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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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The Healing Properties of Cedar
by Julia Bennett-Gladstone M. Ed. for "Suquamish News"



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.

Western redcedar is among the most widespread trees in the Pacific Northwest, and is associated with Douglas-fir and western hemlock in most places where it grows. It is found at the elevation range of sea level to a maximum of 2,290 metres (7,510 ft) above sea level at Crater Lake in Oregon.[4] In addition to growing in lush forests and mountainsides, western redcedar is also a riparian tree, and grows in many forested swamps and streambanks in its range. The tree is shade-tolerant and able to reproduce under dense shade.

It has been introduced to other temperate zones, including western Europe, Australia (at least as far north as Sydney), New Zealand, the eastern United States (at least as far north as Central New York), and higher elevations of Hawaii.

The species is naturalized in Britain.

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