Essential oils, though trendy now, are nothing new! In fact, there are over 200 references to them in the Bible, and there is evidence of them being used as far back as 3500 B.C. They are just as useful, if not more so, for us now as they were then. In this post, I’ll walk you through the Bible as we discover where 12 of the most popular oils of that time were found.
It all started in Genesis, where right from the very beginning of the creation story, plants and herbs are mentioned. Plants are not only fundamental for our planet, they are intimately tied to the physical, emotional and spiritual well-being of people since the beginning of time. These passages support that notion.
Ezekiel 47:12 (KJV): “Along the bank of the river, on this side and that, will grow all kinds of trees used for food; their leaves will not wither, and their fruit will not fail. They will bear fruit every month, because their water flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for medicine.
Revelation 22:2 (KJV): “In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”
Oils were essential to daily living back in Biblical times. In fact the word “oil” appears in the King James Version of the Bible 191 times – more than the words believe, grace and joy!
This doesn’t take into account the times generic references like odors, sweet savors, perfumes, balms and ointments were used. It also doesn’t include incense burners or even spices, which could include some fragrant herbs. Now, of course, not all of these oil mentions in the Bible were essential oils. The cruder olive oils were used for lighting of their lamps. The first press olive oil was used for cooking and flavoring of foods.
There are some mixed opinions on whether fragranced oils (early versions of essential oils) were truly essential oils or olive oil that was heavily infused with different herbs and plants. Distillation pots have been found as early as 3500 B.C., so it would be possible but no one knows for sure. Regardless, the 12 oils that I talk about in this kit are important and sacred plants because they are mentioned in the Bible and they were used in concentrated form.
Some of these fragranced oils were to make incense. I don’t know about you but I used to love incense but most are used with cheap and toxic fragrance chemicals. In fact, some people that today’s incense should never be used in the presence of young children due to its danger!
Ancient incense was very important and sacred.
In Exodus 30:34-35, the Lord actually gives Moses a Holy Incense recipe:
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Take fragrant spices—gum resin, onycha (on – ee – ka) and galbanum (gal – ba- nem) —and pure frankincense, all in equal amounts, and make a fragrant blend of incense, the work of a perfumer. It is to be salted and pure and sacred. Grind some of it to powder and place it in front of the ark of the covenant law in the tent of meeting, where I will meet with you. It shall be most holy to you. Do not make any incense with this formula for yourselves; consider it holy to the Lord. Whoever makes incense like it to enjoy its fragrance must be cut off from their people.”
Later, in the book of Numbers, we learn by Aaron burning this incense along with prayer and intercession and it helped stop a plague that had killed nearly 15,000.
Numbers 16:46-50 New International Version (NIV)
Then Moses said to Aaron, “Take your censer and put incense in it, along with burning coals from the altar, and hurry to the assembly to make atonement for them. Wrath has come out from the Lord; the plague has started.” So Aaron did as Moses said, and ran into the midst of the assembly. The plague had already started among the people, but Aaron offered the incense and made atonement for them. He stood between the living and the dead, and the plague stopped.
The incense was burned in the temples day and night without ceasing.
Oil was also used for anointing and healing.
In Exodus, God also gives Moses a Holy Anointing Oil Recipe. I think it’s so cool that God is giving out recipes 🙂
As you can see, this one includes
God says: “Make these into a sacred anointing oil, a fragrant blend, the work of a perfumer. It will be the sacred anointing oil. Then use it to anoint the tent of meeting, the ark of the covenant law, 27 the table and all its articles, the lampstand and its accessories, the altar of incense, the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, and the basin with its stand. You shall consecrate them so they will be most holy, and whatever touches them will be holy. Anoint Aaron and his sons and consecrate them so they may serve me as priests. Say to the Israelites, ‘This is to be my sacred anointing oil for the generations to come. Do not pour it on anyone else’s body and do not make any other oil using the same formula. It is sacred, and you are to consider it sacred. Whoever makes perfume like it and puts it on anyone other than a priest must be cut off from their people.’”
