Healing Herbs & Oils

By Heidi Barlow

Essential Oils: The 3 Thieves

When the Covid-19 pandemic struck, my husband and I owned a mid-sized window and door company selling and installing commercial and residential products. We had over 40 employees who interacted with the public. During those early, uncertain days, our installers, service techs, and sales associates worried about how they could safely continue performing their jobs. The biggest problem was fear since no one really knew how serious the virus was, and there were conflicting reports coming out daily.

Recognizing knowledge is power, we convened a company-wide meeting with our staff. We talked about viruses and bacteria, how they work, good-vs-bad varieties, and what our immune systems do to naturally defend and protect our bodies. We talked about the false sense of security some proposed solutions would provide—the mask—and how they conflicted with long-standing OSHA recommendations. Then a proactive and preventative approach was presented to help our team. I handed each employee a 15 ml bottle of a special blend of essential oils and a 4oz spray bottle for the office staff and anyone who wanted one for their vehicle or workspace.

I explained the origin story of the oil blend called “The 3 Thieves.” During the dark ages of 14th and 15th century Europe, little was known about how diseases spread, and the countryside was continually wracked by death as one plague after another came through. The devastation was tremendous, causing the deaths of an estimated 45-60% of the population. During this time, 3 men purportedly doused their clothing with oils to protect them as they robbed the dead and dying of valuables during the Bubonic plague. These thieves were finally caught, and authorities demanded to know how they hadn’t contracted the plague themselves. They gave up their secret in return for their freedom. Another version of the story describes how those who were tasked with burying the dead during the Bubonic plague would drench their clothing and headgear with oils and herbs to ward off the plague that infected the bodies they were handling. I don’t know if either story is true, maybe both have some truth in them, or maybe they are legends, but what I do know is these oils are an amazing germ and viral killer.

We supplied the oil blend freely to all our employees and taught them how to use them. Surface application on their hands and on their desks, phones, steering wheels, and other shared items would last for up to 3 hours. The spray provides aerosol protection. We stayed open and fully functioning throughout the pandemic. Although there were a couple of incidences of Covid during the long 2 ½ year ordeal, recovery was quick and there were no harmful or lasting issues. We did more than just provide essential oils—we encouraged healthy eating, drinking plenty of water, and getting the sleep our bodies need. We only need to provide simple essentials for our body, and it will do the rest. We also encouraged the cessation of other bad habits such as smoking. Most of our employees chose to take measures to improve their overall health during this time.

The 3 Thieves oil blend should be in everyone’s apothecary, but some of the oils used in the blend are quite strong, so be sure to test each oil for allergic reaction on yourself and those you are helping, by placing a drop of each oil on the inner part of the arm. *Note: for some oils, it is NOT recommended to test for an allergic reaction using the undiluted oil, (defined as “neat”). 

There are many versions of the 3 Thieves Oils, but the following is the one I use for my family, and it has proven extraordinarily effective over the years. The first three oils form the core. They are powerful oils, and care should be taken when using them alone. They are all “hot” oils, which means they should not be used neat, (undiluted).

The 3 Thieves blend may be too “hot” for those who are sensitive to essential oils. You can test this on your skin, as suggested above. If you a reaction occurs causing discomfort, you can add more carrier oil until you reach a mix that is comfortable. If an individual oil causes a reaction, you can eliminate it from the blend altogether or substitute it for something else. Increasing the amount of Rosemary oil for example or adding some Lavender oil, may be helpful to those who are sensitive.

Use the 3 Thieves blend by rubbing it on the bottom of your feet at night to build your immune system. Use it on your hands instead of hand sanitizer. Use a drop or two to wipe doorknobs, shopping cart handles, your cell phone case, desk surfaces, or any other place you or others touch regularly. It does not take much to create an effective anti-bacterial, anti-viral barrier.

After using the blend for about a month, it is good to change it up because viruses and bacteria can build up resistance. Change up the mix and adding another oil such as Tea Tree/Melaleuca, which also has powerful anti-fungal properties. Add some Lavender which has anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. Peppermint can be added for an antiviral response, (use just a few drops as it can overpower your blend). Substitute orange oil for lemon oil as it has almost the same qualities.

Make an aerosol by adding 20 to 30 drops of the blend into a 4 oz glass spray bottle with water or vodka. Vodka works best because the oil will bond with the vodka and will aerosol easier. Vodka has the added property of being an antiseptic. The 3 Thieves oil aerosol can be used in the air around you and on surfaces. Shake well and frequently to keep the oil/liquid mixed up.

Using essential oil blends like this on a daily basis is a great way to stay healthy and give your body that extra boost it may need!


Also known as Grindelia, is an amazing plant for congestion, both in the lungs and for upper respiratory congestion. The flowering head, leaves, and upper stems can be harvested and dried for tea. Fresh Gumweed is even better if you can find it. Gumweed is found in 30 states and is usually harvested from July to September in the cooler mountainous climates common in Utah and Colorado but can last a little longer in warmer climes.

To help with cold & flu symptoms, drink 3 to 4 cups of Gumweed tea a day—sweetened with local, raw honey. Adding peppermint or chamomile, which also have immune-building benefits, can also help this tea taste a little better. Pairing the Gumweed with other herbs, like Mullein or Yarrow—herbs that also benefit the lungs—makes an effective tea for colds and flu. Gumweed has been used for bronchitis and asthma as an anti-asthmatic, expectorant, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, and sedative. It also helps with colic. This wonderful plant can also effectively treat whooping cough. Although Gumweed might not make the best-tasting tea, it is a powerful herb for opening the airways and working through the nastiness of flu symptoms and other upper respiratory issues.

If tea is not your thing, make a Gumweed tincture—my favorite way to use this herb because of how quickly it can be introduced into the body. To create your own tincture, chop the leaves, flowers, and upper stems into tiny pieces, and pack them into a mason jar about three-quarters of the way full. Add pure alcohol, such as vodka or Everclear—at least 80 proof (my preference is vodka). Store the sealed bottle in a dark area for about a month, shaking it every few days. When ready, strain and save the liquid tincture in a small glass bottle. It will last for a long time if you store it in a cool, dark place. If you have an aversion to using alcohol, you can use glycerin instead, but it will need to stand much longer, about three months, however, glycerin doesn’t preserve the herb as long as the alcohol-based tincture.

To use the tincture, place about seven drops under the tongue instead of the tea. To replace three cups of tea each day, take seven drops under the tongue three times a day. If you used glycerin, you’ll need to take 2 full teaspoons instead of the seven drops at each administration.

Heidi Barlow


*These suggestions are meant for informational and educational purposes only and do not substitute for professional medical advice, nor is it intended to treat any disease. Consult with your own healthcare provider. Do what is best for your family!

This entry was posted in October 2022, The Compass Issues 2022. Bookmark the permalink.

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