Episode 107: Ancient Oils


doTERRA: For thousands of years, people around the world have benefited from the power of essential oils. And there are some essential oils used by these ancient peoples that are still prized today. These oils have fantastic stories and histories behind them. And today, we're going to share those with you.

Welcome back to Essential Oil Solutions with doTERRA, the podcast where you'll hear exciting, useful, and simple everyday uses for essential oils from experts in the field. If you like what you hear today, rate, review, and subscribe wherever you listen. We always appreciate hearing from you.

Today, we are so excited to talk to Emily Wright, doTERRA Founding Executive, about the new Ancient Oils Collection and why she loves it so much. Emily, thank you so much for being here with us today. We are so excited to talk about this collection.

Emily Wright: I'm so excited. This is kind of a dream come true for me.

doTERRA: Perfect! Well, with the holidays fast approaching, we are thrilled to have this Ancient Oils Collection available to us. Can you tell us a little bit about, probably the most famous oil in this collection: Frankincense?

Emily: Absolutely. I love to talk about Frankincense. So when you look it up, frankincense has been highly prized by civilizations as diverse as Egyptians, Assyrians, Persians, Macedonians, and even the Kushites.

And of course, we know the most famous history of frankincense is as the gift of the frankincense and myrrh resin given to the baby Jesus by the magi, which we know they traveled for maybe even up to multiple years in getting to the Christ child to bring these sacred, precious gifts to them. And so, when we really look at what frankincense is, it's likely symbolic of his royal birth and even deity. And then myrrh is symbolic to his mortality. So these gifts that were given were very specifically chosen and both were used at this time in antiquity.

So for millennia, frankincense resins have been sought after by kings, queens, rulers, people of high positions. And today, they remain a key component of what is believed to be the oldest supply chain in the world.

doTERRA: Wow.

Emily: So the Phoenicians would purchase entire boatloads of resins, using them in incense, perfumes, salves. The Greeks and the Romans also imported massive amounts of resins, which they burned as incense, used for embalming.

So because frankincense resins were in such high demand, Oman was put into a position of power, and they could literally trade for anything in the world they wanted because everyone wanted the frankincense resin that was coming from their country. So exports were made at that time by land and by sea. And I was able to visit Oman last year, and it was amazing to visit some of these seaports and these land ports and to really understand that moment in history. The frankincense trail is a 2,000-mile trade route, dating back to approximately 500 BC.

doTERRA: Wow!

Emily: So you can still—like if you're up in an airplane—you can still look down and actually see along that Horn of Africa to see that route was taken by camel caravans. And they would follow that trail for up to 60 days. I was able to visit some of those oasis cities that were built, and some were even swallowed up by the earth. And as they have been—they've dug those ruins out, you still have remnants of the frankincense and myrrh resin there in those ancient cities.

It's pretty amazing. When you look at Frankincense, it's calming. It's balancing, it's uplifting. It's immune supporting. And all of those properties were used historically and have been used for a wide range of practices for 2,500 years. And even today, we're just beginning to understand all of the many uses of Frankincense.

doTERRA: Wow, that's such an incredible history and such a long history for an oil to have. So you mentioned a few different areas. Can you tell us where doTERRA sources it’s Frankincense from now?

Emily: Yes, that's actually something that makes doTERRA's Frankincense very, very unique because we source four different species of frankincense. So we have the carterii and the frereana. They're sourced from Somaliland. We have the sacra, which is sourced from Oman. And then we have the papyferia, which is sourced from Ethiopia.

So when you look at these four species, you might wonder, well, why don't you just choose one? When we look at those four, they all have such significant benefits. And even though chemically they're quite similar, the molecules within each one have a different chirality, which means by bringing them all together, you actually get a greater complexity and not only to the chemistry, but also to the benefits that we receive when we use this precious, ancient oil.

doTERRA: Wow, that's incredible. And like you said, it's so much effort that's being put in to make sure that the best possible benefits are contained within this oil, which is amazing.

