Biblical Fragrances and Their Spiritual Significance
The most important oils in the Bible
As is known, the beginning of Genesis describes the garden where Adam and Eve lived amidst the aromas of nature. In the last verses, reference is made to the embalming of Joseph’s body, which was traditionally done with a mixture of essential oils and vegetable oil. The two essential oils that appear most frequently in the Bible are myrrh and frankincense.
( Commiphora myrrha ). Myrrh is the resin that is obtained from the shrub of the same name, from the Burseráceas family, which comes from the Red Sea environment. Its bitter and mystical aroma distinguishes its oil. Myrrh oil is the most named in the Bible, being also the first, in Genesis (37:25) and the last, along with incense, to appear Revelation of St. John (18:13).
Myrrh was one of the oils that the Magi brought from the East as a present to the newborn Jesus. At that time, myrrh was used to prevent umbilical cord infections. After the death of Jesus, his body was prepared with sandalwood and myrrh. The myrrh then accompanied Jesus from his birth to his physical death.
Its oil has the special ability to lengthen the aroma of other oils without neutralizing them, which improves their quality. But by itself, it has many healing properties: it strengthens the immune system and has an antiseptic effect; It is a great anti-stress remedy because it improves the mood thanks to the effect of sesquiterpenes (62%) on the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and tonsil.
Many cultures knew its benefits: the Egyptians wore cones of grease flavored with myrrh on their heads to protect themselves from insect bites and cool off the desert heat.
The Arabs used myrrh to skin diseases and also to fight wrinkles. In the Old Testament, it is said that the Esther Jew, who was to marry the Persian king Ahasuerus, spent six months before the wedding bathing in myrrh.
The Romans and Greeks used myrrh for its bitter taste as a stimulant of appetite and digestion. The Hebrews and other biblical peoples chewed it as if it were a gum to avoid mouth infections.
( Boswellia carteri ). It comes from the Arab region and is characterized by an earthy and camphorated aroma. The oil is obtained by extraction and distillation of the resin from the bark of the tree. In ancient Egypt, incense was considered as a universal healing remedy. In Indian culture, within Ayurveda, incense also plays a fundamental role.
Along with the myrrh, it was the other present that the magicians from the East brought to Jesus:
“… And when they entered the house, they saw the child with his mother, Mary, and prostrating themselves, they worshiped him; and opening their treasures, they offered him presents: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:11)
Surely the Magi of the East chose incense because it was customary for the newborn children of kings and priests to be anointed with their oil.
Incense has an anti-inflammatory effect and is indicated for rheumatism, inflammatory bowel diseases, asthma, bronchitis, wrinkles, and skin impurities.
Incense properties related to consciousness are also conferred. Hence it plays an important role in meditation. Incense to burn in the form of a wand or cone is used in temples and for sacred purposes in general. Its balsamic aroma is unique and remains essential in perfumery compositions.
( Cedrus atlantica ). Cedar seems to be the first oil obtained by distillation. The Sumerians and Egyptians used this procedure to get the precious embalming oil and to disinfect. It was also used for ritual cleanings and for the care of leprosy patients, as well as to protect themselves from insects. Its effect is so strong that the cabinets made of this wood are able to keep moths away.
Cedar oil is made up of 98% sesquiterpenes that favor brain oxygenation and favor clear thinking.
Cedarwood improves sleep thanks to the stimulation of the hormone melatonin.
The oil is also antiseptic, prevents urinary infections, and regenerates the skin. It has been used in diseases such as bronchitis, gonorrhea, tuberculosis, and hair loss.
( Cinnamomum cassia ) and cinnamon ( Cinnamomum Verum ). They belong to the family of laureceae (laurels) and closely resemble the smell. Both oils have antiviral and antibacterial properties.
Cinnamon is one of the most potent antimicrobial oils that exist. It is also sexually stimulating.
Through inhalations or rubbing of the soles of the feet with both oils, the immune system can be strengthened and protected from colds.
Cassia is one of the components of the holy oil of Moses. This is explained in Exodus (30: 23-25):
“Also take the finest spices: myrrh fluid, five hundred shekels; of aromatic cinnamon, half, two hundred and fifty; and of aromatic cane, two hundred and fifty; of cassia, five hundred shekels, according to the sanctuary cycle, and a hin of olive oil. And you will make of it the oil of the holy anointing, a mixture of perfume, the work of a perfumer; it will be holy anointing oil.”
