Cedarwood essential oil: from the lungs to the brain December 03, 2015 17:05

Recently I acquired an essential oil that evoked rather mixed feelings in myself and my partner when we first sniffed it. It has strong woody and sweet notes, but it reminded me of an incident from last Christmas. On Christmas Eve we cut the top of a lovely spruce growing in my parents’ garden and we put it up in their living room. My mother came in and the first thing she said was: has the cat peed somewhere here? It was the intense aroma of the tree that to some people smells similar to cat urine.


Image courtesy of foto76 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Well, this was the problem with the cedarwood essential oil. However, pee-smelling or not, this oil has some scientific evidence in its favour. It seems to facilitate sleep in humans, i.e. it reduces the time it takes to fall asleep during daytime nap (Sano et al., 1998). This study included only 10 people, so it is difficult to say whether such restful effect of cedarwood essential oil would apply to people in general. Another study showed that cedrol, a component of cedar essential oils, lowers blood pressure (Umeno et al., 2008). What is interesting, all participants in that study had undergone laryngectomy, i.e. they breathed through a stoma in their necks. This means the effect of cedrol in the nervous system was not mediated by the sense of smell. The nerve endings in the lungs transmitted the substance to the brain, where it increased blood flow in the area called hippocampus (Hori et al., 2012), known mostly for being the seat of memory, but also involved in regulating physiological states of the body.

I don’t know about you, but I might now be tempted to overcome my initial impression and try the cedarwood essential oil as a sleep help…


Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. Always use essential oils and extract as advised by the manufacturer or a qualified therapist.



Hori, E., H. Shojaku, N. Watanabe, Y. Kawasaki, M. Suzuki, M. F. de Araujo, Y. Nagashima, Y. Yada, T. Ono, and H. Nishijo, 2012, Effects of direct cedrol inhalation into the lower airway on brain hemodynamics in totally laryngectomized subjects: Auton Neurosci, v. 168, p. 88-92.

Sano, A., H. Sei, H. Seno, Y. Morita, and H. Moritoki, 1998, Influence of cedar essence on spontaneous activity and sleep of rats and human daytime nap: Psychiatry Clin Neurosci, v. 52, p. 133-5.

Umeno, K., E. Hori, M. Tsubota, H. Shojaku, T. Miwa, Y. Nagashima, Y. Yada, T. Suzuki, T. Ono, and H. Nishijo, 2008, Effects of direct cedrol inhalation into the lower airway on autonomic nervous activity in totally laryngectomized subjects: Br J Clin Pharmacol, v. 65, p. 188-96.