A Biblical View On Essential Oils  

As a massage therapist, I have the good fortune to witness the healing power of essential oils. It’s remarkable how people respond to the fragrances and sensations they impart. At one point in my practice, I became curious about the historical use of essential oils. Researching their origin led me to biblical references.

There are over 500 citations in the Old and New Testaments regarding the use of plant-derived oils. 1/ Isn’t it comforting to know the Lord has given us plants to ensure our health and well-being? 2/ God has placed me in the healing profession, and I’d like to share what I’ve learned with you.

Sources of Essential Oils

Essential oils are scented compounds extracted from plants. They can be derived from flowers, leaves, roots, stems, seeds, berries, sap, and bark. Oil gives a plant its characteristic aroma and therapeutic qualities. An extract can incorporate over 100 compounds, each with a specific healing property! For this reason, essential oils apply to a wide variety of conditions. 3

Historical use

During biblical times, essential oils played several vital roles. Sanctified by prayer, they became powerful medicinal agents. They eased muscle and joint pain, repaired aging skin, and cured illness. During anointing ceremonies, they bestowed leadership. In this context, essential oils symbolized the Holy Spirit. 4/

Essential oils were so highly prized, they were given as offerings. Three kings brought frankincense and myrrh to Jesus at the time of His birth. Consecrated oils conferred blessings. Jesus washed the feet of His disciples and rubbed them with oil to ordain them as priests. 5/

The 12 Essential Oils Cited In Scripture

Here’s an amazing correlation! Jesus chose 12 extraordinary men who became His disciples and the bedrock of His church. Similarly, there are 12 essential oils mentioned in the Bible. What’s especially exciting is that you can obtain these oils today! Here are the 12 essential oils cited in scripture. 6/

1. ALOESWOOD (Santalum album)

Aloeswood is the aromatic resin of the Aquilaria tree, also known as agarwood. Resin is a sticky component of tree sap. Aloeswood is native to India, Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines.

Biblical References

  • Numbers 24:6 – Aloeswood trees are compared to Israeli dwellings blessed by God.
  • John 19:39 – Aloeswood is the incense burned at the burial site of Jesus.

Uses

Aloeswood diffuses stress by dispelling negativity and focusing your mind. Its soothing scent imparts calmness. Do you ever experience insomnia? Inhaled at bedtime, it facilitates sleep. Aloeswood quells the ache of arthritis. Massaged over the stomach, it curbs indigestion, gas, and bloat. Women, you can add the oil to facial cleanser to improve skin tone. By repairing damaged skin, it fades discoloration and wrinkles. 7/

Fragrance

The scent of aloeswood is sweet, with notes of wood and musk.

2. CASSIA (Cinnamomum cassia)

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Photo credits: Cassia

A cousin to cinnamon, cassia oil is extracted from an evergreen tree native to China. Both cinnamon and cassia oils are derived from the same tree.

Biblical References

  • Exodus 30:24 – The Lord tells Moses to use cassia along with myrrh, cinnamon, calamus, and olive oil to make a sacred anointing oil.
  • Ezekiel 27:18-19 – Cassia oil is a precious commodity for conducting trade with Damascus.

Uses

To resolve gas and diarrhea, rub cassia oil over your stomach. Combat colds and viral infections by diffusing the oil into a room. If your joints are painful, gently massaging them with cassia brings relief. 8/

Fragrance

Cassia oil is warm and woody, with a balsamic undertone.

3. CEDARWOOD (Cedrus atlantica)

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Photo credits: Cedarwood – Cedar Climbing Frames

The cedarwood tree thrives at high altitudes in cold climates. It grows to a height of 100 feet and an age of over 1,000 years! Cedarwood is native to the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. The oil is extracted from the tree’s wood and leaves.

Biblical References

  • 1 Kings 6:9-20 – Cedarwood is used to build King Solomon’s temple. Its fragrance leads worshipers to prayer and into God’s presence.
  • Psalm 92:12 – The tree symbolizes prosperity for the righteous.

Uses

Cedarwood repels moths and mosquitoes. It eases breathing difficulty associated with colds and flu. Inhale the oil from a bottle, or rub a mixture of oil and lotion over your chest. 9/

Fragrance

Cedarwood has a woodsy, pencil-like aroma, with a note of sandalwood.

4. CYPRESS (Cupressus sempervirens)

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Photo Credits: Cypress – All Posters Images

The cypress tree is an evergreen, bearing tiny flowers and small cones. Its root system is deep and well-developed. The oil is steam-distilled from the tree’s needles and stems.

Biblical References

  • Isaiah 41:19 – Cypress represents security. God helps the Israelites, planting cypress in the wasteland.
  • Isaiah 60:13 – The Lord promises a glorious future. The cypress tree will adorn and beautify His sanctuary.