If you’re interested, 500 Shekels is about 12.5 lbs, and a hin is 1 gallon. So this recipe made up about 24 quarts of oil! You can imagine the cost of this oil blend! You can also see that this is a strong oil! Because of the chemical components of this oil would have been excellent cleaner, supporting the priests’ immunity as they were exposed to disease and handling animals daily. It was also supposed to cleanse the spirit. This blend was also put on wafers and unleavened bread and eaten, which shows that essential oils were used topically and internally.
Young Living’s Exodus II Essential Oil blend contains all four of the essential oils in the original recipe plus a few more for good measure.
Now, let’s back up for a minute and talk about the practice of anointing which was big in Biblical times and unfortunately has become lost in today’s church.
The origin of anointing was from the shepherds of the day. Lice and other insects would often get into the wool of sheep, and when they got near the sheep’s head, they could burrow into the sheep’s ears and kill the sheep. So, ancient shepherds poured oil on the sheep’s head. This made the wool slippery, making it impossible for insects to get near the sheep’s ears because the insects would slide off. From this, anointing became symbolic of blessing, protection, and empowerment.
The New Testament Greek words for “anoint” are chrio (cree-O) which means “to smear or rub with oil” and, by implication, “to consecrate for office or religious service”; and aleipho (E-life-o), which means “to anoint.” In Bible times, people were anointed with oil to signify God’s blessing or call on that person’s life. A person was anointed for a special purpose—to be a king, to be a prophet, to be a builder, etc.
It is clear that a true Biblical anointing was not a small dot of veggie oil applied somewhere but a true anointing was usually more than that. It was usually a considerable amount of oil.
Leviticus 8:10-12 -10: Then Moses took the anointing oil and anointed the tabernacle and everything in it, and so consecrated them. He sprinkled some of the oil on the altar seven times, anointing the altar and all its utensils and the basin with its stand, to consecrate them. He poured some of the anointing oil on Aaron’s head and anointed him to consecrate him.
1 Samuel 16:12-13: “Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.” So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David.”
1 Samuel 10:1: “Then Samuel took a flask of olive oil and poured it on Saul’s head and kissed him, saying, “Has not the Lord anointed you ruler over his inheritance?”
1 Samuel 16-12-13: Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.” So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David.
John 12:3: “Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.”
When Jesus sent out his disciples, they relied on oils as well!
Mark 6:12-13: “They went out and preached that men should repent. And they were casting out many demons and were anointing with oil many sick people and healing them.”
And finally, God Himself anoints Jesus. In Hebrews 1:8-9, God says to Christ as He returns triumphantly to heaven, “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever,” and God anoints Jesus “with the oil of gladness.”
Let’s start with an oil that is considered probably the most spiritual oil in the world, Frankincense. It’s been used in religious ceremonies for thousands and thousands of years.
The oil is extracted from the Boswellia (“Bos-WELL-ey-ah”) tree. The tree needs to be at least 40 years old before you can extract 1 drop of oil from it. In Biblical times, 40 years was very significant as it symbolized one generation. It also grows in the toughest conditions, even in dry soil and usually in rocks.
Egyptian tradition considered Frankincense to be a cure-all.
Ancient uses – holy anointing oil, enhance meditation, transitioning to death, embalming, perfume, anoint newborn sons of kings & priests. This is why it was brought to Jesus’s birth.
Suggestions on How to Use – Rub on chest and over lungs for a calming effect. Breathe deeply for emotional support. It is also a valuable ingredient in skin care products for healthy looking skin. Diffuse for overall grounding and focusing effect. It is also in the Longevity supplement as some people like to ingest for its health benefits. Anoint yourself, loved ones or sick individuals during prayer.
It is one of the most frequently mentioned healing oils of the Bible. It’s directly named 22 times. But we also see 54 references to holy incense, which I mentioned earlier, which included Frankincense in its recipe. The name itself is the word incense translated in Greek and Hebrew.
So, I’ve already shared the Exodus Holy Incense recipe but the most famous reference of Frankincense is in:
Matthew 2:11: “And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.”
It is also the last oil mentioned in the Bible! Revelations 18:13: “And cinnamon, and odours, and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, and slaves, and souls of men.”
