Cedarwood oil is derived from pine, cypress, and coniferous trees through steam distillation processes. Like many botanical extracts used for essential oils, the essence of cedar offers a wide range of healing and medicinal benefits. Modern research literature provides support for the therapeutic value of cedarwood oil for hair and scalp health.
What is Cedarwood Oil?
The ancient Egyptians used cedarwood oil to formulate embalming fluid for their mummification processes. They were well aware of the antifungal, antibacterial and insect repelling properties of the cedarwood extract.
Today, modern studies are able to confirm these antimicrobial capabilities which can be applied to many health areas, including the management of hair loss. Research also reveals that this particular tree essence can address cellular inflammatory processes and exert relaxing sedative effects as well.
Applications of Cedarwood Oil for Hair Care According to Research
In a publication entitled, Indian Medicinal Plants Used in Hair Care Cosmetics, cedarwood is listed as a common natural ingredient, often included in product formulations for conditions such as dandruff, hair loss, dry hair and hair loss (1). This is due to medicinal constituents such as thujopsene, widdrol, cedrol, alpha cedrene, beta cedrene, and several types of sesquiterpenes.
A Study on Cedarwood Oil for Hair Growth
The Archives of Dermatology published a study where a blend of different essential oils was used to treat patients with alopecia areata (2). This is a hair loss condition caused by the immune system attacking the body’s own hair follicles.
The researchers combined cedarwood oil for hair, along with the essential oils of rosemary, thyme, lavender and carrier oils to create a topical treatment. 86 patients with alopecia areata took part in a seven-month-long study. The treatment group received the oil mixture blend for daily application on the scalp. The control group was asked to follow the same instructions with just the carrier oils.
Signs of improvement in hair growth were assessed through computer analysis as well as a subjective rating scale.
Out of the 43 test group participants, 19 showed signs of improvement (i.e. 43%). In the control group of 41 patients, an improvement was noted in 6 patients (i.e. 15%).
Based on these findings, the research team reached the conclusion that essential oils offered an effective and safe treatment for alopecia areata.
Researchers are not clear exactly how the essential oils produced improvements in the AA patients. They believe it is likely that the cedarwood oil for hair, along with the rosemary, lavender and thyme oils increased the flow of blood to the scalp which revitalized the hair production processes of the follicles.
Important Constituents of Cedarwood Essential Oil for Hair
As discussed in the review, Indian Medicinal Plants Used in Hair Care Cosmetics, Cedarwood oil contains several important therapeutic compounds. In particular, researchers have been able to shed light on the benefits of sesquiterpenes and widdrol.
Sesquiterpenes in Cedarwood Oil for Hair
In a publication entitled, Sesquiterpenoids Lactones: Benefits to Plants and People, the author discusses several areas of health applications of this cedarwood oil constituent (3). For the scalp and hair, these include anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties.
Studies on the anti-inflammatory role of sesquiterpenoids attribute their effects to the modulation of certain cellular and biochemical processes which then minimize inflammatory responses.
- Sesquiterpenes from Essential Oils and Anti-Inflammatory Activity (4)
- Inflammatory Inhibitory Activity of Sesquiterpenoids from Atractylodes macrocephala Rhizomes (5)
- Anti-inflammatory sesquiterpenes and sesquiterpene dimers from Chloranthus fortunei (6)
Sesquiterpenes can also destroy bacteria and fungi by breaking down the cell walls of fungi and bacteria. Eliminating these organisms is another way for these compounds to prevent or alleviate inflammation which is regarded as second to genetics as a prevalent hair loss cause.
It can either worsen a genetic predisposition, causing hair thinning or shedding at a much faster rate. Or, it may serve as the exclusive cause of a person’s hair loss condition.
The anti-inflammatory capabilities of cedarwood for hair may help stave off these types of problems.
Without bombardment of harmful chemical mediators from the body, follicles have a better chance of regaining their ability to regrow hair in certain instances.
Widdrol’s Antifungal Properties in Cedarwood Essential Oil for Hair
Widdrol is another important medicinal constituent found in cedarwood oil. One of its function for plants is to help offer protection against fungal pathogens.
In one study on widdrol, researchers observed its effects on fungi. They found that compound was able to inhibit the proliferation of one of the fungal types tested (7) and then underwent a biotransformative process, following its suppression of the microbe.
Fungal infections on the scalp can trigger inflammatory processes that may result in follicular damage and subsequent hair loss.
The ability of cedarwood oil to destroy fungus makes it a valuable asset for natural hair products. Topical application of a natural botanical hair product with cedarwood oil may provide a more direct route to the scalp and hair follicles.
Besides the issue inflammation, the antifungal properties of cedarwood serve as a chemical-free preservative to prolong the shelf life of hair and beauty products containing all natural ingredients.
The Relaxation Effects of Cedarwood Oil for Hair
Many people believe that extreme stress can lead to hair loss. But how is it possible for this to occur?
A scientific publication called, Stress and the Follicle, Exploring the Connections, explains that neurotransmitter pathways in the body can indeed affect hair follicles, during stressful experiences (8).
