Do you know how thieves essential oil got its name? It was actually inspired by a mixture created by French thieves during a plague outbreak centuries ago. The botanical blend they created was said to protect them from getting sick as they robbed plague victims. If it worked then it must have been some pretty great stuff!
Now I’m sure you’re wondering what’s in thieves oil? It’s typically a mix of clove, lemon, cinnamon bark, rosemary and eucalyptus essential oils. It’s actually not hard to make a homemade version of thieves oil and I’m including a recipe in this article.
Plant Origins of Thieves Oil
The best way to tell you about the plant origins of thieves oil is to tell you about each of its components. So here’s some background on each of the essential oils commonly included in a thieves oil blend.
Clove Oil: Cloves can be found in nature as the flower buds of the evergreen tree Syzygium aromaticum or Eugenia caryophyllata. These flower buds naturally contain about 14 percent to 20 percent essential oil. The best-known and most pungent chemical component of clove essential oil is eugenol. (1)
Lemon oil: Lemons are a type of fruit that come from a small tree in the Rutacea family. Lemon oil is derived from cold pressing the peel of the lemon fruit, which has been shown in research studies to contain many beneficial compounds and nutrients. (2)
Cinnamon oil: Cinnamon oil and the dried spice cinnamon both come from the bark of the true cinnamon tree (Cinnamomum zeylanicum), also called Ceylon cinnamon tree. Research has shown that the essential oils that come from the leaf, bark and root of the cinnamon tree are different. The main active component of cinnamon bark essential oil is cinnamaldehyde. (3)
Eucalyptus oil: Eucalyptus trees are native to Australia, Tasmania, and nearby islands. Many species of eucalyptus trees — E. globulus and E. salicifolia in particular — have eucalyptus oil inside of their leaf glands. This leaf-derived oil is commonly used in cold remedies. (4)
Rosemary oil: Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is a popular culinary herb. It’s also a really popular essential oil. Both products come from the small evergreen plant that belongs to the mint (Lamiaceae) family and is native to the Mediterranean region. (5)
So a thieves oil blend typically contains these five essential oils and nothing else. What is an essential oil? An essential oil can be defined as a “highly volatile substance isolated by a physical process from an odoriferous plant of a single botanical species.” (6) Basically, it’s an oil extracted or distilled from a plant or other natural source that smells like the original source.
How do essential oils work? Essential oils are known to have physical, mental and emotional benefits when used in various forms including inhalation and topical application.
5 Benefits of Thieves Oil
What are some of the best thieves essential oil uses? Here are some of the top ways you can start using thieves oil today!
1. Immune System Booster
If you know about the roots of thieves oil (thieves protecting themselves from the deadly plague), it’s no surprise that this oil is often used as a natural immune booster. How could this blend of essential oils help fight off sickness? For starters, research has shown that clove and rosemary oils possess powerful antibacterial and antifungal abilities. Both oils have been shown to have significant antimicrobial effects against bacteria including Staphylococcus epidermidis, Escherichia coli and Candida albicans. (7)
Cinnamon bark oil is also one of the top antibacterial essential oils that can help fight harmful bacteria and fungi. A 2011 study conducted by the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at Kyung Hee University in Korea found that an extract of cinnamon oil had significant antioxidant activity useful for lowering oxidative stress and free radical formation in the body that contributes to so many diseases. (8)
2. Muscle and Joint Relief
Essential oils are generally loved for their natural anti-inflammatory abilities. Rosemary and eucalyptus oil, two energizing oils included in a thieves oil mix, are especially known for helping to relieve aches and pains in the body.
Research points towards the ability of rosemary oil and eucalyptus oil to relieve rheumatoid arthritis as well as muscle and joint pains and aches.(9, 10) Thieves oil can be diluted and applied topically for these concerns.
3. Nontoxic Cleaning
Thieves oil also makes a great addition to homemade cleaning products. Not only can it leave your house smelling spicy and fresh, it can also help to kill bacteria in all different areas of your home.
The antibacterial abilities of the oils included in this blend make it great for disinfecting your home in a nontoxic way. Combined with natural cleaning products like white vinegar, thieves oil may quickly become your go-to blend for nontoxic cleaning.
The lemon oil in a thieves blend is especially excellent at cutting through grease and grime, leaving surfaces bright and shiny.
4. Respiratory System Aid
The eucalyptus in thieves oil is especially great for boosting respiratory health. Traditionally, eucalyptus oil is known for its use in several respiratory tract disorders including sinusitis, pharyngitis and bronchitis. (11)
Animal and in vitro studies have both shown that eucalyptus oil acts as a natural expectorant, which means it helps to loosen phlegm. This is why eucalyptus oil is commonly included in over-the-counter (OTC) products for coughs and colds. (12)
Lemon oil is widely used to stimulate lymph drainage, which is helpful for unpleasant respiratory symptoms like mucus congestion.
The general antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of thieves — thanks to all five essential oils — make it a helpful choice for respiratory illnesses.
5. Oral Health
It’s not surprising people like to use thieves oil to improve their oral health. By simply combining a few drops of thieves oil with a cup of water, you can have a quick, yet effective, mouthwash. Why would you want to use thieves oil in a mouthwash? Well, it actually contains essential oils that have been shown in scientific research to improve oral health.
