Beloved Western Red Cedar is known by Native people in this
region by several names; "Long Life Giver, Mother and Tree of Life."
Red Cedar is a tall evergreen tree with gray to cinnamon red bark
that is found in moist soils in flat areas and mountain slopes.
It thrives here in the moist forests of the Pacific Northwest.
Red Cedar provides for us shelter, canoes, basketry materials,
clothing, medicine and more! This month I would like to share with
you a few of the ways that Cedar can be used as medicine.
For generations Northwest Coastal People have traditionally
depended upon cedar bark and leaf as medicine for a variety of illnesses.
The leaves and buds have been used in decoctions to treat coughs,
tuberculosis, fevers and as a gargle. The leaves also are wonderful
for purification smudging. They can either be burnt or added to
a small pot of
simmering water on your kitchen stove or wood stove.
According to herbalist Elise Krohn, "The oils in Cedar leaf
are anti-fungal, antiviral, antibacterial and a powerful immune
stimulant that increases white blood cell scavenging and is helpful
for chronic respiratory, sinus and ntestinal
Cedar is strong medicine and should be used with caution and respect!
It contains very strong volatile oils including thujone, a ketone
that is known to be toxic in large quantities. So all dosages are
usually small and only for a short period of time! It
is not to be used during pregnancy or with kidney weakness.
A simple yet effective way to combat infections and to open
respiratory passages is to make a cedar steam. To do this, boil
water and pour it into a medium sized bowl with one half to one
cup crushed or chopped fresh or dry cedar
leaves in it. Fill the bowl half full with water. Place your face
a comfortable distance from the bowl
be mindful to
be careful not to scald your face! Cover your head and bowl with
a towel to catch the steam. Breathe deeply for several minutes taking
breaks as needed. You can add more hot water as it cools. For best
results, repeat this several times a day until the infection clears
(Western Rose & Western Red Cedar, Krohn).
The best times to harvest cedar leaves are during summer to
late fall when the oil content is the highest. Hang branches to
dry or set in baskets in a dry place out of the sunlight. Once dried
the leaves can be stored in glass jars or plastic bags and will
keep for about two years. You can still harvest leaves during the
winter if you are in need for a cedar steam, they will just be lower
in oil content and therefore not as potent medicinally.