Blue Cypress essential oil is a stunning shade of azure blue, reminiscent of the oceans surrounding the northern Australian coast, where the Blue Cypress tree is an indigenous conifer.
There are myriad different species that are part of the Callitris genus, but it is the Australian Blue Cypress, scientifically known as Callitris intratropica, from which Blue Cypress oil is extracted.
The oil is produced by steam distillation of the tree’s wood and bark, a painstaking process that can take up to 48 hours.
Blue Cypress Fun Facts
The aroma of the Blue Cypress was named the official fragrance of the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Blue Cypress trees can live as long as 200 years.
Cypress comes from the Greek word “sempervivens,” which means “live forever,” something that should come as no surprise as the Blue Cypress offers a wealth of therapeutic compounds that even if they cannot establish life eternal, can help improve one’s quality of life immensely.
Blue Cypress is also known as Blue Gold, perhaps because its healing benefits are just that valuable.
The guaiazulene in Blue Cypress is very rare in essential oils distilled from wood. The only other blue essential oils are German chamomile and Blue Tansy.
Dogs can also benefit from Blue Cypress. To use, dilute a drop of Blue Cypress oil with a carrier oil and pet your pooch. Blue Cypress may be toxic to cats, however, so it should not be used with your furry feline.
Because of its pleasing scent, Blue Cypress was historically used in embalming practices and in the making of incense.
Blue Cypress is described as being fresh and sweet with notes of both citrus and cedar. It pairs well with a wide variety of other essential oils, including florals such as geranium, laurel, ylang-ylang, rose and lavender, citrus scents including lemon myrtle, lemon, blood orange, tangerine and grapefruit, other woodsy scents such as rosemary, cedarwood, cypress, sandalwood and balsam and spice oils including black pepper, cardamom and turmeric.
The History of Blue Cypress
Callitris intratropica is native to Australia and in indigenous to Australia’s Northern Territory (including Melville and Bathurst islands, Indian Island and others), as well as parts of Western Australian and Queensland.1
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Blue Cypress began as a medicinal when the Tiwi people of Melville and Bathurst islands, just north of Darwin, Australia, where the trees are now cultivated, discovered its healing powers. The indigenous people crushed the plant to use it as a face and body cleanser as well as a moisturizer to prevent the skin from drying under the tropical sun. Pieces of the wood were placed on hot stones to create vapor, which was inhaled to take in the therapeutic properties of the Blue Cypress.
Other ways the Tiwi people benefited from the Blue Cypress – known as “Karniturrikani” by members of the tribe – included:
- Burning the wood in order to keep bugs away.
- Using the ashes from the wood mixed with water to help ease aches and pains.
- Infusing water with the inner bark of the Blue Cypress, which was then used as a wrap around the abdomen to ease cramps. The infusion was also used to ease the pain of cuts and sores.
- Using the bark of the tree to help treat bleeding after giving birth.
- Making use of the tree’s sap as an adhesive.
- Making spears, musical instruments and other ceremonial objects from the wood of the Blue Cypress tree.
Blue Cypress was believed to be an excellent building material because the wood is resistant of termites, and Australians began milling the timber around 1876, using the wood to build governmental buildings, homes, and businesses.
While the wood was used earlier for building, the first recorded use of Blue Cypress for construction was in 1905, when a man named Joe Cooper (better known as a hunter) harvested Blue Cypress on the islands and transported it by water to Darwin, where he milled the timber for construction purposes. Meanwhile, botanist R.T. Baker and chemist H.G. Smith were teaming up to write the 1910 book “A Research on the Pines of Australia,” which addressed Callitris intratropica. 2
Blue Cypress is a medium- to a large-sized tree with the nickname Kerosene tree because it is highly flammable. If not set to flame, the tree can live as long as 200 years, although the tree’s population has declined over time as it has been harvested for timber, and older trees are somewhat rare in many locations.3
To keep up with demand, Australian Blue Cypress plantations sprung up near Darwin, the Northern Territory of the Commonwealth nation. They were planted in the 1960s by the Australian government for use as timber, until Cyclone Tracy hit on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in 1974, destroying many of the plantations, and leaving the rest to turn to ruin as many people moved away from the ravaged city.
There was a resurgence in popularity due to imports to China, where construction of aromatic furniture makes the tree popular, but it was not until 1995, when Australian Blue Cypress essential oil was discovered, that the tree again found itself in good standing.
While the essential oil is known for its striking blue color, the oil is clear if the heartwood of the Blue Cypress is distilled on its own. The blue color is formed due to the compound guaiazulene, which creates a catalytic reaction when the heartwood, sap, and bark are combined.
It has been an important export for the islands upon which it was discovered.
“This beautiful tree gives such a valuable and lovely blue oil. Sales are helping us build roads that we need and also housing and other needs for our communities. This is a very valuable industry for us,” said Matthew Wonaeamirri, chair of the Tiwi Land Council.4
Made up primarily of sesquiterpenes, blue cypress oil is excessively rich in therapeutic benefits.
Sesquiterpenes are able to cross the blood-brain barrier, which allows them to not only deliver oxygen to the brain but also to interact with a variety of neurotransmitters, impacting mood, hormones and other brain activity. Sesquiterpenes have also been shown to have numerous benefits including easing inflammation and promoting a calm, relaxed mood free from anger and irritation.
