Essential oils, or volatile oils derived from plant material, have shown great benefits during the cold and flu season. Many essential oils have strong antibacterial and anti-viral properties. They help protect against viruses, as well as promote quicker recovery if you are already sick. Essential oils can be used in a humidifier to prevent the air from getting dry (viruses thrive in a dry environment), and reduce the germs in the air.
They also can be inhaled to soothe respiratory problems, applied topically for antibacterial and anti-inflammatory benefits, and even administered orally, as it is very popular in Germany and France. Here are the five essential oils that are important to have in your medicine cabinet for the cold and flu season.
Oregano – Oregano oil has proven antibacterial properties, is very useful for respiratory infections, and many call it a strong “natural antibiotic.” Drinking a glass of water with a few drops of this oil (or used as a gargle in a 1 ounce of water) helps relieve sore throat, mouth sores, alleviates congestion, and fights sinus infections. The oil is very strong, and needs to be used diluted and as a short-term remedy.
Clinical Herbalist Michelle Lynde’s recommendation is to use 4-6 drops of oil at a time for 7-10 days for acute illnesses, reported Huffington Post.
A 2009 study found that oregano oil prevents the growth of a few bacteria that are responsible for respiratory infections. Two studies from 2008 and 2012 showed that it is effective against multiple antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Clove – Clove essential oil has antimicrobial properties, making it a highly effective ingredient for a homemade gargle to ease throat pain and irritation. The oil has a cooling effect and anti-inflammatory properties and can be used as an expectorant for respiratory issues such as: colds, cough, sinusitis, asthma and bronchitis. As an added benefit, clove is great for giving the immune system a boost.
A 2007 study confirmed clove oil’s antimicrobial, antioxidant, antifungal and antiviral benefits, and its ability to help fight certain multidrug resistant bacteria. The Department of Infectious Diseases of the University of Heidelberg also studied antiviral activity of essential oils, and clove oil was on the list together with oregano and eucalyptus.
Eucalyptus – Eucalyptus oil has a long list of medicinal properties; it is anti-inflammatory, decongestant, antiseptic, antibacterial, anti-viral, expectorant, immune-stimulant, and antibiotic. It promotes easy breathing and is effective for any respiratory conditions, including colds and flu, sinus problems and asthma, throat infections and coughs. To treat the respiratory ailments, the oil is used in a vaporizer or humidified, either commercial or homemade.
A 2010 article in Alternative Medicine Review concluded that eucalyptus oil’s antimicrobial effects work on variety of bacteria and viruses; it is useful against respiratory illnesses such as bronchitis, asthma and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, an inflammatory lung illness); and it helps against tuberculosis and MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, an infection that often is antibiotic resistant).
Peppermint – According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, peppermint is useful for colds and flu because it is an excellent expectorant and decongestant, and will help loosen phlegm and break up cough. It also soothes sore throat or dry cough. People have also successfully used peppermint oil for reducing a fever by rubbing a few drops of the oil on the bottom of the feet or the back of the neck (the two places of the body that absorb the best). Peppermint can also ease headaches.
A review of all of its benefits including decongestant and expectorant properties, can be read in a 2009 article by the Asian Journal of Pharmaceutical and Clinical Research. Their recommendation for a daily dosage is 6-12 drops internally or 3-4 drops for inhalation.
Juniper – Juniper “berry” oil is yet another oil with strong antimicrobial and antifungal properties. Like eucalyptus, it has been shown effective in treating MRSA, and other infections that are resistant to antibiotics. Inhaling this oil through a vaporizer helps treat bronchitis.
A Holistic Practitioner, Brandi Ryans, recommends using juniper oil with eucalyptus for deep chest colds. Together they will help the congestion by loosening mucus, relieve bronchial inflammation, and lessen the coughing reflex.
This article is for informational purposes only and should not constitute medical advice. Consult a licensed naturopathic doctor for more information.