3. Smearing oil for medical purposes

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3. Smearing oil for medical purposes:[1]

A. Applying oil mixtures for treatment:

Applying oil with vinegar to treat hip pain:[2] One that has a pain in his hips is not allowed to smear (a mixture[3] of) oil[4] and vinegar [on it] because it is only common to smear it for healing purposes[5] and any action done which is recognizable that one’s intent [in doing so] is for healing, is forbidden [to be done on Shabbos] for the reason to be explained in chapter 328 [Halacha 1].

Applying an oil and water mixture over a wound:[6] One may not apply a mixture of oil and hot water over a wound, and not over a bandage which is to be placed over the wound being that doing so is evident that it is being done for healing purposes.

B. Applying plain oil for treatment:

Applying plain oil and rose oil to relieve hip pain:1[7] One is allowed to smear (plain[8]) oil [on ones hip][9], although not rose oil[10] because it is very expensive and is not commonly found and [thus] it is only common to oil [one’s body] with it for healing [purposes].[11] [Although] if one is found in a place where rose oil is commonly available and it is common for people to smear it not for healing [purposes] then it is permitted to smear it for even healing [purposes].[12] [The rose oil however may only be smeared if one has no intent to create a smell on his skin through doing so, as explained in the previous Q&A regarding using scented oils.]

Places which never smear oil for mere pleasure:[13] In these places in which they are not accustomed to smear oil with exception to when done for healing, it is forbidden [for them] to smear any oil for healing because it is recognizable that the [person is doing so] for healing.

Smearing oil on one’s head which has sores:[14] It is forbidden to smear [oil] on [ones] head which has sores.

Smearing a wound with oil:[15] One may remove the scab of a wound [with ones hands[16]] and may smear the wound with oil in places that it is common to smear oil also when there is no healing intended as explained above [i.e. for pleasure].

Smearing it with fat:[17] However one may not smear it with fat because it [causes it to] melt and is forbidden for the reason explained in chapter 326 [Halacha 10]

Final stage of the wound:[18] Even in the final stage of the wound, which is defined as when it has already healed and one feels no pain from it, it is permitted to remove the scab and to smear it with oil for mere pleasure [even in places that oil is never smeared for mere pleasure[19]].

Applying oil or water to a bandage:[20] (As well it is permitted to place plain oil) over a pad which will be placed on [the wound]. (However hot water even plain, may not be placed (if the pad is not designated for this purpose) due to a decree that one may come to squeeze it [and be liable for the laundering prohibition], although by oil there is no decree made that one may come to squeeze it as was explained in chapter 320 [Halacha 21].  

C. Applying oil or an oil mixture near the wound, having it flow onto it:[21]

One may place [even an oil mixture, even in places that the custom is to only use oil for healing[22]] on his skin that is on the side of the wound and have it flow and drip onto the wound, as when this is done it is not recognizable that one’s intention is for healing.


Summary-Smearing oil for healing purposes:

To place the oil directly on the wound: Is only permitted in cases that it is commonly done for pleasure purposes and thus is not evident that one is doing so for healing.

To place the oil near the wound and have it flow onto the wound is permitted in all cases, even in places that oil is not applied for pleasure purposes.


May one use medicinal oil for pleasure?[23]

Yes. This may be done even in places in which oil is only smeared for healing purposes.


May one smear oil over itchy skin [however the skin is not cracked or dry]?[24]



In our provinces is oil considered something that is only smeared for healing purposes?[26]

Yes. It thus may never be smeared for healing purposes unless done away from the wound, having it flow there, as explained above.

May one smear oil on cracked or dry skin, such as chapped lips?[27]

No as this is clearly evident that it is being done for healing. However, one may smear the oil near the dried skin and have it flow onto the dry area, as explained above. [Thus, for dried lips one may eat a vegetable dipped in oil and thus consequently oil his lips.]

May one smear oil on a baby for healing purposes [such as he has a rash and the like]?[28]

Yes.[29] [However regarding a cream see “The Laws of Medicine” Chapter 2 Halacha 6 if at times doing so may involve the Biblical prohibition of smearing.]


