The Bible is filled with references to oils, spices, balms and the traders and merchants who sold, bartered, and used them. They are fascinating and give us a glimpse into the ancient world of medicine.
At their very basic level, these oils are made up of a unique, natural substance known as a “terpene.” These compounds—whether monoterpenes or sesquiterpenes—are said to hold powerful healing properties. Although none of these statements are verified in the current medical community, the use of these oils throughout history and as recorded in Scripture makes them worth exploring.
Today’s molecular understanding of monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes reveal that each is made up carbon atoms and hydrogen atoms. Mono has ten carbon and sixteen hydrogen while sesqui has fifteen carbon and twenty-four hydrogen. Respectively they weigh 136 amu and 204 amu (amu is an atomic mass unit).
These structures are said to have very specific capabilities and are often seen by the alternative medical establishment as being able to restore in us “God’s image.” In other words, they are often considered God’s medicine. This is because monoterpenes are said to reprogram corrupted cellular information while sesquiterpenes are said to deprogram and eliminate this bad DNA.
Of all the oils, Frankincense is by far the most well know. It is mentioned—or alluded to—dozens of times in the Bible and happens to have a very high concentration of monoterpenes.
Famous for being one of the oils brought to the baby Jesus, Frankincense is considered a holy anointing oil and in ancient days was seen as a cure for many illnesses. It was also used to augment meditation and raise spiritual awareness. Today’s alternative healer might use it against cancer due to its significant concentration of monoterpenes. It is also seen as effective in stimulating the body’s immune system and fighting against depression. It is one of the ingredients used in aromatherapy for childhood asthma.
Second to Frankincense is probably Myrrh—a commonly known oil even if its biblical and current uses are not. It has a fairly high concentration of sesquiterpenes at 60 percent and, like Frankincense, was oil brought to the baby Jesus. During biblical times it had many uses associated with pregnancy and birth that included being rubbed on the umbilical cord as protection against infection and in an aid to the mother for healing after childbirth. Today it is used in many perfumes since it helps extend the life of the scent. It is also used today as an antiseptic and to fight against such illnesses as ring worm and thrush. Myrrh is part of the aromatherapy synergistic blend used for hemorrhoids.
Hyssop was offered to Jesus as he died upon the cross. Its earliest uses included treatment for respiratory ailments and congestion. Christ’s crucifixion would have caused a painful, slow suffocation for which the hyssop may have provided relief. It has a lower concentration of monoterpenes at 30% but has always enjoyed wide popularity and use. Currently, it is one of the oils used to treat varicose veins. It is also popular as part of the blends used to treat a variety of physical contusions.
Galbanum is actually considered one of the main oils in the Bible. It has a very high concentration of monoterpenes (75%) and is considered a milder oil; it is less antiseptic than oils such as hyssop or clove. Throughout the ages it has been used to treat spasms and muscle cramps.
Cypress as an oil has a history that dates to thousands of years before Christ. Cypress is the hardwood called “gopher wood” in Genesis 6:14. Throughout the Old Testament there are references to oils being poured out as anointing and one of the oils that would have been used is Cypress. Today Cypress is often used to reduce inflammation and swelling when part of a synergistic aromatherapy blend of oils. It is also used for different skin problems such as broken capillaries and acne when used in combination with other oils.
Cedarwood is the biblical oil associated with all acts of cleansing—from the cleansing of lepers to ceremony purification after coming in contact with a corpse. Cedarwood has as its history the oil used in cultures thousands of years before biblical history for embalming and for disinfecting. It is derived from tree bark and has a very “woody” aroma. This makes it a popular base for perfumes and colognes. Today aromatherapists use Cedarwood as part of their treatment for uterine cancer.
Cinnamon is one of the top five oils mentioned in the Bible—whether directly or indirectly. Like the other biblical oils, it was popular in use for anointing and currently is in many of the blends on the market. This is due to its antimicrobial and antiparasitic properties. Although Cinnamon has many uses in aromatherapy that range from colitis to respiratory stimulation, it is used with caution due to its volatile nature.
The other healing oils of the Bible include Sandalwood, Cassia, Calamus, Myrtle, Onycha, Rose of Sharon, and Spikenard. Each contains properties that earn it the title of “healing oil of the Bible.” Biblically based and incredibly interesting to study, these oils round out the main oils in the Bible and may one day provide the link between God’s medicine and man’s.
* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.