The flu6. It is hitting hard this year. But are essential oils the answer? I mean, really? There are some that might say no, absolutely, and others that just don’t know enough to feel comfortable commenting. But here's what you need to know about essential oils and the flu virus.
What does Flu Prevention Encompass?
The reality is that it takes more than just one thing to really maintain or help get your immune system in check. I am going to start with a few obvious suggestions and you can laugh, call me crazy, or maybe even agree. But first we need to look at what “prevention” really is.
Prevention, according to the Miriam-Webster Dictionary, is the act of preventing or hindering1. When we look at what this might look like regarding our immune system, it is important that we understand a few things. Our immune system is designed to work toward maintaining homeostasis or a sense of balanced health. Every cell, nerve, tissue and organ that allow us to go about our daily business are part of our immune system in some way. When any part of our body is not functioning correctly it affects our entire body.
What Does Our Body Really Need?
Something as simple as not drinking enough water can cause our bodies to work harder than they should on a cellular level. When we don’t have enough water intake it can affect things like digestion, dryness of our skin, etc. Not drinking enough water can in turn upset our immune system and make us more susceptible to virals like the flu.
Nutrition is another common concern. If our body does not have the nourishment it needs on a daily basis to perform its normal functions, our gut health, how our skin, hair, and nails look, and how we feel on the inside can be signs of an imbalance. Our immune system works harder than it should when the delicate balance is thrown off by even eating an inadequate diet or not at all. I am not saying you can’t have chocolate, chips or anything you truly enjoy. Having a well-balanced diet can include those things in moderation.
Exercise is something I know everyone talks about in January but making sure we get enough exercise really is more important than just trying it for a few weeks out of the year. Exercising allows us to release endorphins that can affect how we feel (mood), can affect how we think and even how we react in stressful situations on a daily basis and so much more2.
Another factor that is significant to our immune system working at its optimal potential is getting enough rest or sleep. Our body does its best work when we are asleep. You see, during the day when we are up and about, we are expending energy. At night when we are not exerting the energy we need to work, exercise, eat, watch tv, etc, our body is better able to repair or heal anything it needs to on a cellular level. Without enough rest or sleep we are just continuing a cycle that can lead us to be more irritable, tired so that we don’t want to do anything, stressed, and even be more susceptible to virals.
One final piece of the puzzle has everything to do with our personal hygeine. In other words, washing your hands. Washing your hands is critical because we really don't know who's touched a book, counter, or anything else we come into contact with when we are out in public. So always wash your hands after eating, using the restroom, or being in public areas. Also, avoid touching your face with your hands if at all possible.
How do Essential Oils Fit Into Prevention?
Are you seeing a pattern here? Our bodies are dependent on us to make sure we are providing it the water, nourishment, rest, and exercise it needs to perform and maintain our optimal health. Without all of these, prevention really isn’t prevention at all. But what about essential oils you say?
Think about this for a moment, if you are not drinking enough water but are doing everything else will diffusing an essential oil blend with potential antiviral effects give you the water your body needs? Likely there will be an effect, but your body still needs water so will essential oils be as effective as they could be? Probably not.
What about cooking with essential oils or using them as supplements? If you are not eating correctly and do not have a solid understanding of what the dosage needed for use in this manner is, you could potentially be hindering your immune system even further. There is also the matter of having an essential oil overpower your food’s natural flavoring!
I do not want you to think that essential oils are not beneficial. Essential oils can absolutely help you to support your daily needs – adding them to your water is not one of them.
Diffusing or using aromatsticks with essential oils can be beneficial to help you curb your least beneficial eating habits, they can help to get you in the right mindset during exercising, they can be supportive during stressful situations and they can help to support normal/healthy sleeping habits. But, they do NOT replace the things our body NEEDS to function at its optimal health. Please understand this!
What Can You Do If You Think You Have The Flu?
If you do happen to get the flu or another cold during this time of year that affects your respiratory system, here are a few tips to help you support your body in recovering.
For my youngest, during the day I will offer her a blend with essential oils that have components offering antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and anti-mucolytic effects while encouraging her resting state. In the evening during her normal sleep cycle I will use a blend that has components with antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and cephalic effects to support her respiratory system.
Here is an example of a blend I have used this week for her:
Should you want to learn more, please seek out a qualified aromatherapist with professional training to help teach you how to use essential oils in a balanced manner unique to your lifestyle.
**Please note that I am NOT a licensed physician and any information provided here is educational only. The blend provided is a custom blend used with regard to my daughter’s specific medical history and conditions and is meant only as an example. Furthermore, it does not include chemistry information for the specific essential oils utilized.**
1 Prevention. (n.d.). Retrieved January 25, 2018, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/prevention
2 Dolgin, E. (2015, July 16). Tracking down the optimum dose of exercise. Retrieved January 25, 2018, from https://www.pharmaceutical-journal.com/news-and-analysis/features/tracking-down-the-optimum-dose-of-exercise/20068939.article
3 Questions asked while visiting a doctor. January 24, 2018.
6 “Influenza (Flu).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 19 Jan. 2018, www.cdc.gov/flu/index.htm.