Cupressus sempervirens var. horizontalis.
Botany and Production
Cupressus sempervirens, the Mediterranean Cypress of the Cupressaceae family, is a coniferous evergreen tree probably originating from Syria or Persia. It grows over a wide natural range in diverse environments. Cypresses can live to an extra ordinary age. A cypress tree at Abarqu in Iran is considered the oldest cypress tree in the world, being over 4000 years old. The tree was already mentioned as the oldest by Marco Polo (1254-1324) who came by on his travel along the silkroad.
The Mediterranean Cypress has two different varieties, called horizontalis and pyramidalis, both known since ancient times. However, best known is he pyramide shaped form of the tree.
Essential oil of C. sempervirens is produced in France, Italy and the North African countries almost exclusively from the variety pyramidalis.
The variety horizontalis has a broad crown and wide angles between branches; pyramidalis has a conical form and small angles between branches. The variety horizontalis is the natural one, and can be found mainly in natural stands, while pyramidalis is the most commonly planted of all the cypresses. The intense exploitation and the wars that have dominated the Mediterranean region have lead to the degradation of these natural forests, and today, only few natural populations exist in the region. In Crete, most of the still existing natural stands of C. sempervirens var horizontalis are found in the mountainous regions.
We collect young branchlets with fresh leaves and cones from November to January from natural wild populations (C. sempervirens var. horizontalis) in the mountainous region of Sfakia at altitudes between 700 and 1000m. Collection is carried out in two steps. We prune the trees, shape them by sawing entire branches by handsaw, then cut the young leaves and cones off the branches immediately with garden cutters into our collection boxes. Collection in the winter months and at those altitudes in the mountains is a special experience... the terrain is rugged and stony, the trees stoic, having withstood ages of rough winds, clinging onto the mountainsides.. cutting the leaves off the branches we are enveloped by the serene, patient, eternal aroma and spirit of these impressive tree beings...
The plant material is immediately distilled after arrival at the distillery. C. sempervirens requires a long distillation process in order to liberate its essential oil, and especially some of the less volatile sesquiterpene components, which give the highly valued characteristic "sweet smell of cypress". The plant material is initially steam distilled for 2-3 hours, then allowed to rest in the closed retort for 8 hours. Then again, distillation is commenced, for an additional 5 hours or until the oil is complete.
Individuals of Cupressus sempervirens var horizontalis at Tavri above Askifou, in the mountains of Sfakia at about 1000m altitude.
Our Cypress oil is composed of: a-pinene (51%), Δ3-carene (17%), α-terpinyl acetate (4.5%), cedrol (3.5%), α-terpineol (2%), β-myrcene (2%), limonene (2%), α-terpinolene (2%), terpinen-4-ol (1%), β-pinene (1%), δ-cadinene (0.8%), sabinene (0.8%), along with minor quantities of α-humulene, camphor, p-cymene, β-phellandrene and camphene (around 0.3%-0.4% each), and trans-caryophyllene, linalool, linalyl acetate, bornyl acetate and α-terpinene (around 0.2% each).
Cupressus sempervirens essential oil is tested non-toxic, non- sensitising and non-phototoxic.
Principle of Action
Symbol of eternity, immortality, purity and stability, poise, inner strength and liberty. A general re-equilibrant, especially for nervous conditions, tensions, stress, crises of passion. Clears the spirit and purifies. Immunostimulant.
Because of its astringent action, the oil is very helpful in cases of edema, incontinence, and excessive perspiration. Very useful in skin care especially for oily and over-hydrated skin and in cases of acne and as such a valuable ingredient in toiletries like after-shave and skin-tonics, deodorants and creams. Good deodorant qualities. Its balsamic, yet fresh odor is greatly appreciated. It also works tonic to the circulatory system, and as a vasoconstrictor and can as such be applied locally onto varicose veins and hemorrhoids. C. sempervirens is anti-spasmodic, and can be used in cases of bronchitis and asthma, even by children. It regulates Menses, relieves painful periods and is helpful in the menopause for all its mentioned actions, as well as its activity as an emmenagogue and sudorific regulator.
According to Greek mythology, Cyparissos was a young boy beloved to Apollo, the god of music, poetry, arts and healing. When the boy reached adulthood, Apollo gave him a tame deer as companion, according to Ovid. However, the boy accidentally killed the deer, which was asleep in the undergrowth. The sad boy asked Apollo to let his tears fall forever, and the god turned the boy into a tree, the cypress tree, Cyparissi in Greek, a tree whose resin forms tear-shaped drops, a tree that lives forever.
Cypress is a very ancient species, of an exceptional longevity. It is the symbol of immortality, serenity , stability and faith. Evaporated in an aroma lamp, used as a perfume or sniffed to from the bottle or a tissue, its fragrance helps us to cope with crises in life, especially of emotional and sentimental character. The fragrance encourages us to rise above self-pity and despair. The astringent quality it has on our physical body shows itself spiritually as well: it keeps us together when we are falling apart. It is a good companion in times of nervousness and stress and spreads a calm and serene atmosphere in our lives and environments.
Cypress oil is very astringent and stimulates blood circulation, which makes it useful in the treatment of hemorrhoids and varicose veins. The former can be treated by daily washings (5 drops in 100ml of water), the latter with a dilution of 3-5ml/100g carrier oil, applied very gently with light strokes upwards, never press or massage directly on varicose areas. To enhance the effect, a cloth wrung in 100ml cold water, 10 drops of cypress oil added, can be wrapped around the legs and covered with a dry towel. Rest the legs high and leave for half an hour or more twice a week. It is important to treat varicose veins when they first appear, to prevent the development to more serious conditions. In the same way cypress can be used to treat edemas. For stretched muscles and rheumatism use warm compresses instead..
Another oil to be helpful with bronchitis and coughs, especially of a spasmodic nature, it can be evaporated in aroma-lamps in bedrooms. We can also put a few drops on the pillow at night, or on a handkerchief to sniff regularly in this case. For children we can combine it with myrtle oil, a combination which also generally works well with chronic pulmonary conditions.
Internally taken, a drop or two in alcohol may help in cases of diarrhea, when the condition is not caused by microbes. That is, because cypress works because of its astringent activity, more than because of an antimicrobial activity.
Because of its medicinal as well as psychological properties it is an excellent companion during difficult menopause, reducing excessive sweating and hot flushes as well as balancing the state of mind. In these cases it can be used in an aroma lamp, in a body oil as above, or as a perfume.
The antiseptic and astringent qualities of cypress makes it a valuable ingredient in skin care products as well. It is especially recommended for oily and over hydrated skin and can be added to our daily cream as mentioned above, or to a skin tonic. We can make a simple astringent tonic by dissolving 3ml cypress oil in 25ml of clean alcohol and add 75 ml of distilled water to clean the face daily with a ball of cotton. The oil is also useful to treat acne and pimples and a classic ingredient in aftershaves and men’s toiletries. A good deodorant since it checks excessive sweating and has a very pleasant fragrance for man and women alike.
Here we are visiting Cypress beings during the summer in the white mountains with some Norwegian aromatherapists. Each tree is an individual, marked by its own experience, each tree a survivor.
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