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The leaves and tops are used for
- chronic cough,
- fever, and
- An infusion made of 1 oz. of the tender leaves to a pint of boiling water may be taken 1 tbsp. at a time as a diuretic,
- emmenogogue, and
- uterine stimulant.
- Applied externally, it is said to remove warts and
- fungoid growths.
- As a counterirritant, it is useful for relief of muscular aches and pains.
- A salve for external application can be made by boiling a quantity of the leaves in lard.
- American Indians used leaf tea for headaches,
- colds, in
- cough syrups,
- in steam baths for rheumatism,
- and gout;
- externally, as a wash for swollen feet and burns.
- Inner-bark tea used for consumption.
- Doctors once used leaf tincture externally on warts, venereal warts,
- prostate problems,
- whooping cough, piles,
- bed sores, and
- fungus infections.
- Internally, leaf tincture was used for bronchitis,
- pulmonary disease,
- enlarged prostate with urinary incontinence.
Native healers used red cedar for treating fevers, sore throats, coughs, colds, bronchitis, pneumonia, tuberculous infections, diarrhea, boils, heart and kidney problems, menstrual disorders, ringworm and other fungal skin infections, toothaches, arthritis, sore muscles, vaginitis, and bladder irritation. Eclectic physicians and herbalists in America and Europe have exploited Western Red and Northern White Cedar for many of the same maladies, as well as prostate problems, incontinence, and syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases.
For internal use, toss a handful (about one ounce) of leaf-tips, inner bark or twigs into a cup, cover with one cupful of boiling water and steep for 10 minutes.
For external use, use about two ounces of herbal material per cupful of boiling water and steep until cool (or prepare a decoction by simmering two ounces of herb in two cups of water until about 1/2 of liquid remains). The strong tea or decoction can be used for athlete's foot. As always, if you develop skin irritation, discontinue use.
- The oil has been used as an aromatic ingredient in soap liniment. And the odor of the essential oil is pungent, almost overpowering. It is matched by a strong bitter taste. Arborvitae oil may be home distilled and used as an insect repellent.
Cedar is used in sweat lodge and fasting ceremonies for protection, cedar branches cover the floor of many sweat lodges and some people make a circle of cedar when they are fasting. It is a guardian spirit and chases away the bad spirits.
Native Americans put boughs of cedar on teepee poles, said to ward off lightning. Thunderbird was said to nest in mountain cedars. Red cedar (J. scopulorum), used ceremonially on the altar of the sacred woman at the Sun Dance.
Indigenous tribes of the Pacific Northwest once believed that sleeping beneath a Western Red Cedar would evoke vivid dreams. During their purifying rituals, people of the First Nations drank infusions made from red cedar boughs.
Natives knew that mature, fallen cedars could rest upon the forest floor for generations without rotting, a property they attributed to the spiritual nature of the tree.