Myrrh is actually from the frankincense family and it’s steam distilled from a resin. It is mentioned in one of the oldest known medical records from an ancient Egyptian list of prescriptions and recipes. It was also listed in Hildegard’s medicine, a book written by a highly regarded herbalist. It contains sesquiterpenes (ses-qua-tur-pains), which stimulate emotions and oxygenate the brain.
Ancient uses – fixative to prolong the life of fragrances of perfumes & ointments, used on umbilical cords, oral hygiene, inhaled during labor, and to make your outdoor environment comfortable.
Modern uses – is a very powerful antioxidant and so healthy for the skin – apply to cracked lips and fatigued skin. It is a helpful aid to meditation. Today, myrrh is widely used in oral hygiene products. Myrrh has a whopping ORAC of 3,193,813 (TE/L).
Myrrh is in several Young Living skin products and in the oil blends Gratitude, Humility and Hope.
Myrrh is the most popular and most mentioned oil in the Bible, mentioned 157 times! For good reason, too, because this oil is a fixative one, meaning that it helps other oils to hold their fragrances. It was used as a preservative. It was included in the Holy Incense and Holy Anointing oil recipes – why? Because it was a preserver. And it smells so good!
It is the first oil to be mentioned in the Bible in Genesis 37:25 and the story of Joseph.
“And they sat down to eat bread: and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and, behold, a company of Ishmaelites came from Gilead with their camels bearing spicery and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt.”
Esther 2:12: “Myrrh makes a big appearance in the book of Esther. To be prepared as a bride for the King, Esther massaged with the oil of myrrh for six months. Emotionally, this oil provides a feeling of security, well being and balance. Since Esther was an orphan, perhaps preparing herself with this oil for so long helped to heal some of those emotional wounds before she got married.”
“For so were the days of their purifications accomplished, to wit, six months with oil of myrrh, and six months with sweet odours, and with other things for the purifying of the women.
It was also one of the first and last oils to be received by Jesus, first at his birth and last at the cross where it was offered in wine just before he was crucified to numb the pain of crucifixion but he didn’t take it.
Jesus’ mother Mary would have appreciated the gift of Myrrh as well since it was known to help women in postpartum with issues like stretched skin and stretch marks. It was also helpful to rub on the umbilical cord of the newborn to help the wound.
You can also read a lot about Myrrh and how it’s sweetness is compared to the love of God.
This oil is steam distilled from the bark of the Cedarwood trees. It has a woodsy, warm, balsamic aroma. It is from the Pine family and we steam distill the bark to get the oil. Egyptians used this oil to embalm the dead and it was used in traditional medicine and incense in Tibet. It’s also the highest in sesquiterpenes, a whooping 98%, and stimulates positive emotions.
Ancient uses – spiritual cleansing, disinfecting temple instruments, cosmetics, skin issues, to stimulate the mind and emotional cleansing, used with various medicines, embalming. The “cedars of Lebanon” were used to build Solomon’s temple – fragrant and long lasting.
Modern uses – calming and grounding, helps support healthy skin, stimulates calming and peaceful emotions, great to diffuse before bedtime or big events.
Cedarwood is an important ingredient in Brain Power™, Grounding™, Highest Potential™ Essential Oil Blends, and Cel-Lite Magic™ massage oil.
Cedarwood is mentioned 25 times in the Bible, in 8 books of the Bible.
Leviticus 14:49: “And he shall take to cleanse the house two birds, and cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop.”
Psalm 104: 16: “The trees of the Lord are full of sap; the cedars of Lebanon, which he hath planted”
Cypress leaves and branches were a source of medicinal oil from ancient Egypt. You can almost tell by smelling the oil how powerful it can be – cleansing, clearing and supportive.
Ancient uses – The doors of St Peter’s cathedral are 1200 years old and are made out of Cypress. They have no signs of aging which shows the durability of Cypress. The Island of Cypress is named after the tree – the custom of planting Cypress trees in Mediterranean cemeteries symbolized life after death – even today many cemeteries are graced with beautiful Cypress trees. Legend says the cross of Jesus was made of cypress wood. The Greek word Cypress means “live forever.”
