This time of year, I always seem to get a lot of questions about how to prevent colds and what do I use, etc. So, I am finally sitting down to answer these related questions.
How do I use essential oils to prevent myself from getting sick?
This is the question I am asked the most. I can tell you this – I do NOT use anything with cinnamon bark, oregano or another essential oil blend with these ingredients. In all honesty, I don’t really use essential oils as a preventative therapy but as a supportive therapy.
Why not? For a few reasons, actually. The biggest reason is that if I were to use essential oils for supporting my body all the time, when I do get sick they may not be as effective. The other is, we can’t build our immune systems without getting a cold occasionally.
Think about it. If we NEVER got a cold or anything else and essential oils and then one day became exposed, what would happen? Our immune system would have a heck of a time trying to fight off the virus and return to its natural state of balance.
What do I do to stay healthy?
The reality is that I do not live in a bubble. I recognize that living in the world we live in, colds are inevitable if I don’t practice good personal hygiene (i.e. washing my hands frequently, especially after working with food, money, or just being out and about).
I also know that if I don’t get enough sleep, my daily stress and everything else will wear down my immune system. Sleep is a major priority in my home for that reason. Especially when we have a busier than usual schedule.
I also focus on good nutritional choices – carrot chips versus potato chips is a great example. They both can fuel the body, but one of them is far better than the other nutritionally. If I chose to eat pizza every day, my body would not handle the stress as well. I might even start to feel lethargic. Nutrition does matter when we are trying to work from a place of prevention without essential oils.
Something else I do it is to try and exercise – even if it is only moving my body around to the beat of some music for 10 minutes here or there. Once it is cooler here, I will be out doing long walks as well. Exercise helps to alleviate stress, too!
What essential oils do I use when I get sick?
Ideally, I do try to avoid being sick but like everyone else, but I do catch the occasional or rare cold. Nine times out of ten, my colds are typically some form of virus that give me the common head cold (sniffles, sinus congestion, etc.). With these types of colds, inhalation is really the best method of application when using essential oils. Inhalation allows for the most effective and efficient manner of delivery for the volatile essential oil components. It also serves to have a more direct affect on our respiratory system versus diluting them to put on the feet.
Using inhalation as a method of application we can utilize steam tents, aroma sticks, shower steamers, diffusers and a few other great ways to get the support we need from essential oils.
I have a few different essential oils that I really go to most colds in my diffuser. My first and favorite is Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) essential oil. It really is the best unsung hero when it comes to colds because of its antiviral properties. In fact, there was a study about its effectiveness when used against the influenza virus (Li, et al., 2013).
Virginia Cedarwood (Juniperus virginiana) is another favorite of mine. I have found that one of the most important things our body needs during a cold is rest! Virginia Cedarwood is very soothing and is great at supporting our body’s natural ability to break up congestion during a cold.
Another essential oil that I reach for during colds is lime(Citrus aurantifolia). Lime is a wonderful addition to any diffuser blend during colds because of the antiviral properties within its chemistry (Astani and Schnitzler, 2014). I tend to add this to my day time blends because it helps to lift my spirits as well.
Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) or Black Spruce (Picea mariana) are other tree oils that are incredibly supportive during respiratory illnesses (Rose, 2001). They are both soothing during colds to help ease breathing and spastic coughs.
One of my other go to oils is Blue Gum or Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus). In the past, this oil has been very misunderstood with regards to safety. However, it can be a huge help when you really need help in clearing your breathing passages (Rose, 2001). One drop in an entire diffuser blend can really help. It does have some concerns for some asthmatics, but if used in low dilutions in cold blends can be quite helpful.
Any combination of these oils can be helpful in supporting our immune system’s natural ability to fight viruses and recover from them. Using essential oils in a supportive manner I have found helps me have a 3-4 day cold versus a 5-7 day cold because they are so effective when used in this manner versus from a preventative therapy approach every single day. I want to emphasize here that essential oils are used most effectively when we do not look at them as a means of healing or curing but rather a supportive therapy to what our body already naturally does.
How do you use essential oils with regards to colds? Do you use them as a preventative therapy or as a supportive therapy?
Li, X., Duan, S., Chu, C., Xu, J., Zeng, G., Lam, A., . . . Jiang, L. (2013). Melaleuca alternifolia Concentrate Inhibits in Vitro Entry of Influenza Virus into Host Cells. Molecules,18(8), 9550-9566. doi:10.3390/molecules18089550
Astani, A., & Schnitzler, P. (2014). Antiviral activity of monoterpenes beta-pinene and limonene against herpes simplex virus in vitro. Iranian Journal of Microbiology,6(3), 149-155. Retrieved September 16, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4393490/.
Rose, J. (2001). 375 essential oils and hydrosols. Berkeley, CA: Frog.