View Full Version : Eastern Red Cedar *Tons of info and pics*

Steven Long
03-22-2011, 04:13 PM
During my recent trip, I was lucky to have an abundance of Eastern Red Cedar around the camp. This was the first time I have been able to work with this tree so once I got home, I decided to do some research on its many uses.

Many different Indian tribes used this tree for multiple uses. One of them being medicinal uses and taken internally. I have found conflicting research on this with one article saying it is the Western Red Cedar which was used internally and not to be confused with the Eastern Red Cedar which are unrelated species. The USDA states that the Eastern species was also taken internally although the oil extracted from both species is toxic if taken internally (oil was obtained from the distilled heartwood and from the wood shavings). I guess more research of the location of certain tribes and what they used the cedar for would answer these questions.

The leaves, twigs, bark, and roots were usually prepared by boiling to make a decoction (method of extraction by boiling), or for making tea (processed and cured using various methods) or an infusion (outcome of steeping plants).

Internal Uses:
-Boiling limbs to make a tuberculosis treatment
-Chewing leaf buds for sore lungs
-Boiling leaves to make a cough remedy
-making a decoction of leaves to treat colds
-chewing leaf buds to relieve toothache pain
-Making an infusion to treat stomach pain and diarrhea
-Chewing the inner bark of a small tree to bring about delayed menstruation
-Making a bark infusion to treat kidney complaints
-Making an infusion of the seeds to treat fever
-Using a weak infusion internally to treat rheumatism and arthritis

External Uses include:
-Washing with an infusion of twigs to treat venereal disease, including the human papilloma virus and other sexually transmitted diseases
-Making a poultice (soft moist mass, often heated and medicated, that is spread on cloth over the skin to treat an aching, inflamed, or painful part of the body) of boughs or oil to treat rheumatism and bronchitis
-Making a poultice or oil from inner bark to treat skin diseases, including topical fungal infections and warts
-Using shredded bark to cauterize and bind wounds

Scientific research has supported some of these traditional uses . Extracts of Red Cedar have been shown to have antibacterial properties against common bacteria. Also, compounds with anti-fungal properties have been found.

*CAUTION* Many people develop asthma and bronchial spasms from exposure to Red Cedar dust!

The wood is very durable and was used for lance shafts, bows, furniture, flutes, and many other items. Cedar boughs were used for bedding. Mats were made from the bark used for temporary roofing, partitions, floor mats, wrappings, and for various purposes in canoes. It is also great for cooking and warmth.

Chippewa Indian uses:
- May have played an important role in ceremonial rituals as it has been found near gravesites
- Employed the wood for babies' cradles
- Bark fiber was used for matting, covering wigwams and other frames, and used the bark to obtain a reddish-brown dye
- Used as a cash crop, trading the wood itself for paper pulp and also by making fence posts they offered for fencing
- Used for easing headaches and rheumatism

Cherokee Indian Uses:
- Carving and making furniture
- Fencing material
- Ease colds and coughs
- Used part of the tree as an agent for sweating
- Remedy for measles, worms, and some skin problems

Blackfeet Indian uses:
- Made a tea from the berries to stop vomiting
- Remedy for arthritis and rheumatism
- Drank a tea made from the Cedar root as a general tonic; mixed with populus (poplar, aspen, cottonwood) leaves , this root tea became a liniment (medicated topical preparation for application to the skin) for stiff backs or backache

Cheyenne Indian uses:
- Steeped the leaves and drank the resulting tea to relieve persistant coughing or a tickling in the throat
- It was also believed to produce sedative effects that were especially useful for calming a hyperactive person
- Women drank the tea to speed delivery during childbirth
- Along with many other tribes, the Cheyenne made a tea from the boughs, branches, and fleshy cones, which they drank for colds, fevers, tonsillitis, and pneumonia

