The History of Hinoki Japanese Cypress and the Uses of Hinoki Essential Oil

Plant name (Latin): Chamaecyparis obtusa

Plant family: Cupressaceae - also known as the conifer and cypress families

Native region: Japan, namely central Japan and eastern Asia

Growing habit: Slow-growing tree that grows up to 35 m tall. The trunk grows up to 1 meter in diameter. The bark of the tree is dark red to brown with blunt-tipped leaves.

Parts used: Leaves, needles, twigs, roots, and wood

Essential oil extraction method: Steam distilled

About Hinoki Oil

The Hinoki tree is considered a Holy Tree in Japan with its woody, citrusy, sweet aroma. The timber of the Hinoki Tree is considered an exceptionally high-quality timber that lasts up to 1000 years or more. Many structures in Japan are built with Hinoki wood due to their longevity. Hinoki has traditionally been used as the primary wood used in traditional Japanese incense. Hinoki is sometimes called Japanese Cypress or False Cypress.

Description of Aroma

Hinoki essential oil is clear to pale yellow in color with a medium thickness. It’s considered a middle note in perfumery and has a medium odor intensity.

Why Use Hinoki?

Hinoki has a pleasantly sweet, woody aroma that helps promote feelings of ease and relaxation while also being an excellent oil for the skin.

How and Where Hinoki Grows

While hailing from central Japan, the Hinoki Tree is grown across North America. It’s an evergreen tree that grows slowly but can eventually grow up to 35 meters tall and be up to 1 meter around in diameter. It’s best grown in areas above -23 C in the wintertime. Hinoki does best in damp but well-drained soil and does especially well in loamy soil. While Hinoki prefers to be grown in full sun, it also does well in slightly shady environments.

The bark of the Hinoki tree is generally dark red to brown in color with long, blunt-tipped leaves which are green in color. It’s often grown in gardens both across Japan and elsewhere globally.

Hinoki Uses

Hinoki is well-known for its use in incense, but the uses don’t stop there. Hinoki is a strong antiseptic essential oil with an affinity for the respiratory system, the immune system, and the integumentary system. It helps promote the healing of the skin, promotes hair growth, and is useful in inflammatory conditions and as an insect repellant.

Hinoki helps promote respiratory health and can ease symptoms associated with asthma. It’s also a great oil to choose for muscle pain, promotes the skin's health, and stimulates immunity.

Emotionally, Hinoki helps decrease feelings of stress and anxiety while increasing feelings of relaxation. It helps decrease negative emotional stress, which can greatly help in depressive syndromes.

When it comes to subtle or energetic aromatherapy Hinoki helps promote a sense of flow and openmindedness. It can help us slow down when we’re feeling rushed and can help us see opportunities around us that we may otherwise overlook.

Hinoki in Ayurveda

In traditional Ayurvedic medicine, Hinoki is used for blood purification and is said to be helpful in parasitic infections and blood sugar issues, supporting the overall strength of the body and boosting immunity. It has also been used in both Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine to help ground the heart and the mind.

History of Hinoki

Hinoki was used in Shinto (a Japanese religion dating back to the 8th century that paired worshipping ancestors and natural spirits with a belief in sacred power in both animate and inanimate things) ceremonies and purification rituals. Shinto was the official religion of Japan up until 1945.

The wood of the Hinoki tree was and still is, used a lot for building structures and things that are meant to last. The ancient Japanese used it to build temples and fragrant bathing tubs as the wood gives off a soft, pleasing aroma in its raw form. The wood is also used a lot in the cutlery industry because of its ability to last for great lengths of time.

The Science of Hinoki

Hinoki essential oil is high in monoterpenes and sesquiterpenols. The chemical breakdown varies between oil sourced from the wood, the leaves, and the roots of the Hinoki tree, however some constituents are common between all three varieties including cadinol, gamma muurolene, and cadinene.


There are no known contraindications or safety concerns for any of the types of Hinoki oil.

Blend Suggestions

Pair with bergamot to produce a sweet, citrusy, woody blend that is great for relaxation and decreasing stress.

Lavender, sandalwood, and Hinoki together create a comforting blend of woods, florals, and sweetness to calm the senses and help promote a restful night’s sleep.

Lemon, bergamot, and Sweet Orange, together with Hinoki, make a bright, woody aroma that is both stimulating to the senses and grounding.