How to Make Thieves Oil: A Safe, Natural Disinfectant & Health Aid

bottle of Thieve's oil on a table next to rosemary branches

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With cold and flu season in full swing, everyone should have a bottle of Thieves®* oil in their natural first aid kit to help kill germs in your body and around your home.

Powerful and versatile, Thieves®* oil is a combination of essential oils that can stimulate the immune system, circulation and respiratory system, and help protect against the flu, colds, sore throats, cuts, and more. Here’s how to make it…

History of Thieves®* Oil

Legend has it that a band of spice merchants became thieves in the 15th century, when pandemic Plague crashed the economy. They used a blend of herbs and spices to rob the gravely ill and deceased without becoming infected themselves. When finally caught for their crimes, the thieves supposedly traded their recipe for a lighter sentence.

Whether or not the legend is true, the ingredients in this mixture are known to have antibacterial, antiseptic and antiviral properties. In fact, Thieves®* oil blend (sometimes called Four Thieves oil) was tested by Weber State University in Utah in 1997, and found to kill 96% of airborne bacteria when diffused into a room.

Ingredients in Thieves®* Oil

Thieves®* oil is traditionally a blend of five essential oils:

  • Cinnamon: Made from the bark, leaves, or twigs of several species of cinnamon tree
  • Clove: Made from the undeveloped buds of the flowers of the clove tree, Eugenia caryophyllata
  • Eucalyptus: Obtained from the leaves of Eucalyptus trees
  • Lemon: Extracted from lemon rinds, Citrus limon
  • Rosemary: Made from the herb rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis

A lot of research has been done on the benefits of the individual oils that comprise Thieves®* oil. For instance:

  • 2017 study found that cinnamon and clove oils had high antimicrobial activity against persistent cultures of Borrelia burgdorferi, the pathogen involved in Lyme disease.
  • 2018 study found that vapors of cinnamon oil inhibited the growth of respiratory pathogens like Haemophilus influenzae and Streptococcus pneumoniae in a petri dish.
  • 2019 study in mice found that topical application of a component of cinnamon oil promoted wound healing. It also reduced the amount of bacteria in wounds infected with Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
  • 2018 study in rats found that a special preparation of eucalyptus oil promoted wound healing.
  • 2012 study showed that eucalyptus oil had antimicrobial activity against Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Staphylococcus aureus (skin infections).

How to Use Thieves®* Oil

Essential oils are strong and must be diluted in either oil or water for safe use, whether you plan to use them on their own or as ingredients in something like a massage oil, skin lotion, or aroma spray.

Whichever dilution method you choose, the essential oil content should only account for 0.5% to 2% of the total blend. This works out to 3 to 12 drops per ounce of finished product.

Good carrier oils for essential oils include:

Here are some suggestions for how you can use your Thieves®* oil.

Thieves®* Oil for Household Use

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Diffusing – Diffusing the oil will purify the air and eliminate odors. Diffuse several drops of thieves oil for 20-30 minutes in an essential oil diffuser, or in a pot of simmering water on the stove.

If our house or family members have been exposed to any colds, flu or other infectious illnesses, we run the diffuser continuously for a few days. At the very first sign of any cold or flu we diffuse the oil continually until symptoms subside. We also run the diffuser in the bedroom of anyone who is sick, while they sleep at night.

Thieves®* Oil Disinfectant Spray – This spray solution cleans and disinfects around the home, purifying the air and eliminating odors. Fill a spray bottle with half water and half 91% isopropyl alcohol and add 10 drops of essential oil blend for each ounce of water in the bottle. Shake vigorously before each use.

Use in the air or on countertops, doorknobs, toys, phones, litter boxes, pet beds, and other places that need deodorizing and disinfecting.

Dishwasher and Laundry – Add 4-5 drops to your dishwasher soap cup or to the water in your laundry machine to thoroughly clean, eliminate bacteria and odors. This is especially great to use for washing cloth diapers.

Floors– add a 10-15 drops to ½ bucket of cleaning water.

Pests– To repel aphids, ants or bedbugs, spray plants, surfaces, floors, and mattresses with a mixture of 2 drops oil to every 4 ounces of water.

Thieves®* Oil for Common Ailments

While Thieve’s®* oil is certainly no substitute for proper medical treatment, the oil blend can provide at-home relief for a number of minor ailments.

