Today while I was in Pilates class, which is in an enclosed room with no real fresh air moving through, someone close by had a few good rounds of sneezing and she didn’t get a chance to cover. Now, it might have been just allergies, but it’s cold and flu season, so I couldn’t help but wonder if I or one of my healthy classmates might be on the verge of getting a “bug.”
The idea of having an aromatherapy diffuser going, or even spritzing an antimicrobial essential oil spray, came to mind as a solution. Using antiseptic and immune-stimulating essential oils in it would have helped prevent germs from spreading like wildfire throughout the room and even worked therapeutically to boost everyone’s immune system.
So, I thought I’d share with you some of my top, go-to essential oils that I use when a cold or influenza strikes my family. To ensure no on else gets sick, I distill or use them in a disinfecting room spray (see my recipe) because they zap cold and flu viruses dead, and some of them even kill certain kinds of bacteria. Plus, they can be used to alleviate cold and flu symptoms, such as in a compress to bring down a fever or in a steam treatment to alleviate congestion. Give them a try at work or at home and let me know how they work out for you.
Often used in spa steam rooms, eucalyptus sterilizes the air with a fresh, crisp clean scent that also lifts the spirits. Add a few drops to a vaporizer, the bottom of the shower floor (or to a wash cloth first), or in a steam treatment to alleviate nasal congestion and coughing and to help prevent infections, such as sinusitis and bronchitis, from creeping in. (See my article, “Winter Care Eucalyptus Steam to Support Healthy Breathing,” for the how-to.) Eucalyptus is also indispensable in a cold compress for cooling a fever (add 1 drop to a bowl of ice water). In addition, I’ve found it helpful in massage blends applied directly to the chest to ease respiratory ailments like excessive coughing.
To make a massage blend, add 1-3% essential oil (about 6-18 drops per ounce depending on your dropper size) to a carrier oil, such as almond, sunflower, or olive oil. Use less (0.5 – 1%) for children and the elderly. Feel free to blend it with other oils, such as spike lavender, which helps to relieve pain, calm the nerves, fight germs, and clear congestion amongst other things.
Be aware that there are over a dozen kinds of eucalyptus to choose from (e.g., E. globulus, E. polybractea, E. radiata, E. dives, etc. ). Eucalyptus globulus is the most popular, but my favorite one is E. radiata, because it’s not as harsh and it has a fresh, camphorous aroma with notes of citrus and floral. When it comes to children, E. smithii is my first choice because it’s the mildest.
Note: Avoid eucalyptus essential oil if you are pregnant or have high blood pressure or epilepsy.
2. Ravensara (Ravensara aromatica)
Does someone have the flu? Reach for ravensara — one of my all-time favorite essential oils for when influenza strikes. Its antiseptic, antimicrobial, and antiviral qualities disinfect the air and its expectorant and immunomodulant actions also help those stricken with the flu get better faster. Plus, it has a pleasant sweet, herbaceous scent. So, it’s a win-win for those healthy and sick alike. If coughing is a big issue, I often mix it with a little Eucalyptus radiata and some spike lavender to calm the nerves and promote sleep. You can also add some to a carrier oil to massage sore, achy muscles, that are often the result of fever and chills. (See how to make massage blend in the “Eucalyptus” section above).
Note: Avoid ravensara during pregnancy.
3. Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia)
This essential oil with a crisp, warm spicy scent is a super star when it comes to antimicrobial actions, because it’s an effective antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial. So it’s great for not only cold and flu viruses, but effective for some bacterial infections as well, such as bronchitis, sinusitis, and whooping cough. In fact, it seems to be good for respiratory conditions in general, because it also helps asthma. Not only that, but tea tree also stimulates your immune system, so it may actually help prevent you from getting sick. By the way, if tea tree doesn’t tickle your fancy because of the smell, blend it with some lemon, orange, or lavender essential oil.
Note: Some people have skin sensitivity with tea tree, so test it on a small area first if using it in a massage blend.
General Notes Regarding Essential Oil Use, Safety, & Storage
- Safe Handling of Oils: When using essential oils, avoid direct contact with the skin (tea tree and lavender are the general exception), mucuous membranes, and eyes. If eye contact occurs, flush the eyes with water for several minutes (e.g., 15-20) and consult a doctor if irritation persists. If skin contact occurs, immediately wash with warm soapy water. Follow up with a physician if signs of irritation persist. If accidentally ingested, immediately contact a poison control center or call 911.
- Storage of Oils: It’s important to store your essential oils in dark-colored glass bottles, such as amber or cobalt blue, out of sunlight and direct heat to avoid the chemical constituents from changing and thereby affecting their safety and therapeutic actions.
- Other Essential Oil Uses. Just as the above essential oils are useful in cold and flu treatments because of their antiseptic qualities, they are also beneficial for green cleaning. I especially like using tea tree, which is one of the top oils to use for green cleaning, in this DIY all-purpose vinegar spray to clean and disinfect surfaces in my home and office to prevent germs from spreading. Eucalyptus essential oil (E. globulus works well and is inexpensive) is also great to use in this disinfecting vodka spray recipe.
Battaglia, S. The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy. (2003). 2nd ed. Brisbane, Australia: The International Centre of Holistic Aromatherapy.
Keville, K. (1995). Aromatherapy for Dummies. New York: Wiley Publishing.
Other Articles About Fighting Colds & Flus You May Be Interested In:
- Warm Your Spirit and Boost Your Immunity with Ginger Tea
- DIY Warming Winter Ginger Bath: Sleep Well & Fight Off Colds
- DIY Detoxifying Mustard Bath: Soothe Muscles, Fight Colds & Flus, & More
Other Articles Related to Disinfecting & Cleaning You May Want to Read:
- Make This Powerful Antiseptic Room Spray to Keep Germs at Bay
- 5 Green Cleaning Tips to Stay Healthy During Cold & Flu Season
- Top Green Cleaning Products to Stock Up On For Cold & Flu Season
Other Articles About Boosting Your Immunity You Might Enjoy:
- 25 Proven Ways to Boost Your Immunity Holistically & Naturally
- 5 Amazing At-Home Spa Treatments to Boost Your Immunity & Be Healthier
- Improving Your Immune System is As Easy a Walk in the Woods
- Boost Your Immunity with Blueberries & Red Grapes
Copyright © Karen Peltier and Well Gal, 2014 – 2017. All rights reserved.