Cupressus arizonica - Arizona Cypress with immature cone
This tree is a member of the Cupressacea family, when fully grown, these evergreen trees can reach thirty to forty feet tall.
While the tree is more common in Northern Mexico, it can be found scattered throughout the Southwestern United States, especially in more remote and isolated canyons.
Arizona Cypress ~ 30 foot tall
When fully grown, it is usually no more than 40 feet tall and 2 feet in diameter. Its scalelike, gray green leaves are similar to those of junipers, but in contrast to them, they have dark, red brown globular cones about 1 inch in diameter with woody scales. The cones open at maturity, spilling their myriad tiny seeds, and remain on the tree for years.
When I teach students about this tree, I find it important to really point out and emphasize the cones. To me, these cones and the scent are the two definitive ways of identifying this beautiful tree.
Arizona Cypress branches with immature cones.
Arizona Cypress branches with immature cones.
Older cones that have opened
A beautiful example of an immature Arizona Cypress Cone
The cones are very distinct, especially for evergreens in the Southwest. The scent as well is very distinct, something like a cross between juniper and pine with several notes that are heavy reminders of citrus. Very lovely and very unique.
I find that the resin (extremely rare to acquire) and the dry leaves make one of our finest incense tree aromas. Since the resin is very sparse, and it literally takes hours to acquire a spoonful of these tiny dried droplets, I recommend that people try the dry leaves for incense burning. It is divine. You can also make fantastic smudge wands from these branches.
This plant can be used in most of the herbal pharmacy methods.
Fresh Plant Extract 1:2 Fresh Leafy Branch Ends
Dry Plant Extract 1:5 70% Alcohol, Dry Leaf
Dry Leaf for teas, baths, foot soaks, oils, salves, etc.
A very useful, versatile, and accommodating medicine plant!
Arizona Cypress is Antibacterial, Antiviral, Antifungal, it is a warming and moving plant, vasodilating, diaphoretic, and diuretic in some of its actions. It seems to increase phagocytosis and makes white blood cells more aggressive in fighting infectious conditions.
The fresh plant extract is similar to Thuja in its antifungal effects. It is effective in all skin fungus infections, including ringworm, jock itch, athlete's foot, and other tineas. Apply extract several times a day for several weeks. This same technique is excellent for pets.
The fresh plant extract, taken internally by itself, or with respiratory herbs to guide its focus, can be useful in dealing with respiratory molds. I am finding this to be extremely important and effective for hard to kill respiratory mold infections. An average adult dosage might be 15 drops, up to 2 times a day for several weeks. A starting dosage for sure, and it might need to be adjusted.
I find that burning some of the leaf, as an incense in a house with mold contamination, seems to reduce the human signs of mold irritations. Considerably. Combing the incense burning with some of the extract internally works even better. Human mold infection is difficult to treat and the fact that I have seen this plant help people, tells me that more work needs to be done with this plant medicine. It helps.
I am also finding Arizona Cypress to help in "busting" or decreasing Bacterial Biofilm. This action opens up all kinds of uses with the more difficult to destroy bacteria, like lyme borealis.
Also one should note, that the extract or strong tea as a wash is effective for Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA. While not a complete answer, it sure can be a contender in the overall approach.
In some unpublished notes by Michael Moore, here is what he has to say on this plant medicine:
"Cupressus arizonica – ARIZONA CYPRESS / CIPRÉS
#[Family] Cupressaceae, cypress family.
#[Genus] 13 species; northern hemisphere. #[Species] í Cupressus arizonica [arizona cypress, cedro (cedar), cipres, ciprés, cypress, western cypress], = Cupressus arizonica var. glabra, = Cupressus glabra, = Callitropsis arizonica, western Texas, southern New Mexico, southern Arizona, northern Mexico; í Cupressus forbesii [california cypress, forbes cypress, tecate cypress], southern California. #[Editor] –.