Uses

Having antispasmodic properties, cypress averts cramping and muscle strain. It also quiets restless leg syndrome. I often encounter these conditions in my massage practice. Cypress treats carpal tunnel syndrome of the wrist, common to people who type for prolonged periods. Cypress oil stimulates blood flow. I’ve seen bulging varicose veins subside with topical application. Cellulite also diminishes. I use cypress to help clients feel relaxed. 10/

Fragrance

The scent of cypress is piney and spicy.

5. FRANKINCENSE (Boswellia carteri)

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Photo credits: Frankincense – Pun Miris

Frankincense is the resin of the Boswellia tree, commonly found in Somalia. The tree tolerates poor growing conditions, as you can see in this photo.

Biblical References

  • 1 Chronicles 9:29 – Frankincense is used in ceremonial offerings.
  • Matthew 2:11 – Along with myrrh, frankincense is one of the gifts three kings present to baby Jesus.

Uses

Inhaling frankincense produces instant peace. It reduces discoloration from stretch marks and scars. Mix 3 drops of the oil with an unscented lotion and massage into skin. If you have a respiratory infection, it facilitates breathing when diffused or inhaled. Massage frankincense into sore muscles and joints to put the brakes on pain. If you have insomnia, its heady scent will ease you into dreamland. 11/

Fragrance

Frankincense has a musky, lemony aroma.

6. GALBANUM (Ferula gummosa)

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Photo credits: Galbanum – Essential Oils Company

Galbanum is an aromatic resin sourced from the Ferula plant, native to Iran.

Biblical Reference

  • Exodus 30:34 – Galbanum is an incense ingredient given by God to Moses.

Uses

By increasing circulation, galbanum resolves muscle knots, cramps, and arthritic pain. Its calming scent is relaxing. Since galbanum regenerates tissue, it improves stretch marks, wrinkles, and sagging skin. It also expedites recovery from trauma, shock, and depression. 12/

Fragrance

Galbanum has a fresh scent, akin to green pepper.

7. HYSSOP (Hyssopus officinalis)

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Photo credits: Hyssop – Cool Garden

Found wild in the Mediterranean, hyssop is also cultivated in France, Canada, and the US. A member of the mint family, it grows 2 feet high, bearing purple flowers. The Hebrew name for hyssop means “holy herb.”

Biblical References

  • John 19:29 – Hyssop is offered to Jesus on the cross.
  • Psalm 51:7 – The herb is used in cleansing rituals.

Uses

Topical application of hyssop heals skin irritations, frostbite, wounds, and bruising. Its antiseptic properties prevent infection. To reduce fever, add it to bathwater. If you have respiratory congestion, rub the oil on your chest, and you’ll breathe easier. Aah! By revving circulation, hyssop reduces the discomfort of arthritis and gout. It also treats cramps and muscle spasms. 13/

Fragrance

The scent of hyssop combines mint and pine.

8. Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha)

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Photo Credits: Myrrh – Viviscienza

Myrrh is the resin of a desert tree that grows in Africa and the Middle East. Traditionally, it’s a burnt offering preceding sacred ceremonies. In fact, there are 152 citations in the Bible mentioning myrrh! 14/

Biblical References

  • Proverbs 7:17 – Myrrh is a sweet perfume.
  • Song of Solomon 3:6 – Myrrh is used as fragrant incense.

Uses

Antibacterial and anti-fungal, myrrh heals wounds and infections. Apply the oil to eradicate acne and athlete’s foot. It also soothes chapped skin. Since it imparts serenity, I use it for massage. Myrrh also reduces swelling and inflammation. When inhaled, it relieves symptoms of bronchitis and colds. 15/

Fragrance

Myrrh oil has a smoky-sweet fragrance, resembling pine.

9. Myrtle (Myrtus communis)

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Photo credits: Myrtle – Selectree

Myrtle is an evergreen shrub native to Africa and the Mediterranean. The oil is extracted from its leaves, flowers, and berries. Are you familiar with eucalyptus? Myrtle is in the same family.

Biblical References

  • Nehemiah 8:15 – Myrtle is a preferred wood for building ceremonial booths.
  • Zechariah 1:8 – The tree confers protection.

Uses

Since myrtle essential oil has astringent properties, it’s beneficial for oily skin, acne, large pores, and sagging. As an antiseptic, the oil cleanses wounds. I like to diffuse myrtle in my treatment area since it counteracts tension, anxiety, and stress. The oil also freshens air and repels insects. 16/

Fragrance

The scent of myrtle is similar to eucalyptus oil.

