Arborvitae Essential Oil: Uses & Benefits


Arborvitae literally translates to “The Tree of Life.”

This large, coniferous tree grows abundantly in North America and also in Asia. In North America, it was used by Native Americans for its bark and wood, which made excellent building materials (1, 2).

However, it was also used for its oils, which are extracted from its bark and wood (3), to treat ailments like headaches, coughs, swollen hands, fevers, and even rheumatic problems.

In modern times, it has also been steadily growing in popularity as a wonderful essential oil with many natural benefits.

This bright orange essential oil boasts a variety of uses: it’s a natural cleansing agent, a powerful insect repellent (4), and it has been known to help promote naturally healthy skin.

What is Arborvitae Essential Oil?

Quick Facts

  • Scientific Name: Thuja plicata
  • Application: Aromatic, topical
  • Plant Part: Wood
  • Extraction Method: Steam distillation
  • Aromatic Description: Woody, earthy
  • Main Chemical Components: Methyl thujate, methyl myrtenate, alpha-terpinol

Principal Benefits

  • Promotes a healthy, youthful complexion
  • Repels all sorts of insects, including moths and mosquitos
  • Can be used to create a powerful household cleaning solution

How To Use Arborvitae Oil

Arborvitae oil is usually used in aromatic and topical applications.  Its strong aroma, preservative properties, and ability to repel all sorts of insects are its primary benefits.  Topical application of facial cleansers and moisturizers can even have amazing benefits on skin health (5) and tone .

Directions for Use:

  • Aromatic: Add 3-4 drops to your diffuser of choice to release the aroma of the oil.
  • Topical: Massage directly into the skin, or dilute with a carrier oil to minimize the risk of irritating sensitive skin.
  • Internal: Not recommended for internal use.

Arborvitae Essential Oil Uses

  • Mix with water and another antiseptic oil, if desired, to create a powerful cleansing agent.
  • Diffuse to create an air freshener that can fight airborne bacteria, promoting a clean atmosphere with a bright, fresh scent.
  • Use to clean and polish wood surfaces and floors to clean and preserve the wood, adding a soft luster that can make those surfaces look like new.  Even the hardest, toughest woods will brighten right up.
  • Add to a skin lotion or moisturizer to promote healthy, glowing skin.
  • Combine with water and spray as an insect repellant.  This can be accomplished by either spraying onto clothing or by making a larger batch and mixing into garden mulch.

Arborvitae Essential Oil Health Benefits

  • It is an excellent insect repellent, and many hikers prefer to forego standard insect sprays in favor of a few dabs on their wrists and ankles. This natural method of repelling insects is economical (4), natural, and can help you avoid the toxic and harmful chemical agents produced in commercially produced repellants.
  • Apply directly to the skin, or mix with a moisturizer or lotions, to promote healthier, better-looking skin.  This oil penetrates deep into pores and delivering moisture to your skin, and its natural cleansing agents help keep your skin bright and clear.
  • This oil can also be directly applied to skin blemishes to reduce their appearance and help them clear more quickly.  Its natural cleaning properties reduce the amount of dead skin and other detritus on skin, helping avoid unwanted blemishes, and may even lessen the appearance of scarring (6).
  • The scent of has also been noted to produce a calming, healthful effect. Many users report increased feelings of calm and restfulness when aerating during meditation, or during other times when they need a sense of peace, calm, and tranquility.
  • It can also be a natural way to protect clothes from moths, which are not fond of its scent.   Adding a few drops of the oil to water (not oil, so as not to inadvertently soil the clothing you are trying to protect) and rubbing into wood coat hangers can help keep your clothes in storage moth-free, without the nasty smell of mothballs.
Aborvitae – Thuja plicata
Aborvitae – Thuja plicata

Arborvitae Essential Oil Research

This has been a popular subject of research for years. Some studies suggest that it does have numerous clinical benefits, including antiviral action and a stimulatory effect on the immune system.

Cytokines and antibodies seem to be stimulated by it, which may explain why it was so popular as a sort of “cure-all” used by Native American tribes throughout history.

The study looked at the usage of it in respiratory tract infections, and in the study, showed significant potential as a potentially helpful immunostimulant and antiviral agent.

However, users should note that these benefits are not backed by the FDA.

Arborvitae Essential Oil Nutrition

Arborvitae is not an oil especially well suited to consumption – in fact, consumption of large amounts is not recommended, due to the presence of the toxic compound thujone (7, 8, 9, 10).

It can have great nutritional effects for skin. However – topical use is suggested over internal use, and a regimen of oil application can lead to healthier, brighter skin that’s free of blemishes.

Arborvitae Essential Oil Safety

Arborvitae essential oil is not recommended for ingestion, as some of its chemical components are toxic to humans.

Excessive inhalation may result in irritation of the lungs or respiratory tract, so users should avoid constantly diffusing over long periods of time.

Arborvitae oil is likely to irritate the skin if applied directly in a high concentration; dilute with a carrier oil or lotion prior to topical use in order to minimize the risk of irritating sensitive skin.

The use of essential oils should not be substituted for any prescribed medication for any medical condition, and should not be used against the advice of a medical practitioner.

Arborvitae Essential Oil Substitutes

Tea tree oil contains many of the same skin-clearing effects as arborvitae (11, 12, 13) .

Cedarwood oil may be a better substitute in many applications as, in addition to having similar beneficial effects on the skin, it also boasts many of the same antibacterial (14) and deodorizing properties.

 If you are simply looking for a substitute for this oil’s cleansing properties, oregano or lemon oil could be excellent substitutes.  If you are looking for another oil with a similar smell, either sandalwood or cedarwood oils will provide a similarly rich, pleasant aroma.

Users should note that, while essential oils can be used to supplement medications and may reduce the manifestation of symptoms, they should never under any circumstances be used as a substitute prescribed medications or against the advice of a medical professional as their benefits have not been evaluated or endorsed by the FDA.

Arborvitae Essential Oil Blends Well With

Arborvitae essential oil is quite pungent.  Given its strength of smell, users may consider blending with more neutral oils (such as eucalyptus) to both make the scent a little less intense and to allow the oil to be diffused over a longer period of time without irritation.

The oil blends particularly well with oils that have a complimentary earthy aroma, such as juniper or sandalwood.

Oils with a hint of spice in their scent, such as thieves or cinnamon oils, will also produce an enticing aroma while combining cedarwood with a lemon or other citrus oil can create a fresh, clean smell.

To create a multi-oil natural insect repellant, consider combining with several drops of basil, thyme, or pine essential oils.

Additional oils, such as cinnamon or bergamot, can add a spicy or sweet note to the repellant.  Feel free to experiment and find the perfect blend!


Arborvitae is a fantastic oil to have in your arsenal when you need it.

Whether you use it for its insect repelling properties while gardening and hiking, or to protect your clothing from pesky moths, for its calming scent and air-cleansing properties, or even for it’s wood cleaning and preservation properties, you are sure to get your money’s worth out of this exceptionally versatile oil.  The benefits just go on and on.

This oil is truly a multipurpose powerhouse – it is easy to see why it has been used by generations of Native American tribes!