Emily: Right. So I'll never forget the first time David and I went to Somalia, and this was a country really like I'd never experienced before, a country without hope. And frankincense is there a number two trade. Fish is the only thing that's really above frankincense. And they really don't have much industry at all. And so, they really hold to this frankincense trade.

And before doTERRA got involved—and this was back in 2014—they were dependent upon the brokers. And the brokers were taking advantage of all of the harvesters.

And so, they'd go into these dangerous areas, where they have to score the tree. And these trees are passed down generation to generation from father to son. And so, they take a lot of pride in their trees. And as they would score the tree, and they go back repeatedly to score the tree, where you get the sap that oozes from the tree, that then crystallizes. And then they chip those crystals, which become the resin tears that we then distill to get the essential oil.

But they were taken advantage of and were really paid pennies on the dollar for their frankincense.

doTERRA: Wow.

Emily: And when David and I looked at this, we said, “This has to change,” which meant we had to disrupt what had existed for thousands of years. And today, when you look in this region, we have built up schools where girls and boys are both educated. We've built up areas where the women can now grate the tears in a safe place with flushing bathrooms and running water. We've built clinics, and now in just a couple of months, we will open up a state-of-the-art hospital in Sanaag, Somaliland. This is an area where the number one cause of death is childbirth.

doTERRA: Wow.

Emily: And we get to fix that. We get to provide them with medical care like they never thought they would have. And so this just warms my heart. We're now—the harvester's and those that are grating the frankincense tears are paid a fair wage where they can depend on that to provide for their families. But we've also been able to change the way they get to live and to really give them that hope that they so desperately needed to have for a brighter tomorrow.

doTERRA: That's incredible, and like you said, life changing for these people just to be able to have this opportunity.

Emily: Yeah!

doTERRA: So now that we've listened to some of the benefits and the incredible history that Frankincense has, obviously it's something that we want to be using every day. How do you use Frankincense on a daily basis?

Emily: I use Frankincense so many ways. Frankincense is my 18-year-old son's absolute favorite oil. He goes to Frankincense for everything. So for me, I love to use Frankincense on the back of my brain stem. I also will put a drop under my tongue morning and night. So that's probably one of my favorite ways to use Frankincense because I need all the help in that area that I can possibly get.

But for my son, he's a football player, and he gets banged up as he's playing all the time. So he loves to take Frankincense, and he'll put it into a lotion or in with Fractionated Coconut Oil, and he'll rub it, you know, and just to provide that relief that he so desperately needs at that time. We'll also rub it on his spine, on the bottoms of his feet.

But with Frankincense, it really is probably the most versatile, essential oil that there is, which is no surprise that it was used so prominently in antiquity. And yet, we still use it with just as much passion today and why scientists continue to be amazed and wowed by this beautiful, amazing oil.

doTERRA: Well, that definitely gives me a few ideas of how to go home and use Frankincense. So you mentioned Myrrh earlier when we were talking about Frankincense. And so they obviously have been connected for thousands of years.

Emily: Yes.

doTERRA: But how is Myrrh different from Frankincense?

Emily: So, yes. So Myrrh went right along with that Frankincense trade route, right? And they were used that same time in antiquity. So even though they share a lot of the same history, the benefits are quite different. The chemistry is quite different.

So, like Frankincense, there's much mystique about the history of Myrrh. You have Queen Hatshepsut, she was the first female pharaoh. So I love reading about her history, of course, right? When a woman is involved. But she dispatched an entire fleet of ships to the land of Punt, and they were asked to bring back entire uprooted myrrh trees so that she could transplant them in Egypt.

And in this time in history, this was literally unheard of. And they could hardly believe that this request of Queen Hatshepsut was granted. Now, you might say, well, why aren't there myrrh trees then existing in Egypt today? If she brought back shiploads of myrrh trees.

doTERRA: Right.

Emily: When you look at frankincense and myrrh, they really require very specific conditions in order for them to thrive. And they're indigenous to this particular part of the world for a reason. And they really thrive under that harsh environment, which shows you how resilient they are. So as we use them in our bodies, understand—really increasing that resiliency for all of us too.

So we source myrrh trees from this land of antiquity, right? Where Queen Hatshepsut went to receive her myrrh trees: Somaliland. That is where we source our myrrh trees today.