10. ONYCHA (Styrax benzoin)

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Photo credits: Onycha

Onycha is also known as benzoin essential oil. Onycha creates a celebratory atmosphere due to its mood-elevating effect. For this reason, it’s traditionally used in jubilant religious ceremonies. The oil is extracted from the tree’s resin.

Biblical Reference

  • Exodus 30:34-36 – Onycha is one of the components of consecrated incense diffused in Solomon’s temple. The Lord bequeaths the recipe to Moses and instructs him to place it before the Ark of the Covenant.

Uses

When your spirit needs a boost, onycha will uplift you. Inhaling its fragrance allays anxiety and tension, balancing your nervous system. Its germicidal properties prevent infection. Diffused into a room, it has a deodorizing effect, eliminating unpleasant odors. By reducing inflammation, onycha brings comfort to arthritic joints. 17/

Fragrance

Onycha smells of vanilla.

11. Rose of Sharon (Cistus ladanifer)

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Photo credits: Rose of Sharon – Farm1

Rose of Sharon essential oil is steam-distilled from the flowers, leaves, and stalk of the Cistus plant. Also known as labdanum and rock rose, the bush grows wild in Spain and France.

Biblical Reference

  • Song of Solomon 2:1 – Rose of Sharon refers to the beloved.

Uses

Massaging Rose of Sharon into joints soothes arthritis, due to its anti-inflammatory effect. When inhaled or rubbed over the chest, it unblocks nasal congestion. It also lessens tension. At the onset of illness, massage it into your feet to strength immunity. I utilize this application method when performing reflexology on clients. Applied to the face, it fades scars and smooths wrinkles. An effective germicidal, it staunches bleeding and disinfects wounds. 18/

Fragrance

Rose of Sharon has a honey-like aroma.

12. Spikenard (Nardostachys jatamansi)

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Photo credits: Gyan Unlimited

Spikenard oil is derived from a perennial in the Valerian family, native to the Himalayas of Nepal, India, and China. The Bible refers to the herb as “nard.” The entire plant is fragrant!

Biblical References

  • Luke 7:36-50 – A woman comes to see Jesus while He’s having dinner at a Pharisee’s house. Regretful of her sins, she begins weeping, her tears wetting Jesus’ feet. She wipes His feet with her hair, kisses them, and anoints Him with spikenard oil.
  • John 12:3-5 – Mary, sister of Lazarus, anoints Jesus with one pound of spikenard oil! In worship and gratitude, she pours it on His feet. The oil was worth 300 denarii. At the time, one denarius was a day’s wage. So the cost of the oil was equivalent to a year’s salary. At our current minimum wage, this amounts to $36,000! 19/

Uses

Being antimicrobial, spikenard mollifies itching, dermatitis, psoriasis, and fungal infection. Its sedating quality knocks out insomnia. Spikenard diffuses anger, panic, depression, and stress. By stimulating cellular regeneration, it closes wounds. 20/

Fragrance

The scent of spikenard is redolent of musk, with spicy and floral undertones.

How To Use These Essential Oils?

Before applying essential oil to your skin, be sure to dilute it. Undiluted oil can cause allergic reactions. Ideal carriers are coconut, grapeseed, olive, sesame, sunflower, and sweet almond oils.

For sensitive skin, use 3 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier. For normal skin, you can double this amount. You can also use unscented facial creams and body lotions as carriers at the same dilution rates.

For a bath, mix 6 drops of essential oil with 1 teaspoon of honey and add it to bathwater. 21/ To prevent evaporation, dispense the oil into your tub after the water has finished running.

You can also inhale essential oil directly from its bottle. Alternatively, apply 3 drops to a cotton ball or handkerchief and breathe in the aroma. For a more widespread effect, use a diffuser to disperse essential oil into the air, following the appliance’s directions.

NOTE:Do not apply essential oils to the skin of babies and children, due to the high risk of skin irritation. Since essential oils can increase blood flow, pregnant and lactating women should not expose their skin to them.

Natural Medicine

Each oil above merits a place in your medicine cabinet. God is the Great Physician, and essential oils are one of His healing instruments. Avail yourself of the benefits of Aloeswood, Cassia, Cedarwood, Cypress, Frankincense, Galbanum, Hyssop, Myrrh, Myrtle, Onycha, Rose of Sharon, and Spikenard. They have God’s blessing upon them!

About the author

Sally Wong

Sally Wong is a manual therapist for about 15 years now and also a massage specialist. She is actively taking care of her body to stay healthy and in shape by doing Yoga and Tai Chi. She has a lot of knowledge and interest in Essential Oils because of her Oriental background. She learnt many things from her Grandmother. Originally from a small village in South China, now she lives in Vancouver, Canada.

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