Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Biblical Oils - Spikenard

Well, we've done it. This is the last week of our review of the essential oils in the Bible. And what an oil to end on. . .Spikenard. It's a strange word to me and begs the question, "What in the world is a spikenard?" Actually, some people call it 'nard'. Still, do you know what it is?

Well, I didn't. It's definitely a word I glossed over in my Bible reading. But it's there for a reason. So what's the reason? Let's see what we find out.

As I mentioned before, depending on your translation of the Bible Spikenard may be referred to as nard, but it may not be mentioned specifically at all. The only place in the Old Testament where it is found is in Song of Solomon. First the bride talks about her scents of Spikenard reaching the king at his table then the king tells her she is like a garden and Spikenard is one of her plants. Don't you find it interesting to be referred to as a garden? Hmm.

The New Testament has two references (Mark 14 and John 12) but they are recounting similar incidents that occurred four days apart, yet both divulge some interesting facts. Spikenard was precious and expensive; it could have been bought and sold for more than a year's wages! It had to be held in a sealed alabaster container so that the smell didn't give it away. Because once it was out in the open the aroma could fill the entire house. It gave Judas and others a fit to have an entire half liter of this spread over Jesus's feet then his head. (Note: Jesus reprimanded the complaining men not the women who spent the money.)

We learn so much about the company that Jesus kept by these passages. When the Bible says it was costly, it was expensive and still is. Of course, the Bible states a year's wages as the price but there's no way to know how much that was. There is much speculation as to the exact amount, but Essential Oil pocket reference does mention that this oil was used only by priests, kings and high initiates. Hello, Jesus had friends who were high in society, which explains why so many of his followers could fit into a house to eat and listen to Jesus teach. And a woman of the house could spend that much money and still be able to entertain a group of men.

People of Israel weren't the only ones who used it either. After all, it comes from India, where it was not just perfume, but also part of medical practices. Historically, Egyptians used it as part of a mixture called kyphi which was used to calm fear and anxiety, thus promoting restful sleep and pleasant dreams. And if you read the word 'nardinum', an ancient oil mixture renown for its aroma, spikenard is in that too.

So what other ailments is it advertised for? Reference Guide for Essential Oils says it's good for allergic skin reactions and has antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and deodorant properties. Essential Oil pocket reference adds that it's an immune stimulant.  If you recall I mentioned sesquiterpenes in one of my earlier posts. These help the body return things back to normal. And this oil has a high percent of this in its chemical make-up.

I can't help but be drawn to the fact that there are oils whose very nature is to regenerate an area to the point of wholeness. This is something God does for us spiritually. When we turn something over to Him, He takes us through various cleansing processes and trials to get us to the point that we are whole. Whatever the hurt or wound, He makes it new and better. How awesome it is to see with our eyes what God does to the unseen part of us.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Biblical Oils - Cinnamon

I know what you're thinking. Cinnamon, an oil? Well, it's true and it fits right in with the oils we've talked about over the last several weeks. You see, while it's not a tree, although a cinnamon stick looks like a tree, it is processed from the bark of a tree. In fact the oil is actually called Cinnamon Bark.

Most of us think of cinnamon as a spice that brings a delicious flavor to rolls, breads, candy, cookies, and, well, the list goes on. But ancient people knew it for medicinal reasons. China was one of the places that used it as part of their medical practices. And it was listed in the medical "go to" book used in Europe for over 1,700 years according to Essential Oils pocket reference.

"Cinnamon has medical uses?" You ask. Why yes, yes it does.
In fact, it's strong stuff. Used straight it can cause an irritation to the nasal membranes if inhaled directly whether by diffuser or straight from the bottle. However, when used appropriately just look at its laundry list of properties: anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antidepressant, antiviral, anti-fungal, antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-parastic, anticoagulant, astringent, circulatory stimulant, purifier, stomach protectant and antiseptic. Whew, that was a mouthful of words. In case I may have missed a few uses there's more information on cinnamon at this site.

When it comes to the Biblical references of Cinnamon, it's a great example of how something can be used for extreme good or bad. In Exodus 30, it is an ingredient in the sacred only-to-be-used-for-God's-temple anointing oil that made the tent of meeting and all its contents consecrated and most holy. But by itself Cinnamon found its way into the beloved's garden in Song of Solomon. And, here's where the bad comes in, it was part of the perfumes on the bed of the adulteress in Proverbs 7. The last place we see it mentioned is in Revelations 18. It will be one of the spices forever lost when the great and mighty city of Babylon is destroyed.

