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While reading about essential oils, you may have heard about something called thieves oil. Thieves oil is actually a blend of several essential oils, most often:

  • Cinnamon: Made from the bark, leaves, or twigs of several species of cinnamon tree
  • Clove: Made from the undeveloped buds of the flowers found on the Eugenia caryophyllata species of clove tree
  • Eucalyptus: Obtained from the leaves of Eucalyptus plants, which are native to Australia
  • Lemon: Extracted from the rinds of the lemon fruit, Citrus limon
  • Rosemary: Derived from the herb rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis

Some of the potential benefits of thieves oil include things like boosting immune function and fighting infections.

But what does the research actually say about thieves oil? And how can you use it in your day-to-day life? Read on to discover more.

You may see thieves oil advertised as having the following benefits:

  • boosting the immune system
  • having antimicrobial activity
  • fighting nasal and sinus congestion
  • promoting respiratory and cardiovascular health
  • energizing or uplifting mood

Many of the above benefits are based off anecdotal claims. That means they’re based on personal testimony or experience.

However, researchers are hard at work investigating many of the properties of essential oils as they relate to health and wellness.

Research into thieves oil itself is very limited. An older study found that diffused thieves oil significantly lowered the airborne levels of three different types of bacteria.

A lot more research has been done on the benefits of the individual components of thieves oil.

What’s discussed below is a snapshot of some of the research that’s been performed on the individual plant oils often used in thieves oil blends.

Also keep in mind many of these studies are done on animals. More research is needed to confirm these findings in humans.

Antimicrobial properties

  • A 2017 study found that low concentrations of cinnamon and clove oil had high antimicrobial activity against persistent cultures of Borrelia burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme disease.
  • A 2018 study found that vapors of cinnamon oil inhibited the growth of respiratory pathogens like Haemophilus influenzae and Streptococcus pneumoniae in a petri dish. But eucalyptus oil had little activity.
  • A 2012 study showed that eucalyptus oil had antimicrobial activity against two types of bacteria that can cause disease in humans: Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Staphylococcus aureus (skin infections).
  • Overall, fewer studies have been performed on lemon oil. But two studies from 2019 observed that it has some antimicrobial properties.

Wound healing

  • A 2019 study in mice found that topical application of cinnamaldehyde, a component of cinnamon oil, promoted wound healing. It also reduced the amount of bacteria in wounds infected with Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
  • A 2018 study in rats found that a specialized emulsion preparation containing eucalyptus oil promoted wound healing.

Pain relief

  • A 2019 study in mice looked at potential pain-relieving effects of eucalyptus oil. Researchers found that injecting or inhaling eucalyptus oil might be effective in relieving some types of pain.

Effects on mood

  • A very small 2013 study investigated the effects of inhaling rosemary oil on mood. By recording and comparing body changes such as heart rate, blood pressure, skin temperature, and other physical measures, researchers concluded that rosemary oil had a stimulating affect.
  • In the same study, researchers also found that participants who inhaled rosemary oil felt fresher or more active. Increases in respiratory rate, heart rate, and blood pressure were also observed.

So, how can you use essential oils to make your own thieves oil blend? Mountain Rose Herbs suggests the following recipe for thieves oil:

  • 40 drops clove bud essential oil
  • 35 drops lemon essential
  • 20 drops cinnamon bark essential oil
  • 15 drops eucalyptus essential oil
  • 10 drops rosemary essential oil

Mix all the components together and store in a dark glass bottle. Remember that this solution is highly concentrated. Always dilute it properly before using it.

You may also wish to experiment and make your own thieves oil blend by adding or substituting other essential oils.

For example, you may wish to substitute different citrus oils for lemon, such as orange or bergamot. Or, you may choose to add an additional herbal kick by adding in some thyme to the traditional recipe.

Doing this may take some trial and error to reach the right balance of aromas. Keep in mind that adding too much of a strong aroma could overpower more subtle ones.

Here are some ways you can use thieves oil in your day-to-day life.

Diffusion

A diffuser is a device that allows the scent of essential oils to disperse throughout a room. Typically the oils are placed in the diffuser along with water. Diffusion can be good for things like:

  • providing ambiance to a room
  • promoting alertness
  • elevating mood
  • reducing feelings of stress or anxiety

To use thieves oil for diffusion, carefully follow the product instructions that came with your diffuser. This is important, because the directions may vary by product.

Steam inhalation

Steam inhalation involves adding essential oils to a bowl of steaming water. The hot water vaporizes the oil, allowing it to be inhaled with the steam. This application may help with respiratory congestion or sinus issues.

