The Elegance of Cedarwood
by Marina Barcenilla
There are several varieties of cedarwood oil, but the Atlas and Virginia types are always top of the list and for good reason. Cedarwood oil is well known for its long list of therapeutic benefits and it’s a must-have in any aromatherapy kit. This oil is often used to treat all sorts of skin conditions because it has astringent and antiseptic qualities that can help in cases of acne, ulcers, psoriasis and eczema, as well as fungal infections, dandruff, oily skin and scalp.
Conditions affecting the respiratory system also respond well to cedarwood oil, which assists in the breaking down of mucus and can help with congestion, catarrh, bronchitis and chest infections. It stimulates and promotes good circulation and can be used to alleviate the symptoms of arthritis and rheumatism. All these benefits are complemented by a grounding and calming scent that evokes ancient trees standing tall, watching the world go by, and reminding us that all bad things shall pass.
Cedarwood oil is also essential in perfumery, where it’s appreciated for its long lasting aroma and the way in which it changes and evolves over time. Cedarwood Atlas sets the scene with rich, sweet and syrupy notes that add body and complexity to the opening of a perfume. They give way to a solid heartwood note with smooth and balsamic qualities that will fix more ethereal notes, and add longevity to a scent. Cedarwood Atlas blends well with all citrus oils, incense resins and balsams as well as other woody oils. Additionally, the way it complements floral and green aromatic notes can produce interesting perfume effects.
The scent of Virginia cedar, also known as Red Cedar, is quite different. It’s sharper, more astringent and smokier, opening with woody notes reminiscent of pencil shavings. In perfumery it adds a dry and spicy character that is not found in other wood oils. Its aroma remains woody and dry throughout and becomes balsamic as it dries down. Used skilfully, this oil blends seamlessly with citrus and incense notes, such as in Old Apothecary, as well as earthy notes and other woods. Both oils will add texture and layers of complexity to any perfume, bringing in elegance and timeless sophistication.
Marina Barcenilla is an independent perfumer and astrobiologist based in Glastonbury.