Blue Cypress also offers a wide range of monoterpenes, which in a 1990 study by researchers at the University of Madison were found to help prevent or slow the growth of cancer.5
There are so many active compounds in Blue Cypress Essential Oil that is comes as no surprise that the Australians kept their secret elixir to themselves for a while.
In many ways, Blue Cypress Oil offers benefits similar to those imagined to be found at the Fountain of Youth, and if anyone ever discovers that fabled location, there are not likely to share the info so readily, either.
Some of the most important compounds, but certainly not all of them, include:
Guaiol, a sesquiterpenoid, has been used for centuries to treat a wide range of health problems. It is an anti-inflammatory believed to help control the inflammation associated with arthritis, it helps ease coughs associated with cold and flu and offers antimicrobial benefits and has also been used to repel insects.
According to Memorial Sloane Kettering Cancer Center, research has suggested that beta-elemene has been shown to stop the growth of cancer cells in lab studies and may improve the quality of life for cancer patients.6
The eudesmols in Blue Cypress essential oil, including alpha-eudesmol, gamma-eudesmol, and beta-eudesmol, are believed to help slow the growth of cancer cells. In 2013 testing from researchers in Brazil, the three eudesmols together helped kill cancer cells in the liver.7
Eudesmols are also known for anti-viral benefits, making Blue Cypress a good choice to treat cold sores and warts, and alpha-eudesmol has been tested to treat the pain and neurogenic inflammation associated with migraine headaches.
Guaiazulene is believed to be an anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-allergenic similar to chamazulene, which is found only in chamomile. Both give their essential oils their deep blue color.
Limonene has been studied as an anti-inflammatory and has been considered as a treatment to prevent cancer or send it into remission, and as an antibacterial that helps speed wound healing.
The selinenes, including beta-selinene and alpha-selinene, are rich in antioxidants, making them effective at protecting the skin proteins collagen and elastin from free radical damage, reducing the signs of aging.
Uses for Blue Cypress Essential Oil
The Tiwi people are now not the only ones to benefit from Blue Cypress essential oil, although because the oil’s benefits were only made global in the 1990s, research is somewhat limited.
Still, however, we can look both to research and the natural medicine of the Tiwi to begin to understand the vast benefits Blue Cypress has to offer.
Blue Cypress has long been used to help soften and moisturize skin, but it can also help ease the redness associated with rosacea while lifting away the bacteria that can cause blemishes. Some of the antioxidant compounds in Blue Cypress can also protect skin from oxidative stress, preventing fine lines and wrinkles. It can also quickly heal the small cuts that often accompany shaving.
The pain of arthritis, migraines and other inflammation-related pain can be eased by Blue Cypress essential oil. It can also help treat allergic symptoms such as hives as well as the inflammatory itch of bug bites.
Improves Immune System Function
Historically, Blue Cypress has been used to help improve the digestive system, which in turn allows for the propagation of both probiotics that help strengthen the body’s immune system, but prebiotics to help feed existing probiotics and encourage the proliferation of more of the good bacteria that are an essential part of a healthy immune system.8
Provides Respiratory Support
There is a reason why the indigenous people of Australia placed pieces of Blue Cypress wood and bark on hot rocks to create steam. The wood gives off compounds that can help support a healthy respiratory system by helping to breathe and enhancing the body’s ability to rid itself of allergy-related toxins.
Improves Mood and Alleviates Anxiety
The sesquiterpenes in Blue Cypress essential oil help calm ragged nerves, soothing stress and anxiety by boosting the activity of the neurotransmitters tasked with controlling mood and stress.
If you’re planning an outdoor barbecue, Blue Cypress is the essential oil for you. It has long been used as an insect repellent and is particularly effective on pesky mosquitoes.
Eases Exercise Pain
If you overdid it at the gym, Blue Cypress can help ease the pain associated with stiff, sore, taxed muscles. Mix a few drops with a carrier oil (coconut, olive or almond) and rub the oil into the skin, where it can easily penetrate, reaching the sore muscles beneath the skin’s surface.
The antibacterial benefits of Blue Cypress make it an excellent addition to household cleaning. Add a few drops to a natural cleanser or pair it with lemon essential oil to create a unique, effective and non-toxic cleanser for your home’s surfaces.
Soothes Burn Pain
The anti-inflammatory benefits of Blue Cypress have been shown to help ease the pain of minor burns and speed healing.
Promotes Blood Clotting
The indigenous people of Australia used Blue Cypress to help stop the flow of blood after childbirth. It can also be used to help support the clotting of blood to help cuts and wounds heal faster.9
Protects Heart Health
Because Blue Cypress can generate a sense of calm, creating a healthier environment for the heart as well as the blood vessels leading to the important organ.
Promotes Healing of Warts and Cold Sores
The antiviral benefits of Blue Cypress make it an effective treatment for shingles, warts and cold sores.
Blue Cypress can be applied topically when diluted with a carrier oil (50-50, because Blue Cypress is a non-irritant), and when used in aromatherapy, can be placed in a diffuser, added to a bath, used in potpourri or added to products including face creams, shower gels or bath salts.
Blue Cypress is also an excellent fixative or base when used in the making of perfume.
As a precautionary note, it should not be used while pregnant or nursing.