Aromatherapy is an ancient practice that has, in recent years, been associated with the New Age philosophy or eastern religious practices. However, not many people think of the bible when they hear mention of aromatherapy. Aromatherapy was used frequently in the bible, although not in the form that aromatherapy is used today.
Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils obtained from plants for therapeutic benefit. In biblical times the essential oils were not often extracted and the plants were used mainly as infusions – spices were added to a carrier oil (usually olive oil) and the essential oils diffused into the oil, permeating the olive oil with the scent and properties of the spices it contained. The spices were obtained from grinding the pertinent parts of the plant into a powder. They may also have put whole leaves, flowers or roots into the olive oil. We still use this technique in aromatherapy today, but in many cases we use the more concentrated essential oils that have been extracted through various techniques.
The most notable mentions of aromatherapy, and the most detailed, are the formulas God provided the Israelites in Exodus chapter 30 for creating the anointing oil and temple incense. However, there are also wedding fragrances mentioned in Song of Songs and beauty treatments in Ester. Medicinal, cleansing and embalming applications are also noted throughout the bible.
Looking at aromatherapy in a Christian context begs the question: Why would God, who created the plants and gave them the medicinal properties they possess, not want us to make use of His creation? A study of the bible answers that question. I will be looking more closely at each of these biblical applications and the plants used for each. There is much we can learn about aromatherapy from the bible if we can only look past the religious connotations and practices that have been applied to it in the 21st century.