Written by: Tricia Drevets
You know the feeling. It may start with a scratchy throat or with a few more aches and pains than normal. Or it could begin with a runny nose and a feeling of exhaustion. Yes, it’s a cold coming on — or maybe worse — the flu. Before you reach for the antihistamine, however, why not try an effective natural remedy instead?
Essential oils have been used for centuries to fight the symptoms of the common cold. You can add them to your bathwater, diffuse them in the air you breathe or even apply them directly to your skin. Essential oils help the body fight off infection and serve to strengthen the immune system. In her book The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils, Julia Lawless explains that essential oils can boost the body’s defense system against bacteria, fungi and infections.
Here is our list of essential oils and essential oil blends that will help you stay healthy this cold and flu season. If you are unfamiliar with essential oils, please seek the advice of a qualified aromatherapist before using them. Be sure to use in moderation and to dilute or blend the essential oils correctly. Also, realize that some oils are contraindicated in certain conditions.
1. Tea Tree Essential Oil
Extracted from the tea tree (Melaleuca), which is native to Southeast Queensland and New South Wales, Australia, tea tree oil has antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiseptic and antiviral properties.
Used in an inhaler or in a bath, tea tree oil helps you fight the congestion and the resulting discomfort caused by the cold or the flu.
2. Pine Essential Oil
Pine essential oil, derived from the pine tree (Pinus Sylvestris), helps to clear the nasal passages. It also can be helpful in relieving sore throat pain.
3. Lavender Essential Oil
Lavender essential oil (Lavandula Angustifolia) has antiseptic and antimicrobial properties, and it is gentle enough for use with children.
4. Peppermint Essential Oil
Peppermint essential oil (Mentha piperita) has antiseptic and anti-viral properties and can be useful as an expectorant. Use peppermint oil in a steam inhaler, but not where babies or young children are present.
5. Thyme Essential Oil
Thyme essential oil (Thymallus) is antiseptic and anti-bacterial. Many aromatherapists recommend you use it in a blend with tea tree, lemon and eucalyptus oils in the bath or in an inhaler to help fight congestion. Do not use this oil if you have high blood pressure, however.
6. Lemon Essential Oil
Lemon essential oil (citrus limon), with its high vitamin content, helps boost the body’s immune system and stimulates the production of white blood cells, thereby increasing your ability to fight off illness.
Lemon oil also improves circulation throughout the body.
7. Eucalyptus Essential Oil
As an antiviral and a decongestant, eucalyptus essential oil (eucalyptus globulus) helps treat colds and congestion. In her book Aromatherapy A – Z, author Patricia Davis recommends using eucalyptus oil in a steam inhaler to help open blocked nasal passages, to soothe inflammation and to fight bacteria.
8. Rosemary Essential Oil
Rosemary (Rosmarinus) works as an antiseptic and an antimicrobial agent. In The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy, Valerie Ann Worwood suggests using a blend of rosemary, lemon and eucalyptus oils to massage the nose, cheekbones and temples in order to relieve congestion and discomfort.
Thieves is a blend of clove (syzygium aromaticum), lemon, cinnamon bark (cinnamomum), eucalyptus and rosemary that was created by 15th century thieves during the plague. The oil blend is antiviral, antiseptic and antibacterial. It works well in a diffuser to help purify the air in your home or as a throat spray to soothe a sore throat.
A great way to get the benefits of essential oils is by breathing them so that they enter your body through the nose and lungs. You can use them in a diffuser or you can simply add four or five drops of the oil to a pot of boiled water. Cover your head with a towel while carefully leaning over the liquid and breathing in the steam.
Another option is to place a drop or two of the oils on a warm damp washcloth and then place the washcloth on your chest or your forehead to help relieve pain and congestion. Or add five to eight drops of oil to the water as you run your bath for a soothing, relaxing effect.
Essential oils are not a substitute for other proven methods for fighting colds such as getting enough fluids, getting enough rest or seeing your doctor if your symptoms worsen. However, if you are looking for natural ways to boost your body’s defenses during cold and flu season, it is well worth your time to investigate the impact essential oils can have on your health.