Should Christians use Aromatherapy Even Though Other Religions Use It Too?


The main purpose of the Bible is not to simply tell us about the daily lives of its characters, but much more importantly, to show us how God reveled Himself to various people, and to us. We can incidentally learn a lot about the way people lived in those days from the Bible and from other historic writings.  They regularly used various plant oils for spiritual ritual anointing, anointing for healing sickness and wounds and even for romantic encounters![1] The use of aromatic plants for anointing oil and incense was common knowledge.  The writers of the books of the Bible did not see the need to explain how to use aromatic oils; it was just common everyday custom.  


            In Exodus, as God was establishing the priesthood and all their duties, He gave a recipe for holy anointing oil and for holy incense[2], which was to be burned in the tabernacle morning and evening on the altar of incense, signifying perpetual prayer. Both the oil and incense were to be made according to the work of a perfumer or apothecary. Since the apothecary was a renowned master perfumer; this was simply a new recipe, God did not explain how to make anointing oil.


Moreover, the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, take also for yourself the finest of spices: of flowing myrrh five hundred shekels, and of fragrant cinnamon half as much, two hundred and fifty, and of fragrant cane two hundred and fifty, and of cassia five hundred, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, and of olive oil a hin.  You shall make of these a holy anointing oil, a perfume mixture, the work of a perfumer; it shall be a holy anointing oil.[3]


The Purpose of Anointing Oil


     Holy anointing oil was designated to anoint the tent of meetings and the furnishings in it, to consecrate them, “that they may be most holy: whatever touches them shall be holy[4]  However, it was absolutely not to be used on a layman, nor should it be reproduced for other uses[5].


            Myrrh grows in Arabia and Eastern Africa. The bark of the myrrh tree is scored so that the resin drips out, which then hardens. It can be kept free flowing by adding a vegetable oil, like olive oil. Five hundred shekels is probably a little more than 15 ¼ pounds according to Barns[6], but according to Halley[7] a shekel is less that half an ounce so 500 shekels is 250 pounds. Now, that much myrrh would cost well over $7,000!


            Cassia and cinnamon are both of the Cinnamomum family and were frequently imported form India and Ceylon by the people of Ophir, along with other spices[8]. Primarily it is the inner bark that is used for drying and distilling. Although, cinnamon leaves are also distilled for the oil; it is gentler and not as “hot” as the oil from the bark.


            Many scholars believe that fragrant cane is calamus, also known as sweet flag. Deni Bown in his book Encyclopedia of Herbs says that the oil from sweet flag (Acorus calamus) is potentially toxic and has been banned in the US by the FDA[9], although you can still find it for sale on the internet. It is found in the wild in North and East Asia. There is the possibility that it is not Acorus calamus. It could have been, according to Barnes Notes, lemongrass[10]. When you consider the fact that Exodus was written 1200 to 1400 years before Christ it is not surprising that we do not know exactly what plant they were talking about.



            The Tabernacle was not the only place where aromatic anointing oils and incense were used. Because of their sin, a plague was killing thousands of the Israelites. Aaron stopped the plague by running among the tents with a censer burning holy incense[11]. Aromatic anointing oils were used for less profound reasons too.  For example, both Isaiah 61:3and Hebrews 1:9mention using the oil of gladness and joy. Proverbs 27:9 says that oil can make the heart glad.  Kings David and Solomon, among others, used oils to fragrance garments[12], bed linens[13] and for perfume[14].


            Jesus spent much of his time on earth devotedly healing the sick, He cared deeply about their suffering.  He preformed some healing by laying his hands on people, and some just by speaking. At least once He healed by making mud with his spit[15], and one time, without seeming to know[16].  After a time of training his disciples, Jesus sent them out on their own to preach, cast out demons and heal the sick.  The disciples were given the gift of healing according to Matthew[17] so the healings they preformed were miraculous, but they did use anointing oil according to Mark[18].

            In his letter to the Christians of the early church, James admonishes them to use anointing oils.

Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; 15 and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.  16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed, the effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much[19].”

            According to James, to be healed you need to repent, confess to the church elders, pray with the church elders, and anoint with oil. Repentance and receiving forgiveness can be very healing both physically and emotionally. Have you ever had the elders come pray with you? Just knowing that these wise and compassionate men cared enough to come and pray with you is very uplifting! God can heal with or without all this but this process proves your contrite obedience[20].

            According to the Bible aromatherapy is part of every day life, around the house and at the worship center. God even gave a recipe for a blend of anointing oil and for incense. David and Solomon, the wisest man that ever lived, often referred to fragrant oils, James recommends anointing for healing and Jesus instructed His disciples to anoint the sick and pray for them. So should Christians use aromatherapy even though other religions use it too? Absolutely yes!


[1] Through-out Song of Solomon

[2] verses 34-38

[3] Exodus 30:22-25

[4] verse 29

[5] Verses 32-33

[6] Barnes, Albert. Barnes’ Notes on the Old and New Testaments, VolumeExodus-Ruth. Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1980page 84

[7] Halley, Henry. Halley’s Bible Handbook. Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids Michigan. 1959

[8] Barnes, Albert. Barnes’ Notes on the Old and New Testaments, VolumeExodus-Ruth. Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1980page 84

[9] Bown Deni. New Encyclopedia of Herbs and Their Uses. DK Publishing London. 2001 page 101

[10] Barnes, Albert. Barnes’ Notes on the Old and New Testaments, Volume Exodus-Ruth. Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1980page 84

[11] Numbers 16:46-50

[12] Psalms 45:8

[13] Proverbs 7:15-17

[14] Song of Solomon 1:12, Exodus 30:25, Mark 14:3, and many others

[15] John 9:6

[16] Matthew 9:20

[17] Matthew 10:1

[18] Mark 6:7-13

[19] James 5:14-16

[20] I Samuel 15:22


About nball252

Hi, my name is Naomi, I am a Christian, certified aromatherapist. I also have an Associate Degree in Bible. I looked for books about aromatherapy from a Christian point of view and didn't find any, so I wrote one, The Aromatherapy Advocate. An introductory book for Christians on aromatherapy. I have one son whom I home schooled. I started using essential oils 10 years ago. I love the fragrances and I love the powerful benefits of using essential oils. I received my certificate about 10 years ago and have been teaching and writing about aromatherapy from a Christian perspective since then.
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2 Responses to Should Christians use Aromatherapy Even Though Other Religions Use It Too?

  1. CL Hendricks says:

    Good article. Gave me much to think about. While I agree with what you’ve said, I am concerned about whether Christians should support companies that promote their particular essential oils and blends for uses that are unbiblical. Seeking peace from an essential oil cannot and should not (for a Christian) even be considered. Unfortunately, too many Christians are totally unaware of the spiritual dangers of essential oils when used for ungodly purposes. Some don’t care, while others would be appalled to find out that their favorite brand of oils is promoted for practices for which God condemned in the Word.


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