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Known scientifically as Cedrela odorata, Spanish cedar is a type of tree that has a very distinct cedar-like smell. The wood from this tree is utilized extensively throughout its native region, and it is also a chief export. One of the most common and well known uses for this wood is the construction and lining of cigar boxes and humidors.
Spanish cedar trees can be found growing in forests in many parts of Central and South America. In ideal conditions, this tree can grow to be rather large, reaching heights of 100 feet (30.5 meters) or more. After the tree is cut down for lumber, the part that is used in building, the heartwood, will dry to be reddish or rusty in color. Trees found growing in drier areas typically tend to yield darker heartwood.
Because it is easy to work with and strong, Spanish cedar has been used in this region for centuries. It has been used to build furniture and boats, as well as cigar boxes. During the 19th century, however, this type of wood became a major export. Cigar manufacturers preferred this over other types of wood, and used it to package their cigars, giving it the nickname of cigar-box cedar.
The naturally occurring oils in Spanish cedar are what make it such a sought-after wood when packaging or storing cigars. Paper thin sheets of this wood, known as veneers, are used as a wrapper for individual cigars. Slightly thicker veneers are also used to line the inside of cigar boxes and humidors that are not made entirely from Spanish cedar.
Cigar boxes and humidors that are made from Spanish cedar are often considered to be high quality. The mellow fragrance of this type of cedar is said to instill a hint of woody flavor into the cigars that are stored in these boxes. Also, since Spanish cedar is very absorbent, cigars stored in these boxes are kept in a better environment and less prone to being ruined from too much humidity.
Spanish cedar is also used in the construction of some musical instruments. Classical and flamenco guitar necks are often made from this type of wood. Using this wood makes the instrument lighter, since it is less dense than of other types of wood used to make guitars, such as mahogany.
The leaves, bark, and roots of Spanish cedar are also used for medicinal purposes. It is believed by some people that muscle aches can be relieved by taking a bath in hot water and Spanish cedar leaves. A tea made of the roots and bark of this tree is also said to lower fevers and possibly relieve an upset stomach, and a tea made from the seeds is thought to kill parasites.