Bowl of spices surrounding soap.

Thieves Essential Oil: A Folktale of the Black Death!

Bowl of spices surrounding soap.

Have you ever heard the story of the four thieves during the Black Death in Europe? It is quite an interesting tale and is the basis of the popular essential oil blend known as “Thieves.”

History of the Plague in Europe known as the Black Death

The Medieval silk trade route from China and Asia brought spices, wealth and new ideas to Europe. By the mid-1300’s it likely also brought the Black Death. In 1346 Europe and Asia were at the height of a devastating Bubonic plague that ravaged the countryside for then several years. It is estimated that 25 million people died in Europe during the four year pandemic that became best known as the “Black Death.”  The plague began with flu-like conditions that quickly attacked the blood system with a bacteria infection that ended in death. The illness was highly contagious to anyone who encountered the suffering, or dead, who had contracted it.

However, during this time it is said that there were four men who would pillage from the dead taking anything of value. These men were spice traders who had fallen on hard times due to the loss of trade. The story goes that when the King caught the thieves he promised to pardon them of their crimes if they told how they had managed to not contract the deadly plague. The thieves told the King that they used a combination of lemon, eucalyptus, rosemary, cloves and cinnamon and applied this concoction to the inside of the masks they wore over their faces as well as on their hands, temples, ears and feet.  I am sure you are familiar with the masks these men wore as they have become part of our Halloween garb and Steampunk designs. You can read more about that here. Of course, the other part of this story is that the doctors wore these masks and put the herbs inside them. So maybe the doctors got the idea from the thieves.

Plague Doctor

Modern Knowledge of the “Thieves” blend of herbs

We now know that these plants and spices contain  antimicrobial, anti-fungal, antiseptic and anti-viral properties. Cinnamon is well known for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial benefits. Cloves are high in antioxidants and kill bacterial, Eucalyptus can help clear mucus and is known to disinfect wounds. Rosemary increases circulation, has anti-inflammatory properties and is anti-microbial. Lemon oil helps relieve the symptoms of colds and, has anti-microbial properties. All of these herbs and spices assist in improving your immune system.

Uses for Essential Oil Blend and Fresh Herbs and Spices

Because we know these plants and spices contain  antimicrobial, anti-fungal, antiseptic and anti-viral properties they can be used in cleaning supplies. The concentration of these properties is even greater when essential oils are used. This blend of essential oils, now commonly known as “Thieves” is used to clean, disinfect homes and boost immune systems.

White vinegar can be infused with cinnamon stick, whole clove, lemon wedges, fresh rosemary and eucalyptus to make a potent cleaning solution that is great for disinfecting solid surfaces. This is a great nontoxic solution to cleaning and disinfecting your home that you can make yourself. Just place a combination of the five spices in a quart canning jar and fill with distilled white vinegar. Cap the jar with a plastic lid or line with wax paper to prevent the vinegar from causing a standard metal canning ring from rusting. Place the jar in a cool, dark cupboard and give it a shake whenever you think of it. Leave the vinegar to infuse for two weeks and then strain. Compost or discard the herbs. Mix the infused vinegar with an equal amount of water for a nontoxic cleaning solution that can be used on all hard surfaces ( except wood and natural stone) and windows.

The essential oils of these herbs and spices are commonly used in soap to promote anti-bacterial hand washing, can be mixed with alcohol or witch hazel to make a spray, as well as diluted into carrier oils to be applied directly to the skin. Applying the essential oils in carrier oils to our pulse points and bottoms of feet  is believed to give one an immune boost. Your skin is the body’s largest organ and the bottom of feet have the largest pores, making it the perfect place to absorb the essential oils. If nothing else, it certainly smells great!! 

Products Available

Red Sky Homestead offers both a “Thieves” blend soap and an essential oil Roller Ball Bottle that contains the traditional thieves blend. The essential oil blend used in the soap and roller bottle are hand poured and blended freshly at the time of pouring. Both are available on the online store that can be accessed here .

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. I am not a physician and do not claim that any of my products will treat or cure any illness or disease.

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