Northern White Cedar

(Thuja occidentalis L.)

Other Names:
Northern White Cedar, Yellow Cedar, Atlantic White Cedar, Eastern White Cedar, Swamp cedar, Cedrus Lycea, False White Cedar, Hackmatack, Lebensbaum, Thuia du Canada, Techny Arborvitae, American Arborvitae or just Arborvitae


Cupressaceae– Cypress family

Growth Type:
An evergreen coniferous tree which is native to Northeast United States, and Southeast Canada. It has been widely cultivated as an ornamental. It is used quite often as a privacy screen, or to mark property lines. The tree is often stunted or prostrate. The branches may take root if the tree falls.

30 - 70 feet tall

The foliage forms in flat sprays with scale-like leaves

The trunk can grow up to 12 inches in diameter. The bark is red-brown, furrowed and peels in narrow, longitudinal strips.

Spreading root mass

Flower Season:

Flower Appearance:

Trees have male and female cones. The male cones are small, inconspicuous, and are located at the tips of the twigs. The female cones start out similarly inconspicuous, but grow to about 1/3 - 3/4 inch long at maturity. The cones have 6-12 overlapping, thin, leathery scales, each scale bearing 1–2 small seeds with a pair of narrow lateral wings. The cones are slender, yellow-green ripening to brown.

Miscellaneous characteristics:

Occurring naturally in moist shaded forests thickets, and along lakes and rivers. It has seen such wide use as an ornamental, that it grows in virtually all habitats in the great lakes region.

Parts Used:
Leaves, twigs, bark

Wild Food Uses:
A tea can be brewed from the leaves which has been shown to contain 50 mg of vitamin C per 100 grams of tea. Can also be used as a flavoring.

The following text is meant for informational purposes only. It is not meant to diagnose or treat any illness or injury. Always consult with a physician or other qualified medical care provider concerning the diagnosis and treatment of any illness or injury.

Medicinal Uses:
The tea has been used to treat scurvy. I will typically add dried or tinctured Thuja to my cold remedies. Salve made from the twigs and bark is an excellent topical for treating various foot and skin fungi, including Candida and athletes foot. The distilled essential oil of Thuja has been shown to effectively remove skin tags.

I have read, and heard anecdotal evidence that Thuja has been used as an externally applied tincture or ointment for the treatment of warts, ringworm and thrush. An injection of the tincture into venereal warts is said to cause them to disappear. I cannot verify anything in this last paragraph, as I have not tried it.

Medicinal Actions:
Antibacterial, Antimicrobial, Antifungal, Immunostimulant

NOTE: Due to the neurotoxic compound thujone, internal use can be harmful if used for prolonged periods or while pregnant.

The floowing photos courtesy of: USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Herman, D.E., et al. 1996. North Dakota tree handbook. USDA NRCS ND State Soil Conservation Committee; NDSU Extension and Western Area Power Administration, Bismarck.

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