Other Uses:
- As a cure for asthma, whole berries were eaten or pulverized and boiled to make a tea.
- A preparation made from the leaves mixed with the root was applied topically to control bleeding
- The medicinal tea was also used to check diarrhea and stop lung or nasal hemorrhage
- The tea was ingested by tribal women after childbirth for cleansing and healing
- Indians picked the cones for food adding them to savory dishes as flavoring and also valued them as thirst quenchers
- Boughs were placed on tepee poles to ward off lightning
- The wood was used in war dances
- The leaves and cones were used in veterinary medicine in a cough remedy for horses
- Smoke from the burning twigs was recommended by the Pawnees as a sedative to counter nervousness and bad dreams
- Prior to WWI, the wood was used as pencil casings (still used mildly today)
- Trees were used as windbreaks and to control erosion
- Trees were used for Christmas Trees
- Red Cedar oil was used in microscopy (the use of microscopes to view samples and objects that cannot be seen with the unaided eye)
- Insect-proof chests
- Oil was used for abortions
- Cooking
-The outer bark fibers are great for tinder and the small branches and finger sized branches are great for kindling. The wood smoke flavors your food and makes camp smell fresh.

Remedy for arthritis and rheumatism:
1) Boil Red Cedar leaves in water
2) Add 1/2 teaspoon of turpentine
3) When cooled, rub the mixture on affected parts

Locations of Eastern Red Cedar




Ready to be burned or carved into something sweet

Eastern Red Cedar provides you with everything needed to start and maintain a fire



I hope all of you enjoy and maybe put some of this to use. I will be carving a spoon and spatula out of the stash I have. Will post some pics later in the week.

Remember to always be careful when using old methods and consult a professional before ingesting or applying topical treatments from any plant.

03-22-2011, 04:25 PM
Great info, thanks.

03-22-2011, 04:55 PM
Almost too pretty to burn... Almost.

03-22-2011, 05:20 PM
Very nice Bro. Yea, it almost to pretty to burn. I would really like to pics of the carvings when your done. I may have to pick up some here myself.

Steven Long
03-22-2011, 05:40 PM
Excellent post! Thank you for taking the time to do it, and share.

I've carved a few things from it, and it is a really easy wood to carve.

I'd recommend any beginner to use it for carving because of this, and
it's magnificent coloration also.

There are indeed many uses for this tree. If I recall correctly, it is a
pretty bug resistant wood also.


Yes, I believe it is actually used in some insect sprays and moth repellents. My Grandparents used it to line their closets with to keep out bugs and I know its good to store wool in cedar chests.

The heartwood is decay resistant.

Steven Long
03-22-2011, 05:58 PM
Beautiful craftsmanship uncle willie. Thanks for sharing. The red makes it stand out and gives it more character.

03-22-2011, 07:08 PM
Red cedar is definitely one of my favorite woods to work with. I've made a couple of bows with it. Its usually knotty but a clear piece makes a very light, very fast bow. And if you work with a lot of it your shop will smell like a hamster cage!

03-22-2011, 09:13 PM
I don't know about all the medicinal hooha but Eastern Red cedar has lots of uses for the woodsman.

I did a few videos on it a while back
YouTube - Bushcraft : Eastern Red Cedar (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4OW1h2Je2Jw)

I tried extracting the resin as a pine resin substitute since we don't have pine around here. It burns like pine resin but I haven't been able to figure out how to harvest enough to be usable.

YouTube - Experimental Bushcraft 2 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HOU6vSQ6uso)

Using the roots for fast cordage

Peeling the bark for baskets and whatever else
Good thread, I love the tree.:dblthumb:

03-22-2011, 09:21 PM
A great tree. I use it all the time in fire making, given there is so much it around. Wonderful smell too =)

Steven Long
03-22-2011, 09:47 PM
Thanks for the great informative videos bindlestitch.

The only thing I have to disagree with you on is cooking with it. I cooked steaks, turkey, and sausage over red cedar and thought it enhanced the flavor a little. Definitely didn't make it taste bad, but we all have different taste buds and its all in preference.