So there's also the Assyrian and Greek legend about how the myrrh tree received its name, from the Syrian king Thesis’s daughter, whose name was Myrrha. And they say that she was being transformed by the protective gods into a myrrh tree to escape her father's homicidal fury.

doTERRA: Wow.

Emily: And so they believe that the resin, the tears that fall from the tree, are actually Myrrha’s tears. So you can see very protective properties there. So the oil distilled from the resin tears have been used traditionally for skin conditions, in the cremation process, and in religious ceremonies, similar to myrrh.

But myrrh is used in traditional Chinese medicine, mostly for female issues, which isn't—when you look at the history of Myrrha, kind of shows, you know, where we like to use that for female issues. Also used in Aruyvedic and Unani medicine.

There are many references to myrrh in the Bible. So most scholars believe that stacte, which is of Latin and Greek origin, is in fact myrrh, and stacte is an ingredient in the Holy Tabernacle blend.

doTERRA: Wow, it's interesting to see how these ancient oils have weaved themselves into the history of so many different cultures and how they were so important to so many different people.

Emily: Right. No, absolutely.

doTERRA: So how do you use Myrrh? How do you utilize this incredible oil?

Emily: Myrrh is a very thick, sticky oil. So we have to keep that into, you know, into consideration as we use Myrrh. Sometimes my lid will even get stuck, right? So I have to run it under hot water just to be able to open up the lid. So just want people to know. Don't be afraid of that, right? That's actually how it's supposed to be. When you look at the resin tears, Myrrh is going to be very, very gummy, very sticky. Whereas, the frankincense resin tears are more dry.

So Myrrh is fantastic for the throat. So I love—I've been struggling since February. You and I were just talking about that. And so Myrrh is one that I've really leaned heavily into for that. I'll make a Myrrh tea, add in a little bit of raw honey, and it's wonderful just to just to soothe my vocal cords, my throat. Also when I have that desire to cough, I love to add a little bit of Myrrh into my tea as well for that, just to help really minimize the desire to cough.

doTERRA: Right.

Emily: Which is fantastic. I love to add Myrrh in with my hair products, so I'll put it in with my leave-in conditioner, add in a little bit of Ylang Ylang, and it really gives my hair that healthy shine that I want to have.

So I'll rub it over my abdomen. It's just fantastic to be able to use that way. Any of the reflex points for the female, inside of the ankles, the outside of the ankles, fantastic to be able to use that way as well. It's great for all things skin. Now, keep in mind, it's sticky, so I like to add it in with some Fractioned Coconut Oil.

It's an ingredient in our Imortelle blend, which is all of our restorative essential oils—so Frankincense, Myrrh, Sandalwood, Helichrysum, Rose, Lavender. So it's very, very restorative to the tissues as well.

doTERRA: And that is another one where it just sounds like your whole body can benefit from Myrrh. And there's nowhere in your body that doesn't need a little bit of Myrrh.

Emily: That is true.

doTERRA: So the next one is an oil that a lot of people probably haven’t heard about, and that is Galbanum, so because it's not a very common oil, was it very difficult for us to source this for this collection?

Emily: So hard because it comes primarily from Iran, and we can't import from Iran at this time.

doTERRA: Right.

Emily: And so we've really had difficulty sourcing this. I've had a dream to put these ancient oils together in a collection for years. I've been working with the sourcing team, with our product marketing team, and they really had just hit a wall and said, “Emily, we just can't find it. Like this collection is not complete without Galbanum. We've got to have it.” And so it was actually last June when I was in Oman with our Boswellia sacra partner, and we were in a car ride. And I just—I leaned back, and I said, “Hey, by any chance, do you know anyone who's growing galbanum?”

And his eyes just lit up, and they started to dance, and he said, “I do! I do! I know someone. I've got a friend in Turkey who has successfully been able to grow it.” And it was his dream to be able to distill it. And so we started talking about possibilities. He placed some phone calls when I was there and had preparation to have some of the resin gum sent to him to see—so he could figure out how to distill it. And when he had the success of actually being able to distill it, it was—we all had such a happy dance making this collection complete.

doTERRA: Well, and that is just one of those little miracles of being with the right people in the right time and the right circumstances to make this happen.

