It’ll be cold and flu season soon–the time of the year where not only do you have to drag yourself out of bed while it’s dark and foreboding outside, but you also have to commute amongst a chorus of coughing and sneezing.
That, in addition to the still-raging COVID-19 pandemic, can only mean one thing.
It’s (likely) only a matter of time before you present the classic symptoms: fever, chills, body aches, and cough. And given that the cold, flu and coronavirus are all viral in nature, there’s nothing much you–and medical experts–can do except take a prescription medicine and wait for your immune system to fight against the infection.
Meaning that you’d probably be battling the misery of cold or flu symptoms–a sore throat, trickly nose, headache, or swollen gland–for a week. Or so.
While there’s no quick cure for the cold, flu, or the coronavirus, it appears that you can find relief faster with aromatherapy; through the use of essential oils. But how, exactly? Continue reading to find out what are the best essential oils to fight off cold or flu symptoms.
How do viruses infect the body?
Photo by Anshu A
Before diving into the specifics of how essential oils can help you better cope with both cold and flu symptoms, it’s important for you to first understand how these symptoms come about in the first place.
And that has everything to do with the fact that the cold, flu and the coronavirus are all ‘viruses.’
Just so you know, a virus is a pathogenic, parasitic organism that isn’t classified as being alive. That’s because it has no cell membrane, no metabolism, no respiration, and cannot replicate outside of a living cell.
Instead, they are rather simple in structure; they are made up of an outer shell of protein that carries the virus’ DNA (or RNA).
And once a virus enters the body through the eyes, nose, mouth, or breaks in the skin, it’ll look for a host cell to infect. For the cold, flu, and COVID-19 viruses, that’ll be the cells that line the respiratory or digestive tracts.
Once inside the cell, the virus reprograms the host cell with its genetic material and multiplies on mass, bursting through the cell with a thousand or more new virus strands seeking new cells to invade. Thus, causing wide-spread infection. This is where your immune system comes in–and is also the cause of many of the miserable symptoms you experience.
Making sense of your cold and flu symptoms
As difficult as it may be to believe, many symptoms of cold and flu are the result of your immune system trying to fight the infection. For example:
Runny nose – Mucus is designed to trap viruses; a runny nose helps ‘flush’ the infection from the nose and sinuses.
Coughing and sneezing – Coughing and sneezing can help quickly expel mucus from the body, which then clears out the trapped virus.
Fever – Viruses are typically sensitive to temperature changes and cannot survive above normal body temperature. Thus, explaining why your body uses fever to help fight viruses.
Muscle aches and pain – During the immune response, your white blood cells produce glycoproteins called interleukins. These chemicals are usually responsible for muscle and joint pain.
How do essential oils help with viruses like the flu and coronavirus?
There’s no real cure for the cold, flu, and the coronavirus. But one effective method of relieving your symptoms (which is likely all you can do during this trying period) is using essential oils as a topical rub or for aromatherapy.
Alleviate cold and flu symptoms
More specifically, these pleasant-smelling oils can help alleviate cold and flu symptoms, especially by clearing your nasal passage and reducing headaches. Perhaps most interestingly, studies have shown that certain essential oils can kill bacteria–and some have even been tested against the flu and other viruses.
Exert antiviral effects
There’s also emerging research that suggests some essential oils can limit the proliferation of certain viruses.
For example, research shows that lemon balm essential oil can help prevent the influenza virus from entering the host cell–thus, preventing the occurrence of an infection in the first place. Studies have also shown that essential oils like cinnamon leaf oil, eugenol, and even patchoulol, can prevent the escaping of the virus from the host cell. Accordingly, this blocks the spread of the virus throughout the body.
In other words, essential oils are known to display antiviral properties–which makes aromatherapy a promising treatment to alleviate symptoms for viruses; that includes colds, flu, and coronaviruses!
Of course, more in-vivo research is still needed on essential oils’ action on viruses before it can become a ‘cure’ for the common cold, flu, or even the coronavirus. Luckily, though, their beneficial effects on cold and flu symptoms are more well- understood and documented.
