DIY Thieves’ Oil

Oct, 06, 2015

By Kim Robson:

Have you ever heard of “Thieves’ Oil”? The recipes for this blend of essential oils vary, but the story of its origination dates back to the Middle Ages, when the Black Plague was decimating Europe and Asia.

The “thieves” in question were actually spice traders and merchants who, during the 15th century, traded salt, cinnamon, pepper, ginger, nutmeg and cloves along the Silk Road from India across Europe. As the bubonic plague spread, international shipping and trade came to a halt. Suddenly, the spice traders couldn’t support themselves.

Desperate, and with dead bodies everywhere, the merchants were forced to loot the plague-ridden bodies of their clothes, boots, jewelry, pots, pans — anything they could sell or trade for food and provisions. They applied their extensive knowledge of the medicinal properties of spices, vinegars and oils, and believed they wouldn’t get sick from handling the dead bodies. A mixture of oils with antiseptic, antibacterial, antiviral, and antimicrobial properties kept the merchants safe from airborne bacteria.

In fact, the “thieves” were so successful that their lucrative appropriation business came to the attention of the king. He wanted to know their secret — how were they not getting sick? Four of the thieves were captured and hauled before the king. He gave them a simple proposition: Share the secret or be burned at the stake.

Needless to say, they shared the secret oil blend, and the king distributed the “medicine” around the country. Who knows if the story is true? It may not matter. Read on.

Research conducted in the early 1990s at Weber State University by D. Gary Young, as well as other documented research, indicates that most viruses, fungi and bacteria cannot survive in the presence of many essential oils, especially those high in phenols, carvacrol, thymol and terpenes. This also offers a modern explanation for how the Old Testament prophet Moses used aromatic substances to protect the Israelites from plagues that decimated ancient Egypt.

Young found 17 different versions of the “Story of Thieves,” each containing different proportions of different oils. He researched the properties of the oils in each of the ingredient lists and developed his own proprietary Thieves’ Oil blend, but it’s quite pricey. Here are four recipes for making your own DIY Thieves’ Oil blend:

Thieves’ Oil Blend #1theives oil

  • 40 drops Clove Essential Oil
  • 35 drops Lemon Essential Oil
  • 20 drops Cinnamon Essential Oil
  • 15 drops Eucalyptus Essential Oil
  • 10 drops Rosemary Essential Oil

Thieves’ Oil Blend #2

  • 200 drops Clove Oil
  • 175 drops Lemon Oil
  • 100 drops Cinnamon Bark
  • 75 drops Eucalyptus Oil
  • 50 drops Rosemary Oil

*Note: One 15 ml bottle of essential oil contains approximately 255 drops. One 5 ml bottle contains approximately 85 drops.

Thieves’ Oil Blend #3

  • 1 Tbs. Clove Essential Oil
  • 1 Tbs. Lemon Essential Oil
  • 2 ½ Cinnamon Bark Essential Oil
  • 2 tsp. Eucalyptus Essential Oil
  • 2 tsp. Rosemary Essential Oil

Thieves’ Oil Blend #4

  • 2 tsp. Clove Oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Lemon Oil
  • 1 tsp. Cinnamon Bark Oil
  • 3/4 tsp. Eucalyptus Oil
  • 1/2 tsp. Rosemary Oil


Store your blend in a dark bottle, in a cool dark place. Thieves’ Oil can be used every day. You can diffuse the oil, use it topically, clean your home with it, or ingest it to aid digestion and support your immune system, circulation, and respiratory system, and help protect against the flu, colds, bronchitis, pneumonia, sore throats, and infections from cuts and scrapes.


Diffusing Thieves’ Oil will purify your air, eliminate odors, and strengthen your lungs, sinuses, and entire respiratory system. And it smells wonderful. Add 15-20 drops to an essential oil diffuser for 15 minutes three or four times a day.

All-Purpose Spray

Make an easy all-purpose spray by adding 1 drop of Thieves’ Oil for every ½ ounce of water in a spray bottle. This solution is a bit strong and can be lessened to 1 drop per 1 ounce if you find it overpowering. Shake the bottle vigorously before and during use. Use it to clean and disinfect just about everything. Use like Febreeze to remove funky odors, or clean microbial bacteria off surfaces, and keep baby’s diaper pail fresh and disinfected.

*NOTE: Cats and essential oils don’t mix. Don’t spray on cat’s bedding. Diffusers are fine, though.

Topical Use

Add 1 drop of Thieves’ Oil to 4 drops carrier oil such as grapeseed, jojoba, coconut, or avocado oil. You can massage this blend on your feet, lower back, neck, and behind your ears. Rubbing this oil blend on the undersides of your feet daily promotes a healthy immune system. If you’re feeling sick, coat your feet and wear socks to bed. Or, dilute 15 drops of Thieves’ Oil with 15 drops of carrier oil and massage over lungs, chest and back to improve breathing.

Household Use

Add to laundry loads, dishwasher loads, and floor and countertops to remove any stubborn, sticky buildup or even just to give a great, deep antibacterial clean that doesn’t smell like chemicals.

Refresh your kids’ stuffed animals or your dog’s bed, clean your cell phone and other devices, or wipe houseplant leaves to keep them bug-free and shiny. Soak a cotton ball and stash in the home, car, or office air vents to eliminate odors. Thieves’ Oil even helps to dispel bed bugs!

Massage Therapy

Add 1 drop of Thieves’ Oil to 4 drops carrier oil such as grapeseed, jojoba, coconut, or avocado oil. Massage into the back, thighs and neck to relieve minor aches and pains. Also relieves insect bites.

Internal Use

Add 1 drop of Thieves’ Oil to a reusable water bottle and drink throughout the day. This will help clean your digestive tract and support a healthy immune system. Or add 1 drop to a cup of warm water and drink before dinner. Wait 15 minutes before eating for best results. Add 2-3 drops to 2 Tbsp. of water and gargle to relieve a sore or dry throat.


  • For aches and pains, dilute 1 drop Thieves’ Oil with 4 drops of carrier oil, and apply to the affected area. You can apply the oil directly, or as a compress by soaking a gauze or bandage.
  • For a headache, put a drop of Thieves’ Oil on your thumb and place against the roof of your mouth. Just be sure not to lick your lips, as this may burn.
  • To clear clogged sinuses, place a few drops in a bowl of steaming water and, covering your head with a towel, lean over the bowl to inhale the vapors.
  • Thieves’ Oil can also be used as toothpaste or mouthwash. Use 1 drop per ounce of water for mouthwash, or 2 drops per 4 Tbsp. baking soda for toothpaste.

Kim Robson

Kim Robson lives and works with her husband in the Cuyamaca Mountains an hour east of San Diego. She enjoys reading, writing, hiking, cooking, and animals. She has written a blog since 2006 at kimkiminy.wordpress.com. Her interests include the environment, dark skies, astronomy and physics, geology and rock collecting, living simply and cleanly, wilderness and wildlife conservation, and eating locally.

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