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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2 (2005), Issue 1, Pages 69-78

Thuja occidentalis (Arbor vitae): A Review of its Pharmaceutical, Pharmacological and Clinical Properties

1Schaper & Brümmer GmbH & Co. KG, Salzgitter, Germany
2Institute for Pharmacy, Ernst-Moritz-Arndt University, Greifswald, Germany

Received 10 September 2004; Accepted 11 January 2005

Copyright © 2005 Belal Naser et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Arbor vitae (Thuja occidentalis L.) is a native European tree widely used in homeopathy and evidence-based phytotherapy. Many reviews and monographs have been published on the herbal substance's description, mode of action and clinical use. However, no comprehensive evidence-based review is available. Therefore, our aim was to search MEDLINE databases and survey manufacturers for further details or unpublished data. This review presents the botany, ethnobotany and phytochemistry, especially the different contents of essential oil (Thujone) in relation to different extraction procedures of this medicinal plant. Thuja's antiviral action and immunopharmacological potential, such as stimulatory and co-stimulatory effects on cytokine and antibody production and activation of macrophages and other immunocompetent cells, have been evaluated in numerous in vitro and in vivo investigations. Although no controlled trials have been conducted on Thuja occ alone, many clinical studies have been performed with a herbal medicinal product containing a special extract of Thuja occ and other immunostimulants, demonstrating its therapeutic efficacy and safety in respiratory tract infections.