How to Make Your Own Thieves Oil

An easy and aromatic blend of five simple ingredients
By Margaret Trey
Margaret Trey
Margaret Trey
October 16, 2013 Updated: October 16, 2013

Most of us are familiar with cinnamon and cloves as spices and use rosemary and lemons in our cooking and possibly eucalyptus oil to refresh ourselves. 

Yet many of us may be unfamiliar with the healing properties of these plants. When combined, cinnamon, cloves, rosemary, eucalyptus, and lemons are known as the five-essential-oils blend, or thieves oil blend.

It is widely believed that the thieves oil blend has antiseptic, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-infectious properties. Studies have indicated that the five-essential-oils blend helps to boost the immune, circulatory, and respiratory systems, and that the synergy of the concoction helps protect against the flu, cold, sore throat, bronchitis, and airborne bacteria. 

Thieves Legends

Legend has it that a group of thieves in 15th-century Europe were robbing the sick and the dead during an outbreak of the bubonic plague. To protect themselves from getting sick, the thieves used a blend of clove, cinnamon, eucalyptus, rosemary, and lemon oils. 

Not much is known about how the thieves actually used the secret concoction, but it is generally believed that they rubbed themselves—their hands and faces—with a blend of these herbs and spices and probably carried the stuff in pouches or wore a scarf saturated with it. 

The thieves are believed to have been spice traders and perfumers and hence were readily equipped with these powerful healing ingredients.

One version of the thieves’ legend is that when four thieves were caught, they gained leniency for their crimes by disclosing their secret for not succumbing to the dreaded plague. 

Another version of the story is that the thieves were already caught, and the punishment for their crimes was to bury the dead victims of the plague. To protect themselves, they developed this concoction of spices, herbs, and oils. 

While no one knows the truth behind the story of the thieves, today Thieves has become a registered trademark and is used for a range of health-oriented products with these five ingredients. For busy people who do not have time for do-it-yourself projects, it is easy to purchase the Thieves oil blend from a health store or online. 

Homemade Theives Oil Blend

For those who have some time, it is easy to make your own thieves oil blend with whole ingredients for a fraction of the cost of the commercial brands. Here is a recipe that you can try on a blissful Sunday afternoon. All you need is a measuring cup, a fine-mesh strainer, and a medium-size pot. 

I use a glass pot because glass does not retain the aromatic fragrance of the spices and oils. You can also use a stainless steel pot, but you would not want to use an earthenware pot unless you want the pot and your food to smell and taste like thieves oil blend.


• 4 pieces of cinnamon bark
• 1/2 cup of whole cloves
• Peel from two medium lemons
• 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary (or 4 drops of rosemary essential oil)
• 4 cups of water (preferably filtered or spring water)
• 5 drops of eucalyptus essential oil (if you are unable to find eucalyptus leaves)


1. Peel the lemon with a potato peeler or knife.

2. Put the lemon peel, cinnamon bark, cloves, and the rosemary sprigs in the pot, together with 4 cups of water. 

3. Cover the pot and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat.

4. Lower the heat and let the mixture simmer for 30 minutes. If you prefer the energy-saving approach, you can let the herbal oil fusion sit for a couple of hours.

5. Add the 5 drops of eucalyptus oil and 4 drops of rosemary oil (if you are unable to buy fresh rosemary).

6. Strain the aromatic brew and store it in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid.

You can reuse the ingredients to make another three batches, but add a fresh lemon each time. Keep the used ingredients in a glass jar in the refrigerator until you are ready to make another batch. 

The thieves blend makes a great gift for your environment-conscious friends, and the warm and refreshing scent will fill your kitchen and entire house.


While no claims are made, your homemade thieves oil blend can be used for a variety of cleaning jobs. 

As a general all-purpose spray, mix 2 tablespoons of your homemade thieves oil blend with 1 cup of water. Depending on the size of your spray bottle, you can increase these amounts. 

I make a couple of spray bottles—one for the kitchen and another one for the bathroom—and use it for household-cleaning jobs such as counter tops, stove, sinks, tile floors, tabletops, and the bathtub. 

The thieves oil blend also works like magic on window glass and mirrors. The secret is to add a quarter cup of vinegar to the spray bottle. 

My favorite way of using the blend is to hand-wash dishes. Mix 4 tablespoons of thieves blend with 2 cups of water, 1/2 teaspoon of any brand of dishwashing liquid, and about 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda. I store the mixture in a squirt bottle and it usually lasts me about two weeks.

Besides my dishes and glassware coming out sparkling clean, using the homemade thieves oil blend for cleaning means making an environment-friendly choice and reducing the toxins around children and pets.

Dr. Margaret Trey holds a doctoral degree in counseling from the University of South Australia and was a natural health consultant and the director of Spirit Shiatsu and Wellness Works Counseling in Australia for more than 10 years. Now based in New York, Dr. Trey writes and continues her research on the effects of meditation on health and wellness.