9 Best Benefits & Uses of Arborvitae

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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You might be used to seeing arborvitae evergreen trees along the road, but for centuries, the leaves and sap of this tree have been prized for their infection-fighting power.

What is Arborvitae?

Arborvitae, taxonomically known as Thuja occidentalis, or Northern White Cedar, is an evergreen member of the cypress family, indigenous to Southeast Canada and the Northern United States. Arborvitae in Latin means “tree of life” and it is particularly sacred to the Ojibwe people, who list the tree as one of their four major plants on the medicine wheel. While it is used for everything from disinfectants to the curing of STDs, this powerful plant does contain the neurotoxin thujone, which can be toxic when consumed in large doses.

Close up of leaves of the thuja tree

Thuja is used for respiratory tract infections such as bronchitis. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Benefits

The many benefits of arborvitae include the following:

  • Arborvitae is particularly useful in treating upper respiratory illness, such as the common cold, sinusitis, tonsillitis, bronchitis, pneumonia or strep throat.
  • It is used topically to relieve arthritis and reduce pain from sore muscles or recovering injuries.
  • The parts of this tree contain small amounts of the neurotoxin thujone, which makes it popular as a treatment for parasites and as an insect repellant.
  • It is also used topically to treat skin infections, such as warts or cold sores.
  • Various parts of this tree have been taken to induce abortions in the past, but it is no longer recommended for this purpose.

Uses

Let us take a look at its uses.

  • Arborvitae is most often found as an essential oil or tincture, both of which are made from the leaves.
  • It is also found in some herbal topical creams.
  • A tea can be made from the leaves of this tree, and this herb is also sometimes found in many of the herbal products used for coughs and colds.

Word of Warning: Women should avoid taking arborvitae during pregnancy or while breastfeeding, as it may cause a miscarriage or other complications. Thujone has been known to cause low blood pressure and seizures. It is wise to speak with a doctor before adding this herbal remedy to your regular health regimen.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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