Best essential oils to fight off cold or flu symptoms
So, without further ado, here’s that list of essential oils that’ll help you feel better in no time.
1 – Eucalyptus essential oil
Photo by Kelly Sikkema
Many health experts believe eucalyptus essential oil to be the most effective for alleviating cold and flu symptoms because of its key ingredient: eucalyptol.
In fact, according to a 2012 study in the Asian Pacific Journal of Biotropical Medicine, eucalyptus’ medicinal properties were so strong that the plant’s leaves ‘may be exploited as a natural antibiotic for the treatment of several infectious diseases.
Eucalyptol has antimicrobial properties that can help ward off bacterial infections.
Not to mention, it’s also an anti-inflammatory and pain reliever. Eucalyptus also contains menthol, which can help ease both sinus and chest congestion by acting as an expectorant.
2 – Peppermint essential oil
Photo by Shaun Meintjes
Peppermint essential oil also contains menthol, which can help numb or ease sore throats while acting as a decongestant. It can also relax the windpipe’s bronchial muscles to prevent coughing and breathing difficulties.
Research also suggests that peppermint oil may provide antiviral, antibacterial, and antiseptic properties.
3 – Tea tree essential oil
Tea tree essential oils and extracts have long been known to exert strong therapeutic effects due to their antiviral, antimicrobial, and antibacterial powers. Studies suggest that when inhaled, tea tree essential oils can reduce congestion and soothe sore throats.
As a bonus: tea tree essential oils can also help heal cold sores when diluted and applied topically with cotton balls.
4 – Lavender essential oil
Lavender essential oils don’t only smell good, they also provide countless medicinal benefits. And of those, are its ability to boost the immune system (which helps your body better fight off infections) and to loosen the phlegm that causes breathing issues and coughs.
Of noteworthy mention also is that lavender essential oils help promote sleep, which is arguably one of the most important things sick people need.
5 – Kumquat essential oil
Photo by Joanna Kosinska
According to a 2015 in-vitro study published in the Journal of Applied Pharmaceutical Science, this citrusy, uplifting scent has ‘strong antiviral activity’ against H5N1 avian influenza, along with antibacterial and antifungal properties.
6 – Lemon essential oil
Photo by Alicja Gancarz
Lemon essential oils have long been regarded as one of the best natural remedies for cold and flu symptoms due to its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that ease coughs and congestion, body aches, and swollen glands.
7 – Chamomile essential oil
Photo by Nia Ramirez
Another tried and true remedy to quell your cold and flu symptoms is chamomile essential oils. According to a 1990 study, inhaling steam with chamomile extract could help alleviate the symptoms that accompany the common cold.
Not to mention, the sweet-smelling oil has also demonstrated value as an anti-inflammatory while also providing a calming effect.
8 – Cinnamon essential oil
Photo by Mockup Graphics
Cinnamon oils have shown antiviral activity in numerous studies over the years. For example, a 2014 study published in the American Journal of Essential Oils and Natural Products found that an essential oil blend containing cinnamon oil completely inactivated the influenza virus.
The oil also offers a potent punch of antioxidant and antifungal properties that can help strengthen the immune system.
Essential oils can be a part of your healing process
Here’s the takeaway: when used correctly, essential oils can help alleviate the flu and cold symptoms. You can begin using essential oils immediately when you feel the cold or flu symptoms coming on to support your immune system and relieve congestion.
Add a few drops to your bath, diffuse them into the air, or mix them into a carrier oil for a rub. It’s up to you!
One added benefit of essential oils: many of them have disinfectant properties, so they’re also a viable option for sanitizing (and moisturizing) tabletops and high-contact surface areas.
But here’s a quick disclaimer: you shouldn’t rely on them as your only treatment; especially if you’re struggling with severe or worsening symptoms of flu or the coronavirus. In cases like this, your best course of action would still be to seek medical help.
Also, the adage is true: prevention is always better than cure.
To prevent yourself from falling sick in the first place, keep your immune system strong by eating a healthy diet, staying active, and getting your annual flu vaccination. Oh–and remember to keep washing your hands!