What to Know About Cedarwood Essential Oil

Medically Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian, MD on February 20, 2024
3 min read

An essential oil is a combination of aromatic chemicals from trees and plants. Traditional cultures have used essential oils and herbs as medicine for thousands of years.

Cedarwood essential oil is steam-distilled from the wood chips or sawdust of the cedar tree. 

There are many types of cedar trees, each with its own essential oil. Because there are differences among the chemical compounds in essential oils, certain oils can be used for different things.  

Cedar essential oils include:‌

  • Atlas cedarwood, Cedrus atlantica
  • Chinese cedarwood, Chamaecyparis funebris or Cupressus funebris
  • Himalyan cedarwood, Cedrus deodara
  • Port Orford cedarwood, Chamaecyparis lawsoniana
  • Texas cedarwood, Juniperus ashei or J. mexicana
  • Virginian cedarwood, J. virginiana

Some of these essential oils also have other common names. 

Virginian cedarwood, also called red cedar or Eastern red cedar, is the most common cedarwood essential oil in the United States.

Atlas cedarwood, or Atlantic cedar, is also a very popular essential oil. But the International Union for Conservation of Nature lists this tree as an endangered species. It’s not a restricted tree, which means it can still be harvested and sold. If you’re buying Atlas cedar essential oil, make sure it comes from a sustainable source. 

‌Cedarwood oils have been used for:

Pesticide. In 1960, cedarwood oil was registered with the EPA as a pesticide that stops moths from eating clothing. 

Research has found that cedarwood oil doesn’t repel mosquitoes very well, but it does repel ants. A compound called cedrol, found in some cedarwood oils, also repels ticks when used in large quantities.‌

Acne treatment. One case study showed that cedarwood essential oil helped improve acne that was resistant to treatment.

Pain relief. Animal studies have found that cedarwood can bring down pain, swelling, and inflammation.

Stress and anxiety relief. Animal studies also showed that cedrol found lowered anxiety by boosting brain chemicals. One study even showed that people who inhaled cedrol had lower blood pressure and breathing rates, suggesting a relaxing effect.‌

Better sleep. Cedarwood essential oil is a sedative. Studies on animals found that inhaling cedrol helped lengthen sleeping time.

Hair growth. One trial tested cedarwood, lavender, and rosemary oil for alopecia, a condition that causes hair loss. These oils helped hair growth better than carrier oil alone.

Antibacterial properties. Test tube research shows that Atlas cedar essential oil has antibiotic activity against some bacteria, including Escherichia coli.‌

More research is needed to support many claims about the benefits of cedarwood oils. 

Cedarwood oil is generally recognized as safe. The EPA says there are no safety concerns about using it in cosmetics or pesticide according to the instructions on the label.

Essential oils can cause skin irritation, but reports of cedarwood causing skin problems are rare. Regardless, you should dilute cedarwood with a fatty carrier oil like grapeseed oil or sweet almond oil before you put it on your skin‌.

You might want to try cedarwood oil for:‌‌

Hair care. Add cedarwood to your shampoo and conditioner with rosemary and lavender oils to promote hair growth. Make sure you massage your scalp well to stimulate your follicles.

Moth balls. You can buy cedar moth balls for your closets and storage bins. You can also make your own by adding cedarwood essential oil to cotton balls or fabric and putting it in your closet. ‌

Sleep aid. Diffuse cedarwood essential oil in your room at night time to help with occasional insomnia and promote restful sleep. You can also try using a linen spray for your pillow and sheets. A massage with a drop or two of essential oil in a carrier oil after a warm bath might also help you relax.‌‌

Destressing. Diffuse cedar in your work space or in your home when you’re feeling under pressure. This can relieve your stress and help you relax. 

Facial treatment. Try adding cedarwood oil to an anti-inflammatory oil like jojoba oil and using it as a spot treatment for pimples. You can also try adding it to your daily moisturizer.