#[Appearance] Arizona cypress is an erect, ever green, coniferous tree, with a single trunk, horizontal branches, and somewhat resinous sap; young branchlets are four-angled; when not logged, growing up to ninety feet tall; monoecious (male and female flowers located on the same plant, but placed at separate sites, and having different structures). Leaves are small, short scales (no needles); opposite (sometimes whorled), each usually with a pit or resin gland; in three forms: [a] young saplings: very prickly and linear; [b] normal adult growth: over- lapping, pressed closely against the branches, with rounded tips, and not very prickly; [c] vigorous adult growth: elongated, with spreading, pointed tips. Male cones on separate branches, somewhat cylindrical, with triangular, opposite, finely-haired upper margins, and thin scales, each with 3-10 pollen sacs; female cones are solitary at tips of short branchlets, numerous and appearing clustered, nearly spherical, dull gray-brown, with closely-fitted, thick, woody, shield-like scales, no bracts, dry and opening at maturity after two years, long persistent on branches after seeds fall. Seeds are irregular in shape, thin-winged, numerous (over 100 per cone), 10-15 under each scale. #[Herbal Properties] –.
#[Class] We will do Cupressus on the field trip.
#[Field Notes] [Arizona] Cupressus arizonica [arizona cypress] is fairly abundant in the southeastern part of Arizona. It’s found in canyons where there is enough under ground water. Most cypress species in North America are limited to very small ecological niches. This species has the widest range and most varied habitat. The cones grow up against the stems. The branches make a great incense. G The fresh leaf tincture and the dried leaf tea are used medicinally. The tea is a very good urinary tract astringent and disinfectant. It’s used when urine is strongly scented or cloudy, and for inflammation, pain, and infection in the bladder. The leaves contain irritating oils. The dried leaf tea is too aromatic for extended use longer than three or four days. G Cypress is just as effective, and it has nearly identical constituents and anti-fungal uses as Thuja plicata [arbor vitae]. It’s a little more efficient than Juniperus [juniper], although juniper berries and leaves are more vaso-dilating. Juniper is widely used as a urinary tract disinfectant, but it’s hotter and more irritating to the kidneys than cypress, and cypress is more astringent than juniper. G Hand roasted cypress branches make a very good tea to use as an intestinal tract astringent for chronic diarrhea. G The fresh leaf tincture, used topically as an anti-fungal, is good for tinea, ring worm, athlete's foot – pretty much any skin fungus. It’s helpful for staph infections and impetigo. The fresh leaf tincture has fewer aromatics and more immuno-stimulants than the dried leaf tea. Internally, the fresh leaf tincture is a decent immuno-stimulant for innate immunity, particularly for an overt puss infection in the mucous membranes. As an immuno-stimulant, the tincture stimulates phagocytosis. It can help during a recovery from chemical abuse. G However, for long term use, cypress isn’t as good as Conyza canadensis [canadian flea bane]. You could alternate the two herbs for ulcerative colitis.
#[Chemical Constituents] –. #[Physiology] Althaea officinalis [marsh mallow], Alcea rosea [holly hock], Thuja plicata [arbor vitae], Cupressus arizonica [arizona cypress], and Baptisia tinctoria [wild indigo] stimulate phagocytosis by inducing both macrophages and neutrophils.
#[Medical Usage] –. #[Medical Dosage] Fresh leaves (scales), tincture, 1:2, undiluted, or diluted with two parts water, used externally. Lightly roasted twigs, standard infusion, 2-4 fluid ounces, once a day, used internally. Dried leaves, standard infusion, 2-3 cups, for three or four days. #[Moore References] Mountain West –, Desert and Canyon West: 39, Los Remedios –, Pacific West –, Mountain West Revision –, Materia Medica (Fourth Edition): 9, Materia Medica (Fifth Edition) 15. #[Other References] Moerman: 143." Michael Moore Notes, by J. Brady