Perhaps its greatest notoriety was being combined in the mixture now known simply as Thieves.

I know it sounds like an odd name for an oil but when you hear the history behind it, it all makes sense. You see, during the time of the plague in 15th century Europe, thieves rubbed an oil concoction on themselves to avoid catching the plague while they robbed the sick and dead. When caught they were allowed to keep their goods if they told the authorities how they protected themselves. Turns out this concoction contained clove, lemon, eucalyptus, rosemary, and cinnamon.

I must admit that cinnamon packs a punch I never saw coming. I've known it to be a strong flavor, but now I know what's hidden in this delicious spice. And as for the oil blend Thieves, I am growing in appreciation of its properties.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Biblical Oils - Cedarwood

Do you remember me saying that when I read the Bible I often read over words I don't understand, like cities or land locations? Of course, I've written posts in the past based on the importance of some of these places. Well, now I'm admitting to doing the same thing when it comes to sacrifices or cleansing processes in the Bible. Take for instance today's topic, Cedarwood. Look at Leviticus 14 and Numbers 19.

Some translations see the Cedarwood in Leviticus 14 as wood not an oil. Yet, it's part of the purification process after a house has been cleansed of mildew (NIV); sounds like the work of an oil to me. And by the way, I think the "mildew" translation makes better sense than a brown or red plague happening on a wall.

In Numbers 19 Cedarwood is part of the burnt offering of a red heifer for cleansing and purification from sin. And, we again see a wood whose oil is not just part of a renewal process but also the restoration that God will do to the land of Israel. (Ezekiel 17, 31 and Isaiah 41)

The godly are said to grow as tall and strong as a cedar in Psalm 92. This brings up a comparison I'd like to share. The tree species used for the oil which comes from the US and Morocco is said to be closely related to the cedars of Lebanon. When I think of the cedars of Lebanon I think of the redwoods of California. They are majestic and fit all the descriptions ever written about the cedars of Lebanon. Can you imagine having faith so strong that you could be compared to the huge redwoods that can't even be completely photographed in one close-up picture?

And the Bible eludes to this size when it describes cedars as the resting place of a giant eagle in Ezekiel 17. But Cedars were known for more than their beauty. (Numbers 24) They are also mentioned as an example of strength in something such as the tail of a giant animal in Job 40. The covering of a young girl's female parts in Song of Solomon 8.

Curiously, Strong's Concordance and Thompson Chain Reference Bible list cedar only as a wood, not an oil. In any case, either as an oil or as a wood there are far more references to Cedarwood than the previous woods we've discussed. I must admit when I first started writing about essential oils in the Bible I thought the oils of today would be oils in the Bible. But they're not. Nevertheless these oils, as trees, did have some purpose in the Bible. Actually, there are two other kinds of cedar oil, Western Cedar oil and Cedar Leaf oil, each has its own chemical make-up and particular uses. Cedarwood is the only one that is referred to as being in the Bible.

So if Cedarwood was only a wood in the Bible, would essential oil qualities have been seen?

Well, Cedar gives off a strong aroma which would have filled any house built with it. I have to believe that's why it was used in the building of David's palace, in the beloved's bedroom and in each of the temples. (2 Samuel; 1 Kings; 1 and 2 Chronicles; Song of Solomon; Ezra) Do not under estimate the benefits of aromatherapy. The aromatic effects of any essential oil puts it into use in multiple industries in the modern age.

An interesting fact I found in Essential Oils pocket reference is that the Egyptians used the oil for embalming the dead. It also states that the people of Tibet used it for incense and medicine. Presently, it is used for its calming and purifying properties. Because its therapeutic actions ultimately stimulate the release of melatonin many have used it for attention deficit issues as well as a sleep aid.

Isn't interesting that an oil known to kill fungus (mildew) can also calm the body enough to induce sleep? Hmm. Oh, but there's more. It's used as an antiseptic, astringent, diuretic and, get this, insecticide. Lovely. Which is probably why some sources say you should never consume it and why pregnant women need to avoid it. Some forms of this oil can be potent, so if you're unsure about your brand please check with your doctor or an aromatherapist before using it.

I must admit I have not tried this oil. BUT. I have heard wonderful success stories of diffused Cedarwood helping to induce a good night's rest, something that eludes many. Just one more example of how God provides for us through things in nature.