Interestingly, through the scent of essential oils like cedarwood, it may be possible to induce the opposite emotional state of relaxation and sedation.
According to one study, The sedative effects and mechanism of action of cedrol inhalation with behavioral pharmacological evaluation, the essence of cedarwood (which contains cedrol) may be able to exert sedative effects when inhaled (9). Researchers tested Wistar rats treated with caffeine and exposed them to the scent of cedrol. They noted that the inhalation treatment induced prolonged sleep and decreased motor activity, compared to control groups.
The cedrol in cedarwood may be able to activate certain neurochemical pathways associated with sleep and relaxation.
Should You Use Cedarwood Oil for Hair Loss Due to Stress?
Based on the cedrol sedation study, is it possible that cedarwood oil can help us overcome the anxiousness and worry that would lead to hair loss?
Aromatherapy is considered a complementary and supportive form of treatment and should not be relied on as a cure for hair shedding, thinning and baldness.
Burning cedarwood oil may contribute to a temporary state of relaxation. But to really conquer the emotion of stress, it would be important to master coping and perceptual reframing skills instead.
FAQ – Cedarwood Oil for Hair and Scalp Care
How safe is cedarwood oil for hair products?
Though cedarwood oil is a natural, non-synthetic ingredient and generally safe, high concentrations can still be dangerous and toxic.
A scientific publication called Dose-response assessment of the dermal toxicity of Virginia cedarwood oil reports that cedarwood oil has been shown to cause “excessive” skin lesions when dermally applied to rats for 13 weeks (10).
Researchers studied different concentrations and identified those that were toxic and unsafe.
These levels were found to coincide with safety/toxicity levels defined for humans in the manufacturing of cosmetics and pesticides.
What are the different types of cedarwood essential oils for hair care and skin care ingredients?
Cedarwood oil is extracted from either Cedrus or Juniperus trees and available as four types:
- Atlas Cedarwood oil (Cedrus atlantica)
- Himalayan Cedarwood oil (Cedrus deodara)
- Virginian Cedarwood oil (Juniperus Virginiana)
- Texan Cedarwood oil (Juniperus Mexicana)
Each one has slightly different medicinal compounds. For example, the Himalayan and Atlas types contain alpha-pinene and Himachal. The Juniperus cedarwood oils contain thujopsene and cedrol.
Besides the use of cedarwood oil for hair and scalp care, how else is it used?
Cedarwood oil has long been used in Ayurvedic medicine for different health applications such as: skin issues, improving circulation, treatment of pain, arthritis, headaches, colds and coughs.
Modern researchers have also found that in addition to using cedarwood oil for hair, it can also help improve focus on children with ADHD.
References – Cedarwood Oil for Hair
(1) Amit Gupta et al, Indian Medicinal Plants Used in Hair Care Cosmetics, Pharmacognosy Journal, Volume 2, Issue 10, June 2010, Pages 361-36
(2) Hay IC, Jamieson M, Ormerod AD. Randomized Trial of Aromatherapy Successful Treatment for Alopecia Areata. Arch Dermatol.1998;134(11):1349–1352. doi:10.1001/archderm.134.11.134
(3) Chadwick M, Trewin H, Gawthrop F, Wagstaff C. Sesquiterpenoids Lactones: Benefits to Plants and People. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 2013;14(6):12780-12805. doi:10.3390/ijms140612780.
(4) da Silveira e Sá Rde C, Andrade LN, de Sousa DP, Sesquiterpenes from Essential Oils and Anti-Inflammatory Activity. Int J Mal Sci. 2013 Jun; 14(6): 12780–12805.
(5) Hoang le S1, Tran MH, Lee JS, Inflammatory Inhibitory Activity of Sesquiterpenoids from Atractylodes macrocephala Rhizomes. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo). 2016;64(5):507-11. doi: 10.1248/cpb.c15-00805.
(6) Zhang M1, Wang JS, Oyama M Anti-inflammatory sesquiterpenes and sesquiterpene dimers from Chloranthus fortunei.
J Asian Nat Prod Res. 2012;14(7):708-12. doi: 10.1080/10286020.2012.685724. Epub 2012 May 10.
(7) Nuñez YO1, Salabarria IS, The antifungal activity of widdrol and its biotransformation by Colletotrichum gloeosporioides (penz.) Penz. & Sacc. and Botrytis cinerea, J Agric Food Chem. 2006 Oct 4;54(20):7517-21
(8) Vladimir A. Botchkarev, Stress and the Hair Follicle Exploring the Connections, Am J Pathol. 2003 Mar; 162(3): 709–712.doi: 10.1016/S0002-9440(10)63866-7
(9) Kagawa D1, Jokura H, Ochiai R, Tokimitsu I, Tsubone H. The sedative effects and mechanism of action of cedrol inhalation with behavioral pharmacological evaluation. Planta Med. 2003 Jul;69(7):637-41.
(10)Natasha R.Catlin, Ron Herbert , Kyathanahalli JanardhanDose-response assessment of the dermal toxicity of Virginia cedarwood oil in F344/N rats and B6C3F1/N mice, Food and Chemical Toxicology
Volume 98, Part B, December 2016, Pages 159-168