The Black Death was a devastating global epidemic of bubonic plague that struck Europe and Asia in the mid-1300s. The plague arrived in Europe in October 1347, when 12 ships from the Black Sea docked at the Sicilian port of Messina. People gathered on the docks were met with a horrifying surprise: Most sailors aboard the ships were dead, and those still alive were gravely ill and covered in black boils that oozed blood and pus. Sicilian authorities hastily ordered the fleet of “death ships” out of the harbor, but it was too late: Over the next five years, the Black Death would kill more than 20 million people in Europe—almost one-third of the continent’s population..
During this time, people resorted to extreme measures in order to survive. One of the most well-known stories was that of the four thieves and the "miraculous" essential oil blend they used, dubbed as thieves oil, to ward off the sickness.
According to the legend, these thieves rubbed botanicals on themself to avoid contracting the plague while they robbed the bodies of the dead and dying. When apprehended, the thieves were forced to tell what their secret was and disclosed the formula of the herbs, spices, and oils they used to protect themselves in exchange for more lenient punishment.
This is the most amazing blend of highly antiviral, antiseptic, antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-infectious essential oils.
So what is thieves oil made of exactly?
Here are the five essential oils that make up this oil:
• Clove oil — Made by distilling the leaves of the clove tree (Syzygium aromaticum), which is native to Madagascar, a study in the American Journal of Essential Oils and Natural Products notes that this oil has "the highest antimicrobial, antiseptic and anti-infectious properties of all essential oils."
• Rosemary oil — The aerial parts of the Rosmarinus officinalis plant are used to make this oil, which offers antimicrobial and antiseptic effects.
• Lemon oil — This oil is extracted from the peel — not the flesh — of the Citrus limon fruit. This flowing plant belongs to the Rutaceae family. Lemon oil is high in limonene, and has immunity-promoting, antibacterial and antiseptic effects.
.• Eucalyptus Radiata oil –This oil comes from the leaves of an evergreen tree native to Australia. Part of the Myrtaceae plant family, Eucalyptus Radiata is steam distilled . Eucalyptus Radiata Oil in particular is known for its extremely high healing properties – it has powerful antibacterial, anti-fungal, and antimicrobial benefits making it very useful against all types of infections.
• Cinnamon bark oil — This oil comes from the bark of the Cinnamon zeylanicum trees, and possesses the delicate aroma of the spice. Apart from having antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial properties, it is one of the most powerful antiseptics currently known.
Benefits & Uses of Thieves Essential Oil
The health benefits of thieves essential oil are mainly due to the amazing and potent properties of the five essential oils. So, let’s get straight to the most important health benefits and uses of thieves essential oil. Here are some of the notable benefits of thieves essential oil:
• Helps eliminate harmful bacteria in the air — One study published in the Journal of Essential Oil Research noted that aerosol-spraying thieves oil in enclosed spaces may help eliminate the transmission of bacterial pathogens like Staphylococcus aureus, Micrococcus luteus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
• Provides protection against respiratory infections — A 2007 study published in Phytotherapy Research noted that cinnamon and clove bud oil may have potential in inhibiting the growth of pathogens like Streptococcus pyogenes, pneumoniae, agalactiae and Klebsiella pneumonia, and may help treat respiratory infections in humans.
• May help suppress inflammation — The chemical component carvacrol, which is found in clove, eucalyptus and lemon oil, regulates expression of Cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), an enzyme that plays a key role in inflammation.
• Helps reduce risk of cancer by eradicating cancer cells — A 2018 study published in the American Journal of Essential Oils and Natural Products found that thieves oil may have cytotoxic effects on breast cancer cells, leading to cell death. Clove and cinnamon were the most potent, followed by lemon, eucalyptus and rosemary, respectively. The researchers noted that the effects are brought on by the eugenol, limonene and 1,8- cineole of the oils.
