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When temperatures drop, cold germs come out of the woodwork. Sure, they’re a part of winter we have to endure, but there’s no reason to be a passive receptor. Judicious use of essential oils can heal, and even help prevent, cold symptoms. So put those germs on alert—aromatherapy is on your team.
“True” aromatherapy, according to Liz Fulcher, director of the Aromatic Wisdom Institute in Selinsgrove, Penn., and a clinical aromatherapy therapist, involves using plant extracts that have emotional and physical healing properties. “It’s the chemistry of the oil, not the smell, that makes the difference,” she says. “When it comes to attacking a problem, it doesn’t even matter if you have a sense of smell. It still works. Each oil has its own chemistry and interacts with the body in different ways, depending on its molecular structure. It might be antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, expectorant, decongestant, skin nourishing, or digestive.”
The essential oil comes from that part of the plant responsible for its signature aroma, the glands. The glands are full of liquid—essential oil—that contributes to the well-being of the plant, as well as to those who use it. For this reason, synthetics don’t work. They may smell good, but they don’t contain the chemistry—the essential oil—that facilitates healing.
Relief for Common Symptoms
Stuffy nose and head congestion. Simple steam inhalation is the best delivery method, as the steam helps open up and liquefy mucus. Pour hot water into a bowl and add no more than two drops of tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia), a great disinfectant for the respiratory system. You can also combine one drop of tea tree with one drop of either eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) or Siberian fir (Abies sibirica). Put a towel over your head to tent the bowl, and then breathe in the steam for 10 minutes to help kill bacteria in sinus passages.
Another way to get the steam—and a good night’s sleep—is by putting lavender essential oil (Lavandula latifolia) in a bath. “The lavender is analgesic, healing to the skin, and calming,” says Fulcher. Expect the sandman’s speedy arrival.
Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) oil, while a good decongestant, coolant, and expectorant, is too strong for a steam inhalation because of its menthol content. Ten drops of the oil can, however, be added per ounce to a body wash or hand lotion to relieve symptoms.
Chest congestion. Add six or seven drops of tea tree, eucalyptus, Siberian fir, or cypress oil to each ounce of a carrier oil like jojoba, rub it into the chest, and begin to breathe more easily.
Achy muscles. Warming oils will help. Using the formula of 10 drops to one ounce of a carrier oil, massage the mixture into sore muscles. Try black pepper oil (Piper nigrum), known for its warming, anti-inflammatory properties and its ability to stimulate circulation and blood flow; marjoram (Origanum majorana) for its warming, anti-spasmodic, calming properties; ginger (Zingiber officinale) for its warming, analgesic, antispasmodic, and anti-inflammatory qualities; or rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), with its warming, analgesic, diuretic, expectorant, and antispasmodic properties.
Continue to boost your immune system with peppermint oil, a proven warrior. Fulcher, who rarely gets sick, keeps a bottle in her kitchen and adds 10 drops of the oil to an ounce of an unscented dish soap, reaping the benefits every day. Other antibacterials that boost immunity include lavender, palmarosa, geranium, cedarwood, and frankincense. Used in a carrier lotion or soap, any of these oils is safe to use on the skin every day.
Note: Never use an essential oil directly on the skin. Some oils are harsh and can put you at risk for sensitization. “It’s the same thing as contact dermatitis,” says Fulcher. “Always use a carrier—an unscented soap; lotion; or oil, such as jojoba, sweet almond, or coconut.”
EO Be Well Bath Salts ease congestion and body aches with eucalyptus and homeopathic arnica.
BOTANIQUE BY HIMALAYA i.e. blam inhale-exhale un-stuffs noses with the healing vapors of mint and eucalyptus. Massage into skin and breathe.
TISSERAND AROMATHERAPY Head Clear blends lavender, mint, and citrus essential oils. Just rub onto pulse points.