Aromatherapy for Colds & Flu
Essential oils are a surprisingly powerful and effective way to boost your immune system.
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With the advent of winter comes a rush of holiday celebrations. But when uninvited guests arrive—e.g., cold and flu germs—show them the door with the help of essential oils. Not familiar with some of these unsung heroes? They offer a natural method for combating seasonal ailments, and they also add new scent profiles to your aromatherapy regimen. Here are seven of our favorites for staying well this winter—and for easing colds and flu symptoms if you do get sick:
The leader of the pack has to be eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus). This essential oil packs a punch to ailing respiratory systems, yet it’s gentle enough to put in a child’s diffuser at night to clear stuffy heads. Eucalyptus has a fresh scent that may smell a bit medicinal to some noses, but it’s worth it: The oil’s super antibacterial properties fight germs and ease congestion.
With a change in weather, reach for enticing, warm aromatics such as cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum). But consider these spices for more than just tasty culinary uses (like that pumpkin spice latte). Essential oil of cinnamon has powerful antifungal and antioxidant properties that help bolster the body’s immune system. A little bit of this essential oil, however, goes a long way. It has a richer scent than the ground spice, but it’s an essential oil you’ll want to use—even a small amount is effective, and the aroma is comforting.
Did You Know?
It’s easy to adapt most aromatherapy recipes for use in a diffuser. Start with fewer drops per essential oil, since aerial diffusion will quickly disperse oils. Set a timer for 30–45 minutes—plenty of time to clear nasal passages and start the healing process.
Clove (Eugenia caryophyllata) essential oil is a rich spice that adds warmth to a cold and flu blend while opening nasal airways and improving breathing. Clove is also an excellent companion oil that will boost the scent of other spices or sweeten the sharpness of eucalyptus. Just a drop or two, though—like cinnamon, clove’s robust aroma can overpower. These distinct spice oils (clove and cinnamon) will help you avoid getting sick when it seems like everyone is sneezing in your direction.
4. Black Pepper
Less aggressive than cinnamon or clove, yet still effective for easing influenza’s aches and pains, black pepper (Piper nigrum) is a woodsy, green aromatic that smells very little like the table spice, but offers a similar stimulating kick. Blend it with other essential oils to tackle bugs and viruses and add a bright scent to the mix.
A cousin to balancing lavender, lavandin (Lavandula intermedia or Lavandula hybrid var. Super) offers a more floral, herbal scent and a higher camphor level that makes it effective in respiratory blends. Like its cousin, lavandin in small doses is also relaxing and perfect for diffusing to encourage restful sleep—one of the best remedies when you’re fighting a cold or the flu.
6. Green Mandarin
Opt to go green this season—green Mandarin (Citrus reticulata blanco), that is. Despite being a member of the typically stimulating citrus family of essential oils, green Mandarin has relaxing properties similar to lavender. Blended with other oils, it offers additional antiseptic properties and a gentle, fruity aroma. Distill this light citrus oil before bedtime: It’s safe for even the most fretful, feverish child in the family.
7. Grand Fir
Essential oil of grand fir (Abies grandis) is a decongestant that also offers anti-inflammatory and pain-reducing properties, especially when combined with clove. Grand fir can be added to a massage oil blend or a to a bath (along with a carrier oil) to relieve achy muscles and joints associated with seasonal colds or the flu.
Winter Warrior Roller Blend
Not feeling 100 percent? Roll this aromatic blend on the inner wrist and dab a dot under your nose and breathe deeply. Not only is this blend naturally antiviral, it’s also emotionally uplifting for when you’re feeling under the weather. Use your favorite carrier, or opt for tamanu (or beauty leaf) oil, an excellent choice since it’s a little thicker than other carrier oils and holds up to the deeper aromas of the spice oils.
- 2 drops Eucalyptus
- 2 drops Cinnamon
- 2 drops Clove
- 6 drops Black Pepper
- 8 drops Lavandin
Breathe Easy Blends
You can add these blends to a diffuser or use them to make a massage oil: mix oils in a 1 oz. glass bottle with a carrier oil such as grapeseed or sweet almond oil.
- 8 drops Eucalyptus
- 8 drops Black Pepper
- 12 drops Lavandin
- 4 drops Eucalyptus
- 10 drops Lavandin
- 14 drops Green Mandarin
Healthy Tip: Make effective use of your respiratory blends. A few times daily, apply blends in a circular motion on the chest and solar plexus, the base of and behind your neck, behind your ears, and on other lymph nodes. Then place a drop under the nose to hasten the benefits of aromatherapy.