Emily: Absolutely, yes. So galbanum is an umbelliferous, did you get that, plant. So it looks like an umbrella plant, basically. And the gum oozes from just above the root system. So they'll go and score this plant, like they would frankincense or myrrh. And then you have the resin that actually oozes. And so that's where you get that gum resin that then crystallizes, and they're able to distill that.

doTERRA: Wow.

Emily: Yeah!

doTERRA: So because this is probably something none of us have experienced, what does Galbanum smell like?

Emily: So Galbanum is very bitter, actually. It has a very intense aroma. But I've actually—for me, it smells like an ancient oil. It smells like you would expect it to smell like. So galbanum was thought to have mystical powers by most ancient civilizations, was one of the ingredients in the Holy Tabernacle incense blend—just as myrrh and frankincense were—that God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai, and that was to be placed on the altar. So the purpose of this blend was to prepare one for entry into the Lord's Tabernacle.

doTERRA: Wow.

Emily: So the properties of this incense blend were intended to be purifying, cleansing, and to take one to a higher level of consciousness. So galbanum is also used as a fixative in some famous perfumes, like Chanel N°19, Must by Cartier.

But you also find galbanum referred to in ancient writings, like by Hippocrates. Pliny refers to it as having extraordinary powers. So galbanum has been referred to in Greek mythology as the “sacred mother resin.” It was treasured by the Egyptians as a sacred substance, and in fact, the green incense of Egyptian antiquity is believed to have been galbanum.

doTERRA: Oh, wow.

Emily: So the Egyptians, of course, imported mass quantities of galbanum from Persia because they used it also in their religious ceremonies, in embalming, and as part of their traditional practice.

doTERRA: Wow. That—I mean—that is a long and storied history for something that I've never really heard referenced.

Emily: Right, right. Yeah, you read about it in scripture and some of those ancient writings, but it continues to be such a benefit today.

doTERRA: So you mentioned that this is an oil that you've wanted to source for a very long time.

Emily: Yes.

doTERRA: So what is it that makes Galbanum unique?

Emily: So when you look at the chemistry, so I'm going to give you the molecule name, right? It's called 3-trans, 5-cis, 1,3,5-Undecatriene. Did you get that?

doTERRA: I don't know if I could spell it!

Emily: So this particular molecule is only found in significant amount in galbanum. And so we believe that this particular molecule is actually what makes it smell so ancient and probably gives it that real bitter note. It’s found in very, very trace amounts—you probably won't even see it in a GCMS—in Lavender, but only in significant amounts in this particular oil. So we also see galbanum has 55% beta-pinene. So it's going to be an oil that's going to promote relief from discomfort.

And I am just so excited. This is such a treasure, and I've had so much fun playing with this oil, and I can hardly wait for everyone to test it out and to share with us all of the many, many benefits that they've received from Galbanum.

doTERRA: Absolutely. And this is probably the only collection that you're going to get it.

Emily: Most definitely.

doTERRA: So the next oil we want to talk about is Hyssop. So there are a lot of references to hyssop during biblical times.

Emily: Right.

doTERRA: Do you know why that is?

Emily: So hyssop is actually mentioned ten times in the Old Testament and twice in the New Testament, although one is a reference to the Old Testament. The most famous mention of hyssop is as an integral part of the Passover. And of course, the last mention of hyssop is with the crucifixion of Jesus. Most reference to hyssop for ceremonial purposes, although not all of them, but most of them are for ceremonial purposes. And so it seems to have been used as a purifier, as a protectant.

So the name itself comes from the Greek word hyssopos and the Hebrew word for azob, which is a holy herb, which was used for cleaning sacred places.

doTERRA: Interesting.

Emily: So you can see it’s preparatory, right? So hyssop is actually an evergreen garden herb. It’s a member of the mint family. Fresh hyssop leaves have been commonly used in cooking and as an aromatic condiment. But it has a has a lightly bitter taste, but it has a very intense minty aroma. So it definitely gets your attention.

