The Ancient and Modern Roots of Essential Oils

After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshipped him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

—Matthew 2:11 (New American Standard Bible)

Are today’s essential oils the same as those that were given to Jesus? Is the wisdom shown by ancient cultures being validated by modern research and knowledge?

There are many references in the Bible and other ancient texts to the oils and spices that we use as essential oils today. The “essential oils” used in Biblical times were more likely “healing oils” which were created by infusing the different materials or spices in olive oil or some other fat so that the scents and properties of the material would be infused into the carrier oil. These oils were often used in healing ceremonies, religious practices and even given as gifts. Modern day essential oils are steam distilled or cold-pressed in order to extract the essential oils from the plant material itself.

Some of the most well known healing oils used in ancient times include frankincense, myrrh, and cassia. Although the essential oils of today are different from those of ancient times, what is consistent across the centuries are their health benefits.

Frankincense is a resin that comes from the Boswellia tree, and the resin was often burned and used as incense in religious ceremonies and even used as a perfume. Because frankincense has many properties, including anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, analgesic (pain relieving) and cellular protective properties, it is often used to support the respiratory system and used topically for minor skin irritations among many other uses. Frankincense is able to penetrate the walls of our cells and can help repair damaged cells or assist the body in ridding itself of cells that cannot be repaired. Now, that is nothing short of miraculous.

Myrrh is also a resin or gum, and in Biblical times it is believed to have come from the bark of the Balsamodendron myrrha tree. It has similar properties and uses as frankincense. There is much current research around myrrh and it’s use against certain types of cancer.

Cassia is obtained by peeling the inner bark from the Cinnamomum cassia tree. It is from the same family as cinnamon. It has a warm and spicy scent and the essential oil is often used in cooking and in perfumes. Many studies have found that cassia cinnamon has a positive impact on blood glucose and cholesterol levels.

In addition to enjoying each oil’s distinct properties, you can also reap the benefits by combining different oils together, as many oils complement each other aromatically and chemically. Frankincense, myrrh, cassia, orange, lavender, and lemon all combine very well together. So, if you’re looking for some inspiration, try blending frankincense or myrrh with one or more of the above oils and incorporating it into your daily prayer or meditation time. When you need guidance or uplifting during stressful times, don’t underestimate the effectiveness of simply diffusing or applying these oils topically. Using essential oils is a natural and powerful mood altering practice that is simple and natural. Many find their exotic overtones both aesthetically and spiritually pleasing from a sensory perspective, and there is research underway that suggests their use in aromatherapy is also beneficial from a clinical perspective.

Why not use this holiday season to treat yourself to the gifts of the earth that were fit enough for kings and very much for us today.

Paige Koeberle is a holistic health coach, essential oil educator, and member of the AADP (American Association of Drugless Practitioners) and the owner of Clean Slate Essentials, LLC in Pawling, NY. For a personal health and wellness assessment or for more information, call (732) 735-7314 or visit online.