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The Story of Thieves Oil and its Name

Spices and Story of Thieves oil


(This is first of a two-part series. Please check out How to Make Your Own Thieves Oil.)

Most of us have read about the Bubonic plague. But not many of us know about the story of Thieves Oil and how it got its name.

We are familiar with cinnamon and cloves as spices. We frequently use lemons and the aromatic rosemary in our culinary cooking and probably eucalyptus oil to freshen our home.

While, many of us may not know about the healing properties of these plants, people in traditional societies know that many plants have incredible healing properties.

Thieves Oil Blend

The five ingredients for the Thieves Oil blend are cinnamon, cloves, eucalyptus, lemons, and rosemary. Each of these five produces essential oil with different healing properties. And when blended together, the mixture can produce the most amazing qualities.

Cinnamon, cloves, rosemary, eucalyptus, and lemon oils, when combined, create a synergy of the five-essential oil or Thieves Oil blend. People in traditional societies knew about the powerful healing properties of the five-oil blend. For centuries, the five-essential oil blend was known as Thieves Oil. 

The Origin of its Name

There are several versions of the story of Thieves Oils and the origin of its name. The legends all center on the Bubonic plague, with the story origin ranging from 1413 to 1630 somewhere in Europe.

Legend has it that four thieves were robbing the sick and the dead during the pandemic of the Bubonic plague. To protect themselves from getting infected and dying from the Bubonic plague, the thieves used a blend of clove, cinnamon, eucalyptus, rosemary, and lemon oils.

There is not much known about how the thieves actually used their secret concoction. We can only imagine that they rubbed themselves—their hands, faces, and any exposed part of their body—with a blend of these herbs and spices.

It is also possible that they carried these ingredients in pouches with them. Or they wrapped a scarf saturated with the oil blend around their faces.

And miraculously none of them, despite often being in contact with the sick and dying, succumbed to the deadly Bubonic plague.

The Story of Thieves Oil

One version of the story of Thieves Oil has it that the thieves must have been spice traders and perfumers to have a constant supply of these powerful healing ingredients. These spice merchants found out that it was more profitable to steal from the homes and bodies of the sick than to work on their day jobs.

Eventually authorities caught the four thieves. The judges were curious about why the four thieves did not die from the plague since they were constantly in such close contact with the sick and the corpses of those who died from the Bubonic plague. Instead of killing them for their crimes, the authorities struck a deal with the robbers. 

Another report was that the king agreed not to burn the thieves at the stake if they would reveal their secret on how they avoided contracting the highly contagious disease.

Thus the thieves received leniency for their crimes by disclosing their secret for not dying from the dreaded plague.

A different version of the story is that the four thieves were already caught. The punishment for their crimes was to bury the dead victims of the plague. To protect themselves, the thieves used this concoction of spices, herbs, and oils.

During this period of history, physicians often wore long dark gowns, wide-brimmed hats, and masks that resembled a beak. Inside this beak-shaped mask was a blend of herbs, spices, and oils. The physicians would inhale this concoction to avoid contracting the illnesses from their patients.

Others believed that the medieval physicians also doused their long robes with a similar self-preventative concoction.

Benefits of Thieves Oil

To this day, it is widely believed that the Thieves’ Oil blend has antiseptic, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-infectious properties.

Studies showed that the five-essential-oils blend helps boost the immune, circulatory, and respiratory systems.

And the synergy of the concoction helps protect against the flu, cold, sore throat, bronchitis, and even from airborne bacteria.

An Ancient Hack for Modern Times

While no one knows the exact truth of the story of Thieves Oil legend, today Thieves Oil has become a registered trademark. Nonetheless, thieves oil is widely considered an ancient hack for modern times that people can make at home.

All you need to do is cook the five ingredients—cinnamon, cloves, eucalyptus, lemon rind, and rosemary—together with some filtered water.  From the concentrated blend, you can make a variety of natural health products or sprays for daily household use.

If you have time or prefer to make your own blend from natural and organic ingredients, you can follow my D-I-Y recipeMaking your own Thieves oil—to make your own home blend. 

For those of you who do not have time to make your own home blend, you can easily buy  the ready-made Thieves Oil blend from a health store or an online store. 

Alternatively, you can also buy the five Thieves Oil ingredients as essential oils. I usually buy the essential oils from New Directions or Vitacost online store. Then mix a few drops of the essential oils together with some filtered water to make your own Thieves Oil spray and wipe, Thieves Oil glass or window cleaner, or add the concentrate to other household cleaning products (preferably the unscented products).

For me, I like to use the five Thieves essential oils combination in my candlelight oil diffuser to make my entire home smell fragrant and refreshing. 

Do let me know how it goes if you make your own Thieves Oil blend.


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