To use thieves oil for steam inhalation, you can do the following:

  1. Add several drops of thieves oil to steaming water. You may want to start with just a couple drops so the scent isn’t overwhelming.
  2. Place a towel over your head and lean over the bowl of water.
  3. Keeping your eyes closed, breathe in deeply through your nose.

Massage

You can also make massage oils using essential oils. To do this, the thieves oil must be diluted in another type of oil, which is called a carrier oil. Carrier oils can include things like jojoba oil and coconut oil. Don’t apply essential oils directly on the skin unless diluted in a carrier oil.

The University of Minnesota Center for Spirituality and Healing recommends that the total percentage of essential oil shouldn’t exceed 3 to 5 percent of the total solution volume.

If you’re planning on applying massage oil to a large area, consider using a 1 percent solution.

Lotions and creams

You can also add thieves oil to unscented lotions and creams. These preparations can then be used for purposes such as soothing, cleansing, or helping with wound healing.

Like with massage oils, you’ll need to dilute thieves oil in the cream or lotion before applying it to your skin.

The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy recommends that the final essential oil concentration be 1 to 2.5 percent for normal skin and 0.5 to 1 percent for sensitive skin.

Spray application

You can also use thieves oil in a spray. You may find this helpful for enhancing the scent of a room. Or you may want to tap into the antimicrobial properties of thieves oil and use it as a mild cleanser.

To use thieves oil in a spray:

  1. Add 10 to 15 drops of thieves oil per ounce of water used.
  2. Optional: Add a dispersing agent, such as solubol, to the solution. This helps the oil diffuse better in the water.
  3. Shake well and spray. You’ll need to shake it every time before you spray.

Always use essential oils safely. The components of thieves oil have some safety risks that you should be aware of.

Skin reactions

Both cinnamon and clove oil are potential skin irritants. If topical application of thieves oil causes redness, swelling, or itching, avoid using it in the future.

If you’re planning on topically applying thieves oil, conduct a patch test first. To do this:

  1. Clean your forearm with unscented soap and dry thoroughly.
  2. Add a small amount of diluted thieves oil to an area on your forearm.
  3. Cover with a bandage or gauze.
  4. Leave the covering on for at least 24 hours. Then remove and check for irritation.

It’s also important to note that you can develop a sensitivity to both of these oils over time with repeated application. This is called sensitization.

Photosensitivity

Lemon oil can lead to photosensitivity. This means that exposure to the sun or other ultraviolet radiation can lead to burning or pigmentation changes. If you’re topically applying thieves oil, avoid going out in direct sunlight without proper sun protection.

Always follow the safety guidelines below when working with any essential oil:

  • Always dilute essential oils properly before using. Never apply an undiluted essential oil directly to your skin.
  • Don’t eat or drink essential oils unless you’re under the supervision of a qualified professional. In fact, eucalyptus oil, which is a component of thieves oil, can be toxic when ingested.
  • When using essential oils for aromatherapy, make sure the room you’re in has good ventilation.
  • Think about who else is in the room inhaling the aromatherapy. Some essential oils are dangerous for pregnant women, children, and pets.
  • Keep essential oils away from your eyes.
  • If you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or trying to become pregnant, talk with your doctor before using essential oils.
  • Keep essential oils in a place where children and pets can’t get to them.
  • When shopping for essential oils, be aware of any product information that claims to treat a specific disease or condition. The Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate most essential oils, so these claims may be more marketing and not be validated by research.
Essential oils & Pet safety

It’s important to know that some essential oils can be very harmful to animals, even when diffused and depending on dilution. If you have questions or concerns about your pet, speak to a veterinarian. More resources are available from places like the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center.

There are several commercially available thieves oil products. Some of them contain variations on the ingredients listed above.

Brand and productEssential oils included
Young Living Thieves Essential Oil Blendclove bud

lemon peel

cinnamon bark

eucalyptus leaf leaf
doTERRA On Guard Protective Blendwild orange peel

clove bud

cinnamon leaf

cinnamon bark

eucalyptus leaf

rosemary leaf
Eden’s Garden Fighting Fivelemon

cinnamon leaf

Moroccan rosemary

clove bud

Eucalyptus globulus

Eucalyptus radiata

Thieves oil is a blend of essential oils that’s often made up of:

  • clove
  • lemon
  • cinnamon
  • eucalyptus
  • rosemary

Variations on this blend are also available.

The potential benefits of thieves oil include boosting the immune system, promoting respiratory health, and fighting microbes.

Although some of these benefits are anecdotal, the individual components of thieves oil have been shown to have antimicrobial properties, promote wound healing, and may provide pain relief.

Thieves oil can be used for a variety of applications. Like with any essential oil, always be sure to follow the proper safety precautions when using thieves oil.

If you have any concerns about using thieves oil, discuss them with a healthcare provider first.