Massage oil – Add 1 drop of the essential oil blend to 5 milliliters of a nice massage carrier oil like almond, jojoba, grapeseed or olive oils. Massage on the feet, back, neck and arms. On children, massage just their feet. Test your skin for sensitivity first, before using.

Colds, flu and bronchitis – Dilute 2-3 drops of the oil blend with 5 milliliters of a carrier oil like almond, olive or jojoba. Apply to your back, chest, and back of neck to help with symptoms. For coughs and bronchitis, also apply to your feet and throat.

If you can take a stronger blend, add a few more drops of the oil blend, to tolerance. (See caution below.)

Head and lung congestion – Place a few drops of Thieves®* oil in a steaming bowl of hot water, cover your head with a towel and inhale vapors.

Sore throat – Add 2 drops of oil to 1 ounce of water and gargle. Spit out after.

Headache – Place a drop of the oil blend on your thumb and place your thumb on the roof of your mouth. May require repeated applications. Be careful not to lick your lips because the cinnamon oil in the mixture can burn. Use olive or almond oil to wipe it off if you do.

Cuts and scrapes – Dilute 1-2 drops of the essential oil blend in 20 drops of a carrier oil like almond, olive or jojoba oil, and apply to a wound or scrape to help prevent infection, reduce pain and inflammation, and speed healing. You can also apply diluted Thieves®* oil to your gauze or bandage.

Poison ivy and mosquito, bee & wasp stings – Combine 1 drop of oil blend and 1 drop of lavender essential oil for each ounce of water in a spray bottle, and spray on insect bites, poison oak, and poison ivy rashes to reduce inflammation, pain, itching, and irritation.

Bad breath and tooth decay – Add a drop of the oil blend to your toothbrush to sanitize it. Or, add a couple drops of oil blend to 4 Tbsp. of baking soda, place in small container (not plastic) and shake well. Dip toothbrush in mixture and brush.

Thieves®* Oil Precautions

Skin Irritation

The cinnamon bark, clove and eucalyptus oils in Thieves®* oil can irritate your skin if applied undiluted. Always test yourself or your child for sensitivity, and dilute your oil blend with a carrier oil like almond, grapeseed, jojoba or olive oil so the essential oil blend is no more than 2% of the solution.

If topical application of Thieves®* oil causes redness, swelling, or itching, use carrier or vegetable oil to quickly remove it from your skin, and avoid using it in the future.

Photosensitivity

Lemon oil can cause photosensitivity, which means that exposure to the sun or other ultraviolet light with lemon oil on your skin can lead to skin burning or pigmentation changes. If you’re topically applying Thieves®* oil, avoid going out in direct sunlight without proper sun protection.

Ingestion

Some people recommend ingesting diluted or encapsulated Thieves®* oil blend for health purposes. However, the cinnamon, clove and eucalyptus oils in the mixture can be very irritating—or even toxic—if consumed.

Essential oils should only be taken internally if you have received a detailed consultation or a prescription from a trained and qualified aromatherapy practitioner.

It is easy to make your own Thieves®* oil recipe for a fraction of the cost of store-bought blends available from online distributors. Here’s my recipe for making the blend yourself.

bottle of Thieve's oil on a table next to rosemary branches

DIY Thieves®* Oil Blend Recipe

A DIY version of the famous, germ-killing essential oil blend.
Cook Time: 15 mins
Total Time: 15 mins
Cuisine: Herbal Remedy
Approx. Cost: $10
Servings: 1 oz.

Ingredients
 
 

Instructions
 

  • Mix all essential oils together in a 1 or 2 ounce dark glass bottle with eye dropper cap.
  • Shake well to mix.
  • Adjust the ratios to suit your needs and smell preference, if you wish. (I always add more cinnamon and rosemary.)
  • Shake well before each usage. Remember that this solution is highly concentrated. Always dilute it properly before using it.

NOTES

One 15 ml bottle of essential oil contains approximately 250 drops and one 5 ml bottle contains approximately 85 drops.

*The word “Thieves®” (yes, just the word) is a registered trademark of Young Living Essential Oils, LLC. Small Footprint Family is not affiliated with Young Living Essential Oils, LLC in any way. (And recipes for the oil blend existed long before trademarks did.)

Updated November 11, 2021

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