Hyssop was strewn into the floors anciently to purify the air. So the Romans also believed it to protect them and made an herbal wine out of the hyssop leaves. So lots of history in the way that they used it.

You have Galen and Hippocrates. They valued hyssop in traditional practices. And I love some of the early uses. So hyssop vapors were considered by Turner to be useful to “driveth away the wind that is in the eares, if they be holden over it.”

And then by Parkinson, this is 16th century, to “taketh away the itching and tingling of the head.”

doTERRA: Oh, wow. Those are very interesting references!

Emily: Right? But the history—it just amazes me to see all the many ways that they used these plants and these oils historically. And then how do we use them today.

doTERRA: Absolutely. So like you said, they have been used for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. But I've also heard that there can be some toxicity associated with hyssop. Is that true?

Emily: That actually is true if it's the pinocamphone type of hyssop. And of course, doTERRA always goes to our physicians, our scientists, our chemists to make sure that not only are all the oils that we source pure and potent, but also that they are safe. So we have a hyssop that does not contain pinocamphones, so you can use it without any current concern of toxicity. So for this reason, I recommend that it not be used by women who are pregnant or considering conceiving anytime in the near future, just for safety purposes.

Also because it has such high 1,8 cineole content, 55 percent, so it’s the main constituent in Eucalyptus, but in such high concentration in hyssop that I also recommend that for any of those that might suffer from epilepsy to not use hyssop.

But what a wonderful oil to really open up the airways to improve easy breathing. Such an amazing oil. And I'm just enamored by the history of this oil, knowing that it was selected for such specific purpose, right?

doTERRA: Yeah, that's amazing. So where does doTERRA source our hyssop from?

Emily: We source it from Egypt.

doTERRA: Wow. So these ancient places where these oils originate are just amazing and incredible.

Emily: Yeah, which is the origination, we see it first referenced in the Old Testament, it was in Egypt, right? For the Passover.

doTERRA: And it shows the importance, again, of going to that source where these were sourced anciently, because that's where they grew best.

Emily: Right, yes.

doTERRA: So the next oil in this collection is Common Myrtle. So I'm very curious to know a little bit about this oil. I don't know much about it.

Emily: Most people don’t, so I’m excited to share a little bit about it. So myrtle is a very common indigenous shrub found all over Israel as an ornamental plant, but it also remains wild still today in upper Galilee.

doTERRA: Wow.

Emily: So it originated in the Middle East and Mediterranean region. It’s a low bush on the dry hillsides, but it grows to considerable height when it grows along the waterways. So when you give it the moisture that it really desires and needs, it can grow very, very tall and very, very big.

So it's mentioned in biblical times as one of the choice plants of the land and is symbolic to God's promised blessings as one of the trees mentioned in the Feast of Tabernacles.

doTERRA: Wow.

Emily: So there's many mentions of myrtle in Jewish writings as well. Myrtle is one of the four blessed plants used in the Jewish Festival of the Tabernacles. So kind of fun history there too.

The ancient symbolism of myrtle is prosperity, hope, love, justice, and recovery. And of course, in ancient writings and scripture, God insisted upon obedience before prosperity was granted. So as a tree that thrives along the water courses, the symbolism of recovery and fulfilled promises is quite beautiful.

doTERRA: Yeah.

Emily: Yeah, so you also looking Greco-Roman antiquity, the common myrtle was considered sacred to Venus and was used as an emblem of love in wreaths and other decorations. Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty, is often depicted adorned with myrtle's dainty white flowers and aromatic leaves.

And then, of course, during the Renaissance, the evergreen myrtle came to symbolize everlasting love and thus began the tradition of including it in bridal bouquets. And even today, the British royals still carry that custom through.

doTERRA: Wow, that is such a positive association with a plant to have so many wonderful things associated with such a seemingly common plant.

Emily: Right?

doTERRA: So is there anything that's unique about myrtle's chemistry?

