe used the pith of the young white cedar to make a sweet soup, and the Iroquois inhaled the steam from a decoction of the leaves to remedy colds. Many nations used various cedars as a poultice to treat swellings and sores and burned the wood to purify sacred objects and ceremonial participants. Iroquois women valued cedar leaf infusion as a tonic during pregnancy and as a diaphoretic to increase a new mother’s milk flow. The infusion made a type of “sitz bath” for the vaginal area post-partum.

Members of the Malecite Nation used cedar as a burn dressing—drying the under-bark, pounding it to a powder and mixing it with grease. British Columbia nations burned cedar smoke or incense to clear bad emotions and to purify the air after an illness.

The preceding is an excerpt from Holly's documentary book Women Healers of the World. To purchase a copy, please visit: https://www.hollybellebuono.com/women-healers-of-the-world

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