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22 Ways You Can Use Thieves Oil

thieves oil

Story at-a-glance -

  • Thieves oil, an essential oil blend composed of clove, cinnamon bark, eucalyptus, lemon and rosemary oils, has anti-infectious, antibacterial, antiviral and antiseptic properties, making it a potent remedy for various ailments
  • 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
  • Thieves oil may have cytotoxic effects on breast cancer cells, leading to cell death. Clove and cinnamon and were the most potent, followed by lemon, eucalyptus and rosemary, respectively

Very few people will argue that the darkest legacy of the Middle Ages was bubonic plague. Also known as the Black Death,1 this devastating epidemic struck Europe during the mid-1300s, after ships that sailed from the Black Sea arrived at the Sicilian port in Messina with a horrifying surprise: Most of the sailors onboard were dead, and those who survived were barely clinging to life. What’s worse, they were covered in black boils that oozed pus and blood.

Over 20 million people succumbed to the plague (about one-third of Europe’s population).2 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.3

Read on to shed light on what thieves oil is, including its composition, uses and how you can make your own mix at home. Plague or not, this is one of the most useful essential oil blends you can have on hand.

What Is Thieves Oil?

During the bubonic plague, robbers in the French town of Marseilles looted the belongings of the victims who succumbed to the illness. Legend has it that these thieves were perfumers and spice traders, and that they used a blend of several essential oils to protect themselves from the infection. This became what’s known as thieves oil, which was eventually used by doctors and priests to treat the illness.4

Organic Facts notes that this oil blend has a rich, earthy and spicy fragrance.5 Thieves oil has anti-infectious, antibacterial, antiviral and antiseptic properties, making it a potent remedy for various ailments.6

Thieves Oil Composition

So what is thieves oil made of exactly? Here are the five essential oils that make up this oil:7,8

Clove oilMade by distilling the leaves of the clove tree (Syzygium aromaticum), which is native to Madagascar,9 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.”10

Rosemary oilThe aerial parts of the Rosmarinus officinalis plant are used to make this oil,11 which offers antimicrobial and antiseptic effects.

Lemon oilThis oil is extracted from the peel — not the flesh of the Citrus limon fruit. This flowing plant belongs to the Rutaceae family.12 Lemon oil is high in limonene, and has immunity-promoting, antibacterial and antiseptic effects.

Eucalyptus oilTaken by distillation from the dried leaves of the Eucalyptus globulus plant, this is known for its sweet and woody fragrance.13 The essential oil boasts of antiviral, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory abilities.

Cinnamon bark oilThis oil comes from the bark of the Cinnamon zeylanicum trees, and possesses the delicate aroma of the spice.14 Apart from having antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial properties, it is one of the most powerful antiseptics currently known.

These essential oils contain certain similar beneficial compounds that make thieves oil a potent remedy for various health concerns. For example, the eugenol in cinnamon and clove oils may have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anticancer properties. Meanwhile, it’s the 1,8-cineole or eucalyptol compound in rosemary and eucalyptus oils that give these oils their antiseptic effects.15

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Thieves Oil Benefits Your Health in Several Ways

Many of the benefits credited to thieves oil can be attributed to the individual oils that make up its composition. There are studies that back up these claims. 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.16

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.17

May help suppress inflammationThe 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.18

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.19

22 Thieves Essential Oil Uses You Can Take Advantage Of

The many health-promoting properties of the individual oils in this special blend contribute to its many uses. Thieves oil is one of the most versatile essential oils you can have at home — the Healthy Holistic Living website shares some ideas on how to use it to your advantage:20

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

How to Make Thieves Oil: Try This Easy Recipe

While some essential oil manufacturers have their own thieves oil blends for sale, you can also make a fresh batch of your own, as long as you have the five oils on hand. Here’s an easy recipe from the book, “Homemade Cleaners:”21

Thieves Oil Recipe

Ingredients:

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

Procedure:

Place all the oils in a dark glass container. Seal with the lid tightly and then shake vigorously to mix the oils well.

Side Effects of Thieves Oil

There’s little research available on the potential side effects of thieves oil, and some authors note that there are no contraindications linked to this oil.22 However, the individual oils that compose thieves oil may have certain side effects.

Clove bud oil, for example, may cause irritation of the mucous membranes and skin, leading to contact dermatitis, ulcerations and lip inflammation.23 Prolonged contact with cinnamon oil may cause burns and allergic reactions,24 while lemon oil may have phototoxic effects.25

It’s still best to exercise caution before using any type of essential oil. Do a skin patch test before applying thieves oil on your skin to see if any negative reactions occur. Always use a diluted version. Very young children and pregnant women should also refrain from using this oil (or any other essential oil) without their physician’s consent.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Thieves Oil

Q: What is the story behind thieves oil?

A: Thieves oil originated during the Middle Ages when bubonic plague was prevalent. In the French town of Marseilles, robbers roamed the streets to loot the belongings of victims who died from the illness. The thieves were suspected to be perfumers and spice traders, as they used a blend of several essential oils to keep them safe from the infection. This blend became known as thieves essential oil.26

Q: What is thieves essential oil used for?

A: Thieves oil is one of the most versatile essential oils you can have. It can be diffused to purify indoor air and eliminate airborne pathogens, massaged onto the body to ease pain and keep insects at bay, or applied to the skin to help deal with problems such as acne. Ingesting it or using it orally, in a diluted form, may also reap benefits such as boosting the immune system or relieving a headache.

Q: Where can you buy thieves oil?

A: You can buy thieves oil from aromatherapy stores and essential oil manufacturers. Make sure you’re purchasing a high-quality blend.

Q: Can you drink thieves essential oil?

A: One way of using thieves oil is by adding a drop to a bottle of water and drinking it all day long. This will help clear the digestive tract and promote good immune system health.

Q: How do I use thieves essential oil for cleaning?

A: Dilute thieves oil in water (use one drop for every ounce of water), place in a spray bottle and shake well. You can use this as an all-around disinfectant. If you want to clean up the air in your home, diffusing thieves essential oil may be helpful as well.

Q: Is thieves oil anti-inflammatory?

A: Yes. Some of the oils that make up this blend, namely eucalyptus, cinnamon and clove oils, have anti-inflammatory properties. One study demonstrated that the chemical carvacrol found in these oils may help suppress an enzyme that plays a major role in inflammation.

Q: Is thieves an antiviral oil?

A: Yes, eucalyptus and cinnamon oil both have antiviral properties. In addition, thieves oil has anti-infectious, antibacterial and antiseptic properties.