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Katafray Oil

Cedrelopsis grevei


The name is made up of two malagasy words ‘katra’ which means bitter and 'fay' which means juice. The inaccurate spelling katafray has been commonly recognised but is inaccurate. Both names Katafray and Katrafay are used to refer to the oil of Cedrelopsis grevei.


The tree is indigenous to Madagascar and thrives in the South west of the Island where the climate is particularly dry.

It is a tall and thin tree that grows to a height of 15 m. It is easily recognisable by its bark. Typically rugged, greyish in colour and peppered with green and orange hues, it has a distinctive bitter aroma from where derives its common Malagasy name.


  • The bark and the leaves have held an important role in the traditional Malagasy pharmacopeia.
  • The bark is still sold, on the markets around the Island, in strips rolled up in balls that are used in the bath or in a tea to ease rheumatic pain. The leaves are made into a tea to relieve headaches and sore throats.
  • The bark is an important ingredient in the making of the local drink, toaka gasy, to which it conveys its bitter taste. The wood, used in construction, is reknown for its durability and strength and is referred to as ‘white Mahogany’.


Steam-distilled from the bark, the oil is pale yellow in colour with a gentle, woody, aromatic fragrance. It is somewhat similar to cedar with a strong resinous aroma.


  • The oil is reknowned for its strong anti-inflammatory and analgesic actions. It is a tonic and relaxant
  • It has been used tradtionally to ease pain associated with rheumatism and arthritis.
  • It relaxes muscles and tendons, easing tension and pain. It brings a sense of calm and peace and as such is a good oil to add to a blend that will restore and promote sleep.
  • It has a tonic action on the kidneys.
  • Psychologically, katafray is grounding, instills direction and restores a sense of purpose.
  • In Skincare: The oil has traditionally been used to ease redness and itching associated with dermatitis and eczema. It is used in face masks to help with wrinkles


Simon Lemesle: ‘Huiles essentielles et eaux florales de Madagascar, guide pratique d'une aromatherapie innovante, 2eme edition’