Application cutanée, massage
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Native to southern Europe, cypress (Cupressus sempervirens) is an evergreen tree of the Cupressaceae family that may reach forty metres.
Its leaves form triangular scales measuring two to six millimetres in length, arranged in pairs; they persist over two to four years. Its crown is pointed in the stricta variety or pyramidal in the pyramidalis variety. The male and female inflorescences are in the shape of cones. The female cones reach maturity eighteen to twenty four months after pollination.Like most healing plants, cypress has its own legend. Ovid mentions in his Metamorphoses, that Cyparissus, "the most beautiful mortal of the island of Cos", accidentally killed a magnificent stag while hunting. Overwhelmed, he implored the gods to make him die, he was transformed into a tree. "We will miss you, said Apollo, but you will become the tree of mourning and tombs." The cypress did not just hold this cemetery keeper role. A tablet dating from 2080 B.C., discovered in the Ur site in Chaldea, gives a receipt to a merchant for a "cypress scented oil ointment". In the 7th century B.C., the poetess Sappho, infatuated with a beautiful friend, praises "the proud scent of cypress [that she] spreads on [her] beautiful curls". And Herodotus mentions in his Inquiries that Scythian women from what is now Ukraine "grate cypress wood over a rough stone" to prepare their beauty masks.
Cultivation and production
Cupressus sempervirens grows in very different soils, its growth is rapid and lives for a long time. It is resistant to heat and can withstand bitter cold. It is cultivated in France (Provence), Italy, Spain, Portugal and the Maghreb (Algeria).
The scent of Cupressus sempervirens oils is resinous, potent and persistent.
Extraction and yield
Essential oil of cypress is obtained by total distillation of young branches using steam distillation. The yield varies between 0.2% and 0.5%, i.e. two hundred to five hundred grams per hundred kilograms of plant.
Essential oil of cypress is primarily composed of monoterpenes (delta-3-carene, pinenes) and some sesquiterpenes (approximately 10%). Cedrol is present at about 0.8% to 1%.
Versatile, anti-infectious and anti-bacterial, essential oil of cypress is a remarkable cough suppressant. An excellent phlebotonic, it improves circulation in case of varicose veins or haemorrhoids. A venous, lymphatic, prostatic and uterine decongestant, it fights against menstrual pains or premenstrual syndrome (hyperoestrinism) and oedema. It is an excellent anti-cellulite weapon. It also balances the body in case of fatigue or asthaenia and regulates excessive transpiration. In Corsica, its leaves were used in the past as plasters on wounds and fritters were prepared "against worms".
Excerpts from the book « Aromatherapia – Tout sur les huiles essentielles », by Isabelle Pacchioni. Aroma Thera Editions.