Biota Orientalis as a Healing herb

Biological Description

Biota has lots of names: BiotaBiota orientalisThuja, Thuja orientalisOriental thujaPlatycladus orientalisPlatycladus strictaOriental Arborvita. All these are Biota’s scientific names. This is a famous Chinese healing tree (or Chinese cedar) that belongs to the Cypress family (or Cupressaceae). InChina Biota is called bai zi ren. Thuja orientalis is sometimes confused with Thuja occidentalis (Eastern Arborvitae, Arborvitae, American Arborvitae, or White Cedar) that also belongs to Cypress family, but looks differently ( it is conical in shape and is native to North America) and has other health benefits.

Thuja (or Biota) is a general term for trees of the genus Thuja(or differently called Aborvitae).

Biota grows as either a large shrub or a small tree. It starts growing from very little size up to very broad, but not high pyramidal tree. The tree form of Biota usually forms a central stem and develops into a 4 – 6 m tree, unlike the shrub form that is more commonly seen.Biota has scale-like leaves and little inconspicuous monoecious flowers (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant).All year it is in leaf (evergreen), and the seeds ripen from September to October. The flowers are pollinated by Wind.


The tree is native to China (with a wide distribution in Guizhou, Gansu and Sichuan provinces), Japan and North Korea, also occurs naturally with an isolated population in northeastern Iran. Usually it grows on cliffs, steep and rocky hillsides and very often even in cemeteries.

It has a moderate growth rate and will grow well in full or partial sunlight. This is, actually, the reason it is widely planted, as it tolerates humidity, heat, drought, and alkaline soil (much better than AmericanArborvitae) . What does it prefer? Well-drained sandy, clay or loamy soils and full sunny position (less shade). It can tolerate atmospheric pollution, that is why will grow well in cities.

Many varieties of biota are used for ornamental landscaping, and is widely cultivated in gardens all over the world as it makes beautiful natural fences and hedges, as it tolerates pruning. Also are used as a windbreaks and as a good ground cover for a variety of wildlife.

The plant can cause skin allergies in sensitive people and the leaves are toxic if eaten.

Parts Used

For folk medicine leaves and seeds are used. Seeds are edible part of the tree, they are a little bit bitter, very oily, but the bitterness is removed by leaching them in water or by thoroughly cooking them. The leaves are harvested for use as required and can be used fresh or dried. The stem and the root bark is sometimes also used.


Homeopathic preparations of Biota include pills, granules, oils, ointments, and liquid dilutions. The last three have a very nice fragrance. It is available in various herbal remedies and aromatherapypreparations. Due to its scent it has been traditionally used in chests (and now in little pillows) for clothing protection from moths and nowadays is added to pest repellant sprays and paints to protect against mites, moths, and rodents. Biota is available in the form of tea also.


Biota has the following health properties:

· Emmenagogue – as it induces or hastens menstrual flow

· Diuretic – as it can help reduce the amount of water in the body

· Antibacterial – destroying or inhibiting the growth of bacteria

· Sedative – it has a soothing, calming, or tranquilizing effect

· Antiasthmatic – reduces headaches, asthma and ADHD

· Astringent – draws together or constricts body tissues and is effective in stopping the flow of blood or other secretions

· Emollient – softens or soothes the skin, also assuages or mollifies

· Stomachic – strengthens or stimulates the stomach

· Antipyretic – reduces fever

·  Antitussive – suppresses coughing

· Expectorant – loosens and clears mucus and phlegm from the respiratory tract

·  Haemostatic – arrests bleeding or hemorrhage

· Aperients – laxative, gently stimulates evacuation of the bowels

·  Lenitive – eases pain or discomfort

· Parasiticide – destroys parasites

· Skin – as it is used for skin treatment

Cedar leaves and twigs are rich in vitamin C. Extracts from Thuja orientalis (and of Thuja occidentalis) in fact have antiviral, anti-inflammatory, in addition to antibacterial properties.

Both the leaves and the seeds contain an essential oil.

Health Benefits

(Note: some of the health benefits are common for Thuja orientalis and Thuja occidentalis. Some of them – don’t. There are no special specifications on that issue in the text).

In Western herbal medicine, cedar leaf oil was used as an emmenagogue, abortifacient, vermifuge, diuretic, and digestive aid.

It is used for skin – to treat external fungal infections(ringworm and thrush, and other skin infections, but should be applied with caution and not directly on skin as it may cause the skin irritation). Biota was applied externally to relieve the pains of arthritis and rheumatism, as well as to relieve headaches of the type that can be described as ‘headaches that feel like a nail is being driven into the head’. As Biota hasantiviral and antibacterial properties Biota extracts together with alcohol bring down fevers (especially the chills that grow worse toward evening), relieves painful swallowing or a feeling of obstruction in the throat.

The leaves and the stems are used in traditional Chinese medicine as a sedative – to treat nervous disorders, insomnia, heart palpitations, and was a nice help in emotional depression and restlessness. It is a general remedy for nourishing heart and calming mind. That is also a reason why Biota is recommended for treating asthma and bronchitis. It’s well used in aromatherapy (biota oil has a very strong scent and is considered a base note – you need only a small application for a nice odor). When Biota oil is used in aromatherapy, a few drops are mixed with several ounces of safflower or another vegetable oil for massages, a few drops can be added to bath water. This kind of hydrotherapy is really comforting before sleep after the hard working day.

Biota stops hemorrhages, its homeopathic preparations made from the leaves is an excellent remedy for treating soft or bleeding warts on genitals or anus. If fresh leaves are steeped for seven days in a 60% alcohol solution it becomes a nice remedy for hair growth (three times a day used externally on the bald spots).

Biota oil is a known constituent in some over-the-counter (OTC) preparations to relieve congestion in the upper respiratory tract (Vicks, VapoRub™, etc.).

The root bark is used in the treatment of burns and scalds.

It is used in individual Kampo treatment (in Chinese medicine), rather famous formula for treating depression, where Biota is used together with Barley Sprouts (relieves sadness and depression), Ginkgo (increases the flow of oxygen to the brain), Licorice (stimulates the production of cortisol), Morinda (an antidepressant herb). Biota in this treatment of depression is used for the treatment of age-related memory loss and accompanying symptoms of depression. According to which it is taken 3 times daily in the form of tea before meals.

Biota is one ingredient of the cerebral tonic pills called bu nao wan. These pills are used to improve concentration and treat conditions such as Alzheimer disease.

Another common formula that contains biota is ginseng and zizyphus (tian wang bu xin dan). This formula treats insomnia and disturbed sleep, anxiety, nightmares, restlessness, forgetfulness, heart palpitations, and hard, dry bowel movements. It is available in both tea and capsule form.

Biota oil is used to scent some brands of shoe polish, and is blended into some men’s colognes, including Hugo Boss and Ralph Lauren’s Safari (as one of the base note).

Biota is a useful herb remedy with lots of health benefits, but do not use it if you are pregnant (it may cause contractions of the uterus). For external applications you need to consult either a professional aromatherapist or their physician before using. Biota has no side effects if used properly. Herbal formulas offer a more comprehensive balancing of energies in good wise hands.