( Acorus calamus ). It is an Asian plant that grows preferentially on the banks of swamps.
The Egyptians knew the calamus as the “sacred cane” and for the Chinese, it had the property of extending life. In Europe, it is used as an appetite stimulant and invigorating. Its oil is also a component of the holy anointing of Moses. It was also used as incense and carried as a perfume.
Today the oil is used in muscle contractures, inflammations, and respiratory problems. [Pagebreak]
( Ferula gummosis ). It belongs to the Apiaceae family, such as parsley, and is related to fennel. The smell of its oil is earthy and emotionally stabilizes. A balsam is obtained from the milky juice of its dried root, which, due to its positive effect on female problems such as menstrual pains, is known as “mother resin.” It is antispasmodic and diuretic. The oil is used to improve digestive problems, respiratory diseases, and to reduce wrinkles.
The Egyptians used the galbanum to mummify their dead with their gummy resin. It was also used as incense and was attributed to a profound spiritual effect as seen in Exodus (30: 34-35):
“Jehovah also said to Moses: Take aromatic spices, stalk, and aromatic nail and aromatic galbanum and pure incense; of all in equal weight, and you will make of it the incense, a perfume according to the art of the perfumer, well mixed, pure and holy.”
Onycha / Styrax
( Styrax benzoin ). It is also known as “benzoin” or “Java incense.” It is an oil of golden color and with a smell similar to that of vanilla. It was often used in ancient times as incense thanks to its sweet and pleasant aroma. It favors deep relaxation, helps to fall asleep, and is used against fears and irritability. It has a deep cleansing effect. Hence it is also used in skincare.
( Nardostachys jatamansi ). En humid valleys and slopes of the Himalayas grow bitter and earthy tuberose fragrance. Its oil was one of the most valuable and was used as an anointing of kings and priests. According to the Bible, there was a great stir when Mary of Bethany used tuberose oil worth more than 300 denarii to anoint Jesus’ feet and hair (Mark 14: 3-8). Apparently, Judas and other disciples were a waste, but Jesus justified it.
It ensures that the oil manages to unite the body and spiritual planes. It has a strong effect on the nervous system, is calming, and promotes sleep. It is used in allergies, migraines, and dizziness. Strengthens courage and gives inner peace.
( Hyssopus officinalis ). It belongs to the family of the Lamiaceae, and in ancient Greece, it was used for its expectorant and sweaty properties in colds, coughs, bronchitis, flu, and asthma. Biblical peoples used it to cleanse people of addictions and bad habits. Thus, in Psalm 51, 7-11, it is said:
“Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I’ll be whiter than snow. Make me hear joy and joy; Let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and erase all my iniquities. Believe in me, O God, a clean heart, and renew a righteous spirit within me. Do not cast me out of your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.”
To obtain protection from the Angel of Death, the Israelis placed swab bushes on the door lintels.
Hyssop was used, especially in the case of respiratory tract conditions such as asthma.
( Myrtus communis ). The oil is obtained through the distillation of the young leaves, branches, or flowers of the myrtle bush, which is widespread throughout the Mediterranean region.
Myrtle has a strong meaning of cleanliness. Even today, the branches are used in bridal bouquets since they represent purity. It was said in ancient Rome that Aphrodite, goddess of beauty and love, emerged from the seas holding a branch of myrtle. Myrtle was used in biblical times for religious ceremonies and for purification rituals.
The French aromatherapist Dr. Daniel Pénoel discovered that myrtle was able to harmonize the functions of the ovaries and the thyroid. Respiratory problems can also be improved by inhaling this oil or receiving chest scrubs. The fresh and herbaceous smell of myrtle releases the airways.
In addition, the oil is suitable to combat constipation and helps in the case of psoriasis, wounds, and injuries.
( Santalum album ). The sandalwood tree, native to eastern India, is considered sacred in its homeland. In the Indian medical tradition of Ayurveda, its antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and antispasmodic effect are already known.
Sandalwood, of peculiar and pleasant aroma, was known in the Bible as aloe, although it had nothing to do with the well-known aloe vera plant. Sandalwood was already known for its supportive properties in meditation and as an aphrodisiac. Oil was also used for embalming.
Today this oil (very often, counterfeit) is used for skin care to improve sleep and to regulate the female endocrine and reproductive system.
Dig up the treasure
The forgotten oils of the Bible can be recovered and used effectively today. In their aromas, they contain an ancient force that we need more than ever.