Thuja (Thuja occidentalis)
Identification: Thuja is an evergreen pine tree. The tree reaches a height of 70 feet and is 2 to 4 feet in diameter. The outer bark is light brown and shredded, separating into long, narrow strips with a lighter, reddish-brown wood underneath. The branches are short; the lower ones horizontal, the upper ones crowded and forming a dense, conical head. The opposite pairs of bright green, acute leaves resemble overlapping scales and have an aromatic odor when crushed. The minute, solitary, terminal flowers bloom from April to July and are yellow or greenish in color. The small cone is pale green when young, light reddish-brown with pointless, thin, oblong scales when old.
Other Names: Arborvitae, Tree Of Life, White Cedar, Yellow Cedar,
Flowers: April – July
Parts Used: Leaves, inner bark, leaf oil.
Habitat: Swampy areas and along stream banks from Quebec to Manitoba south to Illinois and North Carolina.
Constituents: Volatile oil (comprising of up to 65% thujone, also fenchone, borneol, limonene, pinene, camphor, myrcene), flavonoid glycoside, mucilage, and tannin.
Uses: Thuja was an old North American Indian remedy for delayed menstruation; scientific research has shown that it is a stimulant to smooth muscles, such as those of the uterus and bronchial passages. Its stimulating expectorant effect is useful for treating bronchitis. Externally, herbalists use an infusion as a wash for infectious skin diseases such as impetigo or scabies. An ointment is reputed cure for warts. A hot compress eases rheumatic pains.
Warning Warning! Not to be used during pregnancy. Thujone, the main constituent of the volatile oil, is toxic in any quantity, so the herb should only be taken in small doses and for no more than a week or two at a time. Thuja should only be used as prescribed by a qualified practitioner.