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Essential Oil’s Biblical Roots

by Dr. Josh Axe, Ty Bollinger, and Jordan Rubin

Essential oils have been an integral part of the daily lives of people for thousands of years. At least 33 specific essential oils and aromatic oil-producing plants are mentioned in the Bible, and the word “incense” is mentioned 68 times in Scripture. Psalm 45:7-8, Proverbs 27:9, Isaiah 61:3 and Hebrews 1:9 all reference oils in some way, as in “the oil of joy" and “the oil of gladness,” and they speak of how oils “rejoice the heart.”

Essential oils are also referred to in the Bible as fragrances, odors, ointments, aromas, perfumes and sweet savors. In total, there are over 600 references to essential oils and/or the aromatic plants from which they were extracted in the Bible. For those of us who study the Bible, we know that the Holy Scripture is not filled with insignificant details. Therefore, there is obviously a tremendous importance surrounding oils and their many uses.

Oils such as frankincense, myrrh, rosemary, hyssop and spikenard were used for anointing and healing the sick. Moses and other Old Testament figures used essential oils to anoint kings and leaders; priests also used them for healing purposes. In fact, in Exodus 30:22-25, Moses was given a specific formula directly by God:

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Take the following fine spices: 500 shekels [around 72 pounds] of liquid myrrh, half as much [around six pounds] of fragrant cinnamon, 250 shekels [around six pounds] of fragrant calamus, 500 shekels [around 72 pounds] of cassia —  all according to the sanctuary shekel — and a hin [around a gallon] of olive oil. Make these into a sacred anointing oil, a fragrant blend, the work of a perfumer. It will be the sacred anointing oil.”

This formula was used to make a holy anointing oil that was poured onto the heads of those being appointed king or for those being prayed for by the priest. In other words, this anointing oil wasn't just used for rituals, but it was also known to have healing properties.

Another important reference to a holy anointing oil was when King David was anointed by Samuel in 1 Samuel 16:12-13:

“So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features. 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.”

There are also four different Gospel accounts of women honoring Jesus by anointing him with oil (also referred to as “expensive perfume" and “ointment"). John 12:3 tells of a particularly touching story in which Mary, the sister of Lazarus, performed this special action to pay tribute to Jesus:

 “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 odor of the ointment.”

In Esther's era, according to Esther 2:12, the future queen underwent “a six-month treatment with the oil of myrrh and six months with perfumes and other aloes.” Queen Esther bathed in myrrh and olive oil for six months before her presentation to the king in order to purify her body.

Note that the essential oils referenced in history and throughout the Bible were often herbs mixed with olive oil and not identical to what we think of as essential oil today.

God created these wonderful resources for mankind’s use – and undoubtedly for the eventual use of every subsequent generation. He gave us everything we need to support ourselves on an emotional, physical, mental and spiritual level, including wonderful aromatic plants and essential oils.


Jordan Rubin talks about natural health all week on LIFE TODAY. Excerpted from Natural Remedies: Ancient Nutrition by Dr. Josh Axe, Ty Bollinger, and Jordan Rubin. Copyright ©2016 Dr. Josh Axe. Published by Axe Wellness LLC. Used by permission.