Modern Uses – Cypress essential oil has a herbal, piney aroma promotes a sense of security and grounding. It is stabilizing and helpful for calming angry emotions. It is also beneficial for oily or problematic skin. And can be invigorating when applied to tired or sluggish legs.
Genesis 6:14: “So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out.” (referring to Noah’s ark!)
Isaiah 14:8: “Indeed the cypress trees rejoice over you, And the cedars of Lebanon, Saying, ‘Since you were cut down, No woodsman has come up against us.’”
This oil smells DIVINE! It is so soothing and is fantastic mixed with Orange oil for an aftershave or unisex cologne. This oil has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine, and it is also high in sesquiterpenes at 90%! It’s used extensively in perfumes because of it’s rich and sweet fragrance. It is steam distilled from the bark of the Sandalwood tree.
Ancient uses – support lymphatic and cardiovascular system, calming the nerves, skin revitalization, aphrodisiac, meditation and prayer, and religious ceremonies and used in embalming. It was a treasured aromatic substance.
Modern Uses – Sandalwood is comforting and relaxing. It is a beautiful addition for skin care, aftershave, and perfume. Very popular in colognes… of course synthetic versions but women love the smell! Sandalwood is calming and emotionally balancing and is used for stress and unwinding. Sandalwood is in several Young Living oil blends including Brain Power, Gathering, and Inspiration.
To purchase this oil by itself, it is now sold as Royal Hawaiian Sandalwood, and still has a rich, sweet, warm, and woody aroma that is sensual and romantic. The S. paniculatum tree is native to and found only on the island of Hawaii, where Young Living has a partner farm that practices sustainable reforestation farming management principles. Used traditionally as incense in religious ceremonies and for meditation, this oil is uplifting and relaxing. It is valued in skin care for its moisturizing and normalizing properties.
Mentioned in the Bible several times… it was known as Aloe but the plant is what we now call Sandalwood.
Psalm 45:8: “All your robes are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia (CASH – AH); from palaces adorned with ivory the music of the strings makes you glad.”
John 19:39: “And there came also Nicodemus which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pound weight.”
It is steam distilled from the branches, leaves, and petioles of the tree.
Ancient Uses – ingredient in Moses’ holy anointing oil. It is rich in biblical history and is mentioned in one of the oldest known medical records, the “Ebers Papyrus” dating from the 16th century BC. Historically, it was used for a natural remedy to support healthy immunity. Cassia is found in Young Living’s oil blend Exodus II.
Modern Uses – Supports feelings of well-being, some like to use as a perfume. High in antioxidants with a 15,170 on the ORAC chart. Always mix with a carrier oil since this is a hot oil and can cause skin irritations.
Cassia is mentioned in the Bible over 50 times, and it’s included in the Holy Anointing Oil recipe from Exodus!
Exodus 30:24 – “And of cassia five hundred shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary, and of oil olive an hin.”
Psalm 45:8 – “All your robes are fragrant with myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, from palaces adorned with ivory the music of the strings makes you glad.”
Hyssop means “holy herb” in Hebrew. It has an earthy and woodsy aroma that is slightly sweet and was very popular in Biblical times – known for cleansing. It is steam distilled from stems and leaves.
Ancient Uses – used for spiritual cleansing – it was used to cleanse, purify and even to “forgive sins.” It has been used for meditation and rituals as well. Hyssop has an approximate ORAC of 209,167.
Modern Uses – Hyssop is ImmuPower which supports a healthy immune system and Relieve It, which can help for occasional body soreness. Hyssop is also great for overall emotional health.
Hyssop is mentioned a dozen times in the Bible.
Psalm 51:7 7: “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” (David, after he committed adultery)
Exodus 12:22: “Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin and put some of the blood on the top and on both sides of the doorframe. None of you shall go out of the door of your house until morning.” (Passover; very protective oil)
Myrtle is derived from Latin, the word means “chaste beauty.” It is steam distilled from leaves and has a clear, fresh scent, similar to eucalyptus.
Ancient uses – religious ceremonies, purify from ritual uncleanliness. Myrtle oil supports the respiratory system, skin, hair and nails, it has been researched for its effects on glandular imbalances including thyroid. It is also helpful for meditation and lifting the spirit. High in antioxidants and balancing of the female and male energies.
