References to Healing Oils
There are over 200 references to healing oils, aromatics, incense, and ointments throughout the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.
Aromatics, such as frankincense and myrrh, galbanum, cinnamon, cassia, rosemary, hyssop, and spikenard, were used for anointing and healing the sick. In Exodus, the Lord gave the following recipe to Moses for a holy anointing oil:
- Myrrh - "500 shekels" (about 1 gallon)
- Cinnamon - "250 shekels"
- Calamus - "500 shekel"
- Olive Oil - "a hin" (about 1-1/3 gallon)
Psalm 133:2 speaks of the sweetness of brethren dwelling together in unity: "It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down the beard, even Aarons beard; that went down to the skirts of his garments."
Another scripture that refers to anointing and the overflowing abundance of precious oils is Ecclesiastes 9:8: "Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment."
The Bible also lists an incident where an incense offering by Aaron stopped a plague. Numbers 16:46:50 records that Moses instructed Aaron to take a censer, add burning coals and incense, and to "go quickly into the congregation to make an atonement for them: for there is a wrath gone out from the Lord; the plague is begun." The Bible records that Aaron stood between the dead and the living and the plague was stayed.
It is significant that according to the biblical and Talmudic recipes for incense, three varieties of cinnamon were included. Cinnamon is known to be highly antimicrobial, anti-infectious, and antibacterial. The incense ingredient listed as "stacte" is believed to be a sweet, myrrh-related spice, which would make it anti-infectious and antiviral as well. Whether the antibacterial nature of the incense played a part in stopping the plague or not, 14,700 Israelites died of the plague before Aaron brought forth the incense.
The New Testament records that wise men presented the Christ child with frankincense and myrrh. There is another precious aromatic, spikenard, described in the anointing of Jesus: "And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box and poured on his head." (Mark 14:3).
The anointing of Jesus is also referred to in 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."
Other Historical References
Throughout world history, fragrant oils and spices played a prominent role in everyday life. One of the Dead Sea Scrolls on display in Israel at the Shrine of the Book Museum, contains this intriguing phrase: "and he will know his children by their scent".
Napoleon is reported to have liked a cologne water made of neroli and other ingredients so much that he ordered 162 bottles of it. After conquering Jerusalem, one of the things the Crusaders brought back to Europe was solidified essence of roses.
And the 12-century mystic, Hildegard von Bingen, used herbs and oils extensively in healing. Her renown book, Physica, has more than 200 chapters on plants and their uses on healing.
The reintroduction of essential oils into modern medicine first became evident during the late 19th and early 20th century.
During World War I, the use of aromatic essences in civilian and military hospitals became widespread. One physician in France, Dr. Monciere, used essential oils extensively for their antibacterial and would-healing properties, and developed several kinds of aromatic ointments.
Rene-Maurice Gattefosse, Ph.D., a French cosmetic chemist, is widely regarded as the father of aromatherapy. He and a group of scientists began studying essential oils in 1907.
In his 1937 book, Aromatherapy, Dr. Gattefosse told the real story of his now famous use of lavender on a serious burn. The tale has assumed mystic proportions in essential oil literature. While the event did NOT start him on the road to essential oil research (he was already studying the oils), his own words about his accident are even more powerful than what has been told over the years.
Dr. Gattefosse was literally aflame - covered in burning substances - following a laboratory explosion in July, 1910. After he extinguished the flames by rolling on a grassy lawn, he wrote that "both my hands were covered with rapidly developing gas gangrene." Dr. Gattefosse said that "just one rinse with lavender essence stopped 'the gasification of the tissue'. This treatment was followed by profuse sweating. and healing began the next day."
Robert B. Tisserand, editor of The International Journal of Aromatherapy, searched for Dr. Gattefosse's book for 20 years. A copy was located and Tisserand edited the 1995 reprint. Tisserand noted that Dr. Gattefosse's burns must have been severe to led to gas gangrene, a very serious infection.
Dr. Gattefosse shared his studies with his colleague and friend, Jean Valnet, a medical doctor practicing in Paris. Exhausting his supply of antibiotics as a physician in Tonkin, China, during World War II, Dr. Valnet began using therapeutic-grade essential oils on patients suffering battlefield injuries. To his surprise, they exerted a powerful effect in combating and counteracting infection. He was able to save the lives of may soldiers who might otherwise have died.
Two of Dr. Valnet's students, Dr. Paul Belaiche and Dr. Jean Claude Laprez, expanded his work. They clinically investigated the antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and antiseptic properties in essential oils.
Through the work of these doctors and chemists, the worth of essential oils is again known to the public.