Characteristics and the Plant and its Common Uses
The Thuja Tree is known by many names. The family name is Coniferae but thecommon names include Arbor Vitae, Tree of Life, American Arbor Vitae, CedrusLycea, Western Arbor Vitae, False White Cedar, Hackmatack, Thuia du Canada andLebensbaum.The Thuja was introduced to Britain as early as 1536, from its native easternCanada and USA via France. The tree is best known these days in the form of numerous garden shrubs, mostly dwarf forms. The tallest rarely grows above 30feet high. These trees have regular, graceful conical forms that make themvaluable as high hedge trees. The leaves are of two kinds, Both have a small,flattened gland, containing thin, fragrant turpentine. The flowers are very smalland the cones mature in one season, but remain on the tree throughout thewinter. Thuja Occidentalis is the larger species of the tree that may grow to 200feet.The wood is used for fencing and palings, as a light roofing timber and, as it isboth durable and pliable, for boats and also for limekilns, bowls, boxes, cups, andsmall furniture.The fresh branches are much used in Canada for besoms (tools for spacecleansing), which have a pleasing scent. The odour is pungent and balsamic andthe taste bitter, resembling camphor.Thuja also contains volatile oil, sugar, gelatinous matter, wax and resin. Theleaves and twigs yield also a camphor-like essential oil. A yellow-green volatile oilcan be distilled from the leaves and used as a vermifuge (medicine that expelsintestinal worms). The foliage is rich in vitamin C. The American Indians used it totreat scurvy.Medicinal Action and Uses: Aromatic, astringent, diuretic. The twigs may produceabortion by reflex action on the uterus from severe gastrointestinal irritation. Ithas been used in fevers, rheumatism, dropsy, coughs, scurvy, and as anemmenagogue (induces or hastens menstrual flow).The leaves, made into an ointment with fat, are a helpful local application inrheumatism. An injection of the tincture into venereal warts is said to cause themto disappear. For violent pains the Canadians have used the cones.The oil can produce convulsions in warm-blooded animals and paralysis in cold-blooded animals. Sixteen drops of the oil, taken by a girl of fifteen, causedunconsciousness, followed by spasms and convulsions, with subsequentstomachic irritation. It causes great flatulence and distension of the stomach.The resin, known as Sandarac, was used as a drug, and for ointments andplasters. At present it is used as varnish and incense, and the powder, or Pounce,is used to prevent ink spreading on paper after letters have been scratched out.Sandarac is said to be used in India for haemorrhoids and diarrhoea.