Dr. Pineal, a world known researcher of the uses of therapeutic essential oils, studied Myrtle for balancing glandular system and thyroid. Singers love this oil because it helps to clear the voice.
Mentioned in the Bible six times. In Esther 2:7, Esther is referred to as Hadassah which is the Hebrew name for Myrtle!
Nehemiah 8:15: “And that they should publish and proclaim in all their cities, and in Jerusalem, saying, Go forth unto the mount, and fetch olive branches, and pine branches, and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of thick trees, to make booths, as it is written.”
Isaiah 55:13: “Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”
Rose of Sharon or Cistus essential oil is found in the fertile plains between Jaffa and Mount Carmel in Israel. Sharon is the Mediterranean coastal plain between Joppa and Caesarea. In the time of Solomon it was a place of great fertility. Since Cistus looks like a rose, there the name is derived. It has soft, fruity smell with honey overtones. It is a calming and uplifting oil that stimulates the five senses.
Ancient Uses: Cistus was first noticed by shepherds thousands of years ago. Sheep and goats grazing in the fields would pick up the gum of the shrub in their coats. The shepherds noticed that cuts and scrapes returned to normal quicker when they rubbed their hands in the gum trying to get it out of the coat! Historically it was also used for respiratory support.
Modern Uses: Cistus essential oil is spiritual oil and has been used for centuries for meditation. It opens the third eye and oxygenates the brain. Calming and uplifting, it is helpful for finding emotional balance and in counseling.
Cistus is in ImmuPower, which contains oils that support a healthy immune system. It has an approximate ORAC of 38,648.
Jesus is referred to as a “Rose of Sharon” in many verses, which refers to Cistus. The cistus plant looks like a rose, but doesn’t have any thorns, so a bride
Song of Solomon 2:1: “I am a Rose of Sharon, a lily of valleys.”
Isaiah 35:1 “Let the desert and dry region be happy; let the wilderness rejoice and bloom like a lily!” (it was also referred to as a lily)
Onycha means “nail,” “claw,” “hoof,” and also “onyx,” a precious stone. The form “onycha” was perhaps chosen to avoid confusion with “onyx,” the stone. It is an essence that’s extracted from the gum resin. When it is mixed with alcohol it is referred to as tincture of benzoin. Benzoin tincture was used for over 200 years in hospitals prior to World War II as an antiseptic and historically was used for respiratory support.
Its spicy and hot aroma is soothing and calming. Onycha has a wonderful aroma of vanilla because it contains vanilla aldehyde, also found in the vanilla plant. It is steam distilled from the resin of the tree.
Ancient Uses: Onycha essential oil was known as a cleanser, which was why it was part of the Holy recipe. It made sure the area used for sacrifices was free of disease, cleansed and purified.
Modern Uses: Onycha oil also can cleanse and purify the spirit. It helps to promote feelings of liberation and freedom. Calming the emotions, wound cleansing, support healthy looking skin. It also stimulates the five senses: touch, feeling, hearing, sight and taste. Helps co-dependents find more balance. Benzoin is a “warm” oil that may supports emotions and blistered, chapped and weathered skin.
Available only in the 12 oils of ancient scripture kit. Do not diffuse, it may plug up the diffuser.
This plant only shows up in Exodus 30:34 as an ingredient of the sacred incense.
So there you have it! The 12 Oils of Ancient Scripture (Bible). These do come in a very special kit from Young Living. It contains the 12 most significant oils found in the Bible, PLUS a special CD where Young Living founder, Gary Young, draws on his travels to biblical lands and explains the twelve oils.
Want to read more about plants in the Bible? Check out Dr. Carolyn Roth’s books below!
We eat them, we smell them, and we sit under them and sometimes we even investigate them to discover their hidden significance in the Holy Scriptures. Did you know that the Bible identifies over 125 different plants? Each had a special meaning—superstition, compassion, drunkenness, beauty—to early man. Bible characters you know and love take on added dimension as you drill down to plant symbolism in their stories.
Many of the parables in Scripture are illustrated by plants. “God as a Gardener” lays out in Bible study format 24 of them – 12 from the Old Testament and 12 from the New Testament.