[1] Admur 327:1 and 328:28

[2] Admur 327:1; Michaber 327:1; Mishneh Shabbos 111a

[3] Admur ibid; Levush 327:1; See Tehila Ledavid 327:1

[4] Admur ibid; Michaber ibid

Other opinions: Some Poskim read the Nussach in the Mishneh that one is not to place wine or vinegar on the area. [Rif; Rambam; Rabbeinu Chananeil; our Girsa in Mishenh; brought in M”B 327:1] 

[5] Admur ibid; Levush ibid; M”B 327:1; Rashi ibid

[6] Admur 328:28; Michaber 328:22; Shabbos 134b

[7] Admur 327:1; Michaber 327:1; Mishneh Shabbos 111

[8] Admur ibid; Michaber ibid; Vetzrauch Iyun why Admur placed this in parentheses-see Admur 328:28

[9] The reason: As it is common to smear oil on the body even for pleasure, and it is hence not recognizeable that it is being done for healing. [M”B 327:2]

[10] Rose oil, is the essential oil extracted from the petals of various types of roseRose ottos are extracted through steam distillation, while rose absolutes are obtained through solvent extraction orsupercritical carbon dioxide extraction, with the absolute being used more commonly in perfumery. Even with their high price and the advent of organic synthesis, rose oils are still perhaps the most widely used essential oil in perfumery.

[11] Admur ibid; M”B 327:3; Rashi ibid

[12] Admur ibid; Michaber ibid; Gemara Shabbos 111b

Vetzaruch Iyun Gadol how using rose oil does not transgress a prohibition of “creating a smell” on Shabbos, as explained in “Molid Reiach”. One must thus conclude that using such oil is only allowed if one does not intend at all to create a new smell on his body, in which case it is allowed to be smeared, as explained there. However, if one also intends on creating the smell on his body, then doing this would be forbidden. Vetzaruch Iyun why Admur who holds of the prohibition of creating new smells does not make issue of this here in this Halacha. Furthermore, to note there are those [see Piskeiy Teshuvos 327:1] which use this ruling regarding rose oil [which is sourced in the Michaber] to say that there is no prohibition at all to create scents on one’s skin. [So rules Chacham Tzevi  92, as opposed to the Taz, Magen Avraham and Admur in chapter 511 which prohibit.] It is thus on the one hand not understood why Admur here did not emphasize the limitation to that it is only allowed when not intended at all for smell, as well as on the other hand one cannot infer from this ruling here the opinion of the Michaber, the same way one cannot infer from here the ruling of Admur of which he makes clear in 511 that he does hold of a prohibition.

[13] Admur 327:1; Rama 327:1; Beis Yosef

[14] Admur 327:1; Taz 327:2; M”B 327:4

[15] Admur 328:28; Michaber 328:22; Shabbos 53b

[16] However, with a vessel is forbidden [Ketzos Hashulchan 136 footnote 22]

[17] Admur 328:28; Michaber ibid; M”B 327:4

[18] Admur 328:28

[19] M”B 328:70; Ketzos Hashulchan 136 footnote 20

[20] Admur 328:28

[21] Admur 328:28; Michaber 328:22; Shabbos 134b

[22] So is evident from the Halacha there in Admur, and so rules M”B 328:77; Ketzos Hashulchan 136:13, and footnote 20

[23] See M”B 328:70; Ketzos Hashulchan 136 footnote 20; Piskeiy Teshuvos 327:1

[24] Ketzos Hashulchan 136 footnote 20, and Piskeiy Teshuvos 327:2, SSH”K 34:12, however there he brings Rav SZ”A which rules that this may not be done as he says it is not similar to the final healing process of a wound in which the smearing is merely done for pleasure and not to remove itching.

[25] As this is similar to applying oil to a wound which is in its final stage of healing, which is allowed even though that there too it normally still itches, as explained above.

[26] Ketzos Hashulchan 136:13 and footnote 20

[27] Piskeiy Teshuvos 327:2, and so is implied from Ketzos Hashulchan 136:20 where he doubts whether one is allowed to apply oil to one’s feet which have peeled skin in order to prevent the socks from sticking onto his skin and thus causing him to get a virus. [Thus, if even then there is doubt, certainly when ones intent is to heal the skin it is not allowed.]

[28] Beir Moshe 1:36, brought in Piskeiy Teshuvos 327:1

[29] As a child is considered like an ill patient of which it is permitted for one to give them medication on Shabbos.

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