Emily: Oh, I'm so glad you asked this question. Yes! So myrtle is made up of 20% Myrtentyl acetate. So only Myrtle has this ester in high concentration, which is why it is named Myrtentyl acetate. And so esters are known to be restorative and soothing and to the tissues.

So as an example, we always look at the concentration of lavandulyl acetate in our Lavender to determine the value of that oil. So you're going to get very similar properties with this ester being in Myrtle, as you do with with lavandulyl acetate being in Lavender.

So you combine that ester with 20% alpha-pinene, which is a monoterpene, and that is the main component that we talked about earlier in Frankincense. And then you also have 10% limonene, which is the key component in most of our citrus oils. And now you have an oil that is restorative, protective, invigorating, and cleansing.

doTERRA: That’s such an amazing combination of chemical constituents to have in one oil. That’s amazing.

Emily: Right. If you ever wonder how to use an oil, just look at its chemistry and that usually will tell the story, but it usually goes much, much deeper than the chemistry.

doTERRA: Right. So, Emily, I have loved learning about these ancient oils from you. And we have one more left to learn about. What can you share with us about Cistus?

Emily: So Cistus is known by many names such as rockrose, labdanum, and most scholars agree that it was also known in biblical times as the revered Rose of Sharon, which is why it's in this Ancient Oils Collection. You might recall the reference to the Rose of Sharon from the Song of Solomon.

Cistus is a resin that comes from the small flowers of this ground-covering evergreen shrub. It was first discovered thousands of years ago by the shepherds who noticed it in the coats of the sheep and the goats as they would come in. And so as they would attempt to brush these flowers out of their coat, they discovered that it had properties.

doTERRA: Wow.

Emily: So researchers have discovered traces of cistus plant in prehistoric caves. It goes back that far. So cistus, labdanum, rockrose, or Rose of Sharon has a very intense, sweet aroma. The resin that it produces is really dark in color, very, very sticky. It was used by ancient Egyptians as an incense and in perfumes and was often used in royal and spiritual ceremonies.

So alpha-pinene—again, the main component in Frankincense—is also the main constituent in Cistus. So you can expect similar benefits to that of Frankincense. You'll also find fairly high concentrations of viridiflorene and viridiflorol, unique to Cistus. It's likely what gives it that really deep floral aroma that quiets your mind and really kind of takes you back to simpler times.

doTERRA: Well, that definitely sounds like an oil I want to use aromatically for that beautiful smell.

Emily: It’s gorgeous.

doTERRA: But how else can you use Cistus?

Emily: So I love using Cistus, or labdanum, Rose of Sharon, in blending. So it's a beautiful balancing agent and has scrumptious base notes, so it has such a delightful aroma. Cistus helps me read my mind of any negative thoughts and emotions that might help me have a more positive outlook on life. It's a great meditative oil.

If you were an oil connoisseur like I am, or if you just simply like to create your own essential oil blends or natural perfumes, you will definitely want Cistus as one of your staples. And a little bit goes so far. You don't need much to include into your blend. It can be overpowering, actually, if you put too much into your blends.

But yeah, there's just so much history to be discovered here. And I love the discovery process. I love playing with these oils. And they really speak to us. They tell us what we need to learn from them.

doTERRA: Absolutely. And I know that I, for one, am super, super excited to get my hands on these Ancient Oils. Emily, you have taught us so much today, and we're so grateful that you're able to spend some time with us. And these oils are such a gift to have access to them, especially around the holiday season. So before we end, can you tell us when we can get our hands on them?

Emily: I'm so excited for this day: November 2. This beautiful Ancient Oils Collection will be available for a limited time only. We've sourced as much as we possibly can. Hyssop and Galbanum are two that were very, very difficult to source. So they're available while supplies last. And I can hardly wait for our doTERRA family to experience them and to share their stories with us.

doTERRA: Well, Emily, thank you again for being here. It was a joy to talk to you today.

Emily: Thank you so much.

doTERRA: Thanks for joining us and congratulations on living a healthier lifestyle with essential oils. If you liked what you heard today, rate, review, and subscribe wherever you listen. Also, if you want to try any of the products you learned about, go to doterra.com or find a Wellness Advocate near you to place an order today.