The LORE and LURE of Cypress (Bald and Otherwise)

The LORE and LURE of Cypress (Bald and Otherwise)

(Originally posted August 2022)            

Did you know that there are MANY varieties of cypress and they can be quite different? When I think of cypress, I think of those ancient swamp-dwellers and their accompanying tiny buddies popping up all around them. 

Here in Louisiana, cypress trees are well known to us. In fact, the bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) is our state tree. It's perhaps the first tree that comes to mind when you think of a picturesque Louisiana swamp setting. In our swamps and bayous, these trees are often accompanied by pneumatophores, those bumpy structures we call knees. (Mangrove trees have similar structures which are used for aerating roots; however, scientists are not really sure of the purpose of cypress knees.) Below is a picture of cypress knees found near the banks of beautiful Bayou Teche in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. Pic taken by me from my kayak, October 2021. 

Bald Cypress Knees, Bayou Teche, near Breaux Bridge, LA

Mediterranean Cypress (not maw-maw's cypress)

The type of cypress tree commonly extracted for use as an essential oil, Mediterranean cypress (Cupressus sempervirens), is related but very different from our bald cypress. See the pic below.


Mediterranean Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens)

Image by tatlin from Pixabay  

Although it’s called the Mediterranean cypress, it’s actually found all over the world. A long-lived tree, the Mediterranean cypress can live over 1000 years. In fact, there’s one in Iran called Zoroastrian Sarv (Cypress of Abarkuh) that is estimated to be over 4,000 years old! 

There’s also an interesting Greek myth about the origin of the cypress tree involving a handsome youth named Cyparissus whose beauty attracted the attention of the god Apollo. Apollo gave Cyparissus a beautiful tame deer to keep as a pet. One day during a hunt, Cyparissus accidentally threw his javelin at the deer, killing it. He was so overcome with grief that he was transformed into a cypress tree. Today, the sap of the cypress tree runs down its trunk like tears. This myth also ties in nicely with the historic use of cypress essential oil to help with emotional healing from grief. Furthermore, Mediterranean cypress trees are often found in cemeteries in Europe and in the Muslim world and are seen as a source of comfort. (Young)

The cypress tree is actually mentioned by name in the Bible. In Isaiah 44:14, cypress, along with oak and cedar are strong and useful materials that God provides. The story tells of a man who uses these gifts to warm himself and bake bread. Those seem to be good things acceptable to the Lord. However, he then takes the ashes from these gifts and uses them to make false idols to worship. Definitely a no-no. We can infer that a cypress tree is one of the good gifts from the Lord meant to be valued and not misused. (Minetor)

In Chinese medicine, cypress oil is thought to support the body’s Wei Qi, which is the protective layer of Qi. This protective layer guards our bodies from pathogens but also helps us create boundaries and guard against unwanted influences. (Gian)  

Overall, the LORE of cypress essential oil maintains that it: 

  • strengthens the spirit
  • promotes stability
  • provides balance
  • stimulates emotional healing (particularly from grief)
  • encourages the embracing of new paths

CYPRESS invigorates the body with its fresh and woody aroma. Its astringent properties are thought to benefit circulatory and vascular systems as well as to beautify the skin. Cypress has been used to find solace and strength in times of transition when a new path is necessary. 

Leaf and Lore currently offers four great products with organic cypress essential oil, BALANCING, EASING, LOVING SOAP, and LOVING PERFUME OIL. See links below. 

BALANCING Essential Oil Blend

EASING Essential Oil Blend

LOVING All Natural Soap

LOVING Perfume Oil


Sources (other than those with direct links) 

Cunningham, Scott, Magical Aromatherapy (Woodbury, Minnesota: Llewellyn Publications, 2021)

Gian, Marc J., Holistic Aromatherapy: Practical Self-Healing with Essential Oils ( London: CICO Books, 2017)

Minetor, Randi, Essential Oils of the Bible (Berkeley, California: Althea Press, 2016)

Ratan, Ravi,  Essential Oils (Summer Hill, NSW Australia: Rockpool, 2021)

Young, Kac, The Healing Art of Essential Oils (Woodbury, Minnesota: Llewellyn Publications, 2017)




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