The many health-promoting properties of the individual oils in this special blend contribute to its many uses.:
• Diffuse it — Using an essential oil diffuser, add 15 to 20 drops of thieves oil and diffuse for 15 minutes three or four times a day. This will help:
◦ Purify your indoor air
◦ Eliminate unpleasant odors
◦ Keep away unwanted insects
◦ Make your lungs, sinuses and respiratory system more robust when you breathe in
If you don't have a diffuser, add a few drops in a bowl of hot water and then breathe in the steam.
• Use it as a massage oil — Mix 15 drops of thieves oil with 15 drops of carrier oil to make a topical oil that will help:
◦ Ease minor aches and pains (use it on your thighs, back and neck)
◦ Relieve insect bites
◦ Boost your respiratory system when massaged over your chest
Before applying this oil on your skin, make sure to do a skin patch test to ensure that you don't have allergies to it or any of the oils used in the blend.
• Apply it topically — Mix a drop of thieves oil with four drops of your chosen carrier oil and try:
◦ Rubbing this oil blend on your feet daily promotes a healthy immune system
◦ Applying it to acne-prone skin areas
• Ingest it or use orally — It's best to use a diluted solution of thieves oil, as pure blends may have unwanted effects. Here are some ideas:
◦ Relieve a headache by setting a drop of diluted thieves oil on your thumb and placing it against the roof of your mouth. Do not lick your lips, as this may burn.
◦ To use thieves oil for cough and colds, particularly for easing a sore throat, add two to three drops to 2 tablespoons of water and gargle.
◦ An alternative to the previous point is to mix a drop with to an ounce of water and spraying it on the back of your throat using a spray bottle.
◦ Use it to improve your oral health by adding it to your toothpaste or mouthwash. Use a drop for every ounce of mouthwash. To make a healthy toothpaste, mix two drops of the oil with 4 tablespoons of baking soda and mix well.
◦ Mix a drop of the oil to a bottle of water and drink all day long. Doing so will help support your healthy immune system by clearing up your digestive tract. Drink it as a tea by adding a drop to a cup of warm water.
• Use it as a household cleaner — Mix thieves oil with water (use a drop for every ounce of water) and place in a spray bottle. Shake well.
You can use this as a:
◦ Disinfectant for dog pet beds and cat litter boxes (Note: Cats may not tolerate essential oils, so don't spray it on their bed or diffuse it in an area where they are staying)
◦ Cleaner for any type of surface that may be harboring bacteria, such as countertops and floors
◦ Solution to remove stubborn and sticky buildup
◦ Disinfectant for a baby's room — use it to freshen up their stuffed toys
◦ Disinfectant for laundry and dishwasher loads
◦ Spray for indoor plants
◦ Cleaning solution for your cellphone and other germ-harboring devices
Try this recipe
You can also make your own thieves oil blend, as long as you have the five oils on hand.
Here's the recipe from the book, "Homemade Cleaners:"
• 10 drops rosemary essential oil
• 15 drops eucalyptus essential oil
• 20 drops cinnamon bark essential oil
• 35 drops lemon essential oil
• 40 drops clove bud essential oil
• Place all the oils in a dark glass container. Seal with the lid tightly and then shake vigorously to mix the oils well.
Sources and References
- Encyclopaedia Britannica, Black Death
- History, Black Death
- American Journal of Essential Oils and Natural Products 2018; 6(1): 01-08
- Chemistry of Natural Compounds, January 2004, Volume 40, Issue 1, pp 28–29
- Medical News Today, January 5, 2018
- Food and Agriculture Organization, Cinnamomum Oils (Including Cinnamon And Cassia)
- Journal of Essential Oil Research, Volume 10, 1998 - Issue 5
- Phytotherapy Research, Volume 21, Issue 4, April 2007, Pages 374-377
- Healthy Holistic Living, August 7, 2015
- "Homemade Cleaners: Quick-and-Easy, Toxin-Free Recipes to Replace Your Kitchen Cleaner, Bathroom Disinfectant, Laundry Detergent, Bleach, Bug Killer
- "Essential Oils for Healing: Over 400 All-Natural Recipes for Everyday Ailments," 2016