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Former minister writes book on Biblical balms

Saturday, July 20, 2002

Associated Press

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By Laura Johnston ~ Southeast Missourian

The three kings bringing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to Mary, Joseph and the newborn baby Jesus wouldn't have needed to explain how to use the oils.

But what was common knowledge to first century believers isn't as common among today's churchgoers. People don't know much about the healing power of oils found in the Bible because the Bible is a theological book not a scientific one, said Dr. David Stewart.

Stewart of Marble Hill, Mo., hopes that will change as people begin to learn about the oils. He recently published a book on "Healing Oils of the Bible" to share his knowledge.

"The gospels were written by Old Testament writers who weren't thinking about 20th century people. They didn't have to explain what it was because everybody knew what it was used for," Stewart said.

Essential oils were used for everything from antiseptics to purifying rituals or nourishing the skin. Many of the plants used are found in gardens today: oregano, thyme, basil, marjoram, peppermint, hyssop and rose of Sharon. Others, like frankincense and myrrh, grow in the wild in parts of the Middle East and northern Africa.

Stewart, a former university professor and past United Methodist minister, said he discovered only recently that the oils mentioned in the Bible weren't just symbolic or ritual but had a therapeutic or medicinal value. Stewart has been using essential oils himself for about five or six years.

When the magi brought their gifts to the infant Jesus, Mary would have known the frankincense was used on the newborn sons of kings and priests and that myrrh was used to help the infant fight infections as the umbilical cord detached.

"But it wouldn't have been just for Jesus but for her, too," Stewart said. Myrrh was used by pregnant women because it could help protect them from infection and would have helped reduce stretch marks from their pregnancy."

Not just any oils would do, Stewart said.

"It's not just olive oil or cooking oil that you mix with aromatics," he said.

Stewart has always been interested in science and theology. Studying the healing oils mentioned in Scripture allowed him to join the two interests for his book.

But it wasn't just a matter of seeing what was mentioned in the Bible and explaining its use. Stewart knew of 180 references to healing oils or incense, but his study led him to 1,000 references and the mention of 33 types of plants.

Stewart relates the history and uses of about 15 different healing oils in a program he gives for secular audiences and church groups. Audience members also get a chance to see and smell some of the oils.

Stewart will be at Gospeland Bookstore from 10 a.m. to noon today for a book signing of "Healing Oils of the Bible" and then will present a program about the healing oils from 2 to 4 p.m. at Holiday Inn. Registration is at 1:30 p.m. For information, call 243-0254.

Stewart not only talks about the healing qualities of oils mentioned in Scripture, he has even experienced their healing powers.

He suffered from back pain for 44 years but a few drops of eight different oils -- most from plants and spices used in cooking -- cured his ailment. Since that anointing, Stewart said his back pain hasn't returned.

He wants other people to know about the power of essential oils mentioned in Scripture. "They have a good chance of taking care of their own problems," he said.

Stewart added that people should still consult a physician, but the oils can help cure problems from cardiovascular disease to degenerative conditions.

Jacqui Close, a registered aromatherapist, often supplies the oils that Stewart uses. She said people must make sure the oils they use are high quality so they get consistent results.

Oils are stronger than people expect them to be. One drop of peppermint oil is equal to about 25 or 30 cups of tea and dried herbs don't have the same effect that oils do, Close said. "Oils are absorbed directly and go directly through the blood."

One of the first times Close used oils she put a drop on her husband's hand and one on the back of his neck to help him get rid of a sinusitis headache.

"He rubbed it on the back of his neck and sat down in a chair and said his headache was gone," she said. "It was just that fast."

ljohnston@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126


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