An in vitro study published in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research reveals that clove oil can effectively kill off the microorganisms that lead to cavities. (13) In addition, multiple essential oils included in a thieves blend make the list of essential oils being used and researched for their positive effects on dental health.
An extensive scientific review published in the Journal of International Society of Preventive and Community Dentistry lists lemon, eucalyptus and cinnamon oils as having positive effects on oral health. Lemon oil is specifically effective against candidiasis caused by C. albicans. Clove oil is well-known for reducing tooth aches and it’s also antifungal and antibacterial. Eucalyptus oil has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects while also acting as an immunoregulatory agent. Cinnamon oil can help oral health (and health in general) thanks to its antiparasitic, antioxidant and free radical scavenging properties. (14)
History and Interesting Facts
There’s a really interesting story behind present day thieves oil. Legend has it that four thieves were robbing sick or deceased individuals during a European plague outbreak. It depends on who is telling the story, but it seems like it was some time between the 14th and 18th centuries and likely in France — specifically Marseilles.
These thieves created a mixture that supposedly contained cloves, rosemary, vinegar and other botanical ingredients. It came to be known as “four thieves vinegar” or “Marseilles vinegar.”
The thieves rubbed the mixture on themselves and could then commit their crimes without getting sick. These criminals may not have gotten ill, but they did get caught. Once they were under arrest, they ended up revealing their protective recipe in exchange for a lesser punishment. (15)
Fast forward to the 1990s and this is when Young Living Essential Oils founder D. Gary Young created a blend of oil to support the immune system. This blend was thieves oil and it’s said to be inspired by the tale of those French thieves centuries ago. (16)
Thieves® is presently a proprietary essential oil blend by Young Living that contains a mix of several essential oils including lemon, clove bud, cinnamon bark, rosemary and eucalyptus.
How to Make and Use Thieves Oil
What is a good DIY thieves oil recipe? As long as you have all of the necessary essential oils on hand, it’s super-easy to make your own version of thieves oil at home.
To make some homemade thieves oil, simply combine the following in a darkly colored 0.5 fluid ounce (15 milliter) glass bottle:
- 85 drops of clove essential oil
- 70 drops of lemon essential oil
- 50 drops of cinnamon essential oil
- 40 drops of eucalyptus essential oil
- 35 drops of rosemary essential oil
Make sure to store your homemade thieves essential oil in a cool, dry place away from heat and light. And, as always, make sure you are only using 100 percent pure, certified USDA organic and therapeutic-grade essential oils.
For topical use: Combine 1 drop of the thieves oil blend with a carrier oil like coconut oil and apply it to the area of concern.
For diffusion/aromatherapy: To breathe in the sweet smell of thieves oil, simply add a few drops of thieves oil to a diffuser. It’s a very uplifting and invigorating scent combination.
For internal use: You can only use this blend internally if all of the essential oils used are 100 percent pure, therapeutic grade and, ideally, also organic. Add one drop to a capsule or mix one drop into food (such as oatmeal) or a beverage. Of course, check with your doctor before using thieves oil internally if you are pregnant, nursing, have any ongoing health concerns or are taking medication. Never put thieves oil directly into your mouth undiluted.
DIY mouthwash: Simply combine 5 drops of thieves oil with a cup of purified water and a half teaspoon of sea salt for a homemade mouthwash. A few drops of thieves oil can also make a great addition to homemade toothpaste.
DIY homemade cleaner: Combine 8 ounces water, 4 ounces distilled white vinegar and 30 drops of homemade thieves oil in a glass cleaning spray bottle.
Possible Side Effects and Caution
As with all essential oils, remember that a little goes a long way. Before using topically, conduct a patch test. Discontinue use immediately if any irritation occurs.
Thieves oil is not recommended for use on or around young children, especially children under 10 years old. So this means no topical application or diffusion around children of this age. Thieves oil contains clove oil, which is only recommended for use with children over 2 years of age while eucalyptus oil is only recommended for use with children 10 years or older. (17)
If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, being treated for any type of medical condition and/or are currently taking medication, check with your health care provider before using thieves oil externally or internally.
Thieves Oil Key Points
- Thieves oil is believed to have been created by grave robbers some time between the 14th and 18th centuries. These French thieves protected themselves with a special botanical blend which inspired the thieves oil blend created and trademarked by Young Living Essential Oils.
- If you want to make your own version of thieves oil, you’ll need the following five essential oils: clove, cinnamon, lemon, eucalyptus and rosemary.
- Always use 100 percent pure, therapeutic grade and certified USDA organic essential oils.
- Thieves oil combines the health benefits of five different essential oils in one blend, which is why thieves oil has such a diversified list of possible uses.
- Thieves oil is a great immune booster so its commonly employed to prevent illness and improve symptoms of illness.
- With its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and pain-reducing ingredients, thieves oil may help to relieve bodily aches and pains.
- It’s also an awesome blend of essential oils for nontoxic cleaning.
Read Next: Vervain: 5 Benefits of a Versatile Herb
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