I also did some experimenting while burning it and found out that if you make a sort of pyramid with the logs horizontal and laid on each other in a square, making the opening in the top smaller as you make it taller, it burned the best with minimal smoke. The cedar I harvested was also dead and dry but off of the ground due to its limbs keeping it up and dry. The wetter stuff I came across did smoke profusely and burned a little weird. The dryer cedar also made good coals for cooking.

Thanks for posting the info. Enjoyed the videos and learned quite a few things. I like how you experiment with different materials. That's what Bushcraft is all about. Without our ancestors here to teach us, we have to re-learn the uses of different materials by trial and error.

03-22-2011, 10:18 PM
I suck at cooking so take what I say about it with a grain of salt.:o

John, the baptist
03-22-2011, 10:26 PM
Excellent thread.

Steven Long
03-22-2011, 10:36 PM
I suck at cooking so take what I say about it with a grain of salt.:o

If you can cook anything in the woods then you are a good cook in my book. Its way too easy to burn and screw up food over a campfire.

03-22-2011, 10:42 PM
Juniper makes a good bow if you use it like yew

03-22-2011, 10:57 PM
Great info! Thanks!

03-22-2011, 11:34 PM
Man that wood has a beautiful color to it. Thanks for the thread and nice photo's.

03-23-2011, 08:07 AM
:35: Awesome thread about my favorite tree.

I work alot with red cedar. It carves great, and provides many other uses for the bush. Bindlestitch has great vidoes on the tree. I use it alot because of its abundance in my area (kinda like brother Skab and Corn). Chances are here in MO if you are in the bush and turn in a circle you will see this tree.

Not really savvy on the medicinal uses, but thanks for the info. I didnt know it was used so much. Interesting.

As far as cooking, I prefer Hickory. Cedar pops too much, and seems to affect taste. Thats why I wouldnt suggest it for spoons to use. I did carve a baby spoon from it for my friend when his son was born. I always carve a baby spoon for my friends and relatives when there is a birth....Its become tradition. Only used cedar once though, and I tell em its not to use. Not for a baby...lol

Thanks for the info!!

03-23-2011, 08:11 AM
Now I want to make a bow......lol. If I can find a straight knot free enough branch. Thats a challange......

03-23-2011, 01:10 PM
no kiddin' jw.
i've never made a bow from a branch, and in this case you want a piece with an adequate layer of sap wood with heartwood for the belly-so branches probably not the best choice. the best tree i found had grown beside a house so there were no branches on one side---another good thing since you are keeping sap wood you are less likely to encounter knots deeper in the tree

03-23-2011, 01:18 PM
The sapwood is a good one to learn the bow drill as it is medium in difficultly and seems to handle moisture well.

Also, good one to use as a smudge.

Nice post, thanks.

03-23-2011, 01:24 PM
The sapwood is a good one to learn the bow drill as it is medium in difficultly and seems to handle moisture well.

Also, good one to use as a smudge.

Nice post, thanks.

Here's abo doing what he does and kickin' butt with the hand drill.
Using red cedar as the hearth.
YouTube - Hand Drill (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kUctQNOhHs)


03-23-2011, 01:52 PM
Heck yea abo!!!!

03-23-2011, 06:39 PM
Great Post Steven pic's and Info. :dblthumb: White Here in Maine.

03-23-2011, 09:54 PM
I love Ceder

05-22-2011, 10:06 PM
My favorite tree. I loved how you listed first nation uses. Start carving! That stuff is the best and will make your clothes smell amazing.

05-22-2011, 10:07 PM
Works in progress

11-30-2011, 02:13 AM
Cedar is so fun to split. I always feel bad burning it because it's so amazing.

11-30-2011, 02:23 AM
The purple wood is great to make stuff with givesbit a new color but it's totally natural and I can see your purple feather stick :)