7 Ways to Essential Oils can Support You During Cold & Flu Season
by Catherine Morris | December 16, 2020, updated about 1 month ago
It's winter, which means our immune systems are taking a hit from pesky cold weather viruses and infections. It’s during this season when you might find that essential oils can really demonstrate just how essential they can be. These naturally-derived and potent scents can not only boost your immune system, but they can help you fight anything that gets through your defences by easing symptoms and speeding recovery.
Below is our list of seven essential oils that are sure to come in handy this winter. If you're creating your own natural medicine cabinet, these flu-fighting oils should play a starring role.
One of the worst symptoms when you’re sick is that stuffed-head feeling. Enter eucalyptus—a must for anyone who wants to breathe better.
“Eucalyptus is good for congestion. I have asthma and it starts bothering me in the winter when the air is very dry. I use a eucalyptus, peppermint and lavender rub on my chest.”
Eucalyptus contains the anti-inflammatory compound cineole which helps clear inflamed lungs and nasal passages. In one study, it gave relief to patients with chronic bronchitis by easing their congestion and coughing fits.
Aches, pains, and shivery all over? Reach for clove oil. “Clove is really good for pain,” says aromatherapist Roseanne de Beaudrap who adds that it's not just a good natural anaesthetic, but also antibacterial and antiviral.
Clove kickstarts the immune system, and has long been a popular remedy for respiratory infections and sore throats in many ancient healing traditions.
“If you feel stuffy and have a sore throat, cinnamon is great.”
It may also help you fight nasty winter bugs. Studies show cinnamon is a powerful weapon against the bacteria that cause pneumonia, the H1N1 virus, and can even knock out some antibiotic-resistant pathogens.
De Beaudrap adds that we should look for cinnamon bark oil rather than the leaf oil if possible. The bark is stronger and better quality.
Rosemary is one of the potent oils blended to make Thieves Oil, a traditional remedy that dates back to the 1400s when desperate herbalists sought a cure for the bubonic plague. It may not have stopped the plague, but the remedy is a proven bacteria fighter, in part due to rosemary's anti-microbial properties.
It's a good idea to have this oil on hand year-round. Rosemary is one of de Beaudrap's favourites, and a staple of her essential oil remedies—“I use rosemary quite a lot, not just for colds and flus. It's good for respiratory issues, headaches, and fatigue.”
This citrus scent doesn't just make you and your home smell amazing, it's also great when you're hit with the winter blues or stuck in bed battling a bug. “Lemon is so uplifting and energizing. You feel better in an instant,” says Meyer.
It's also a good answer to the foggy headed feeling that comes with colds, clearing the mind, and improving alertness and concentration.
Whether inhaled or applied topically, lavender relaxes the nervous system. So try diffusing this oil in the bedroom at night, or rubbing it on your chest before bed, in order to get a good night's rest. Sleep is essential for your immune system, and encourages a speedy recovery.
This energizing fragrance is also very soothing for the headaches that often accompany colds and flus. It's also a powerful anti-inflammatory with anti-microbial properties that can ease everything from digestive upsets to congestion.
Other options for your essential oil toolkit include cedarwood, black spruce, frankincense, and sandalwood.
If you're lucky enough to have a well-stocked collection of essential oils, you can always try blending them to maximise their disease-fighting credentials. De Beaudrap, a certified massage therapist, has been creating custom blends for her clients for years and says some of her favourite pairings for knocking out cold weather illnesses are frankincense and sandalwood; black spruce and cedarwood; and peppermint, lemon and eucalyptus.
Always use a carrier oil like coconut, almond or grapeseed, as your base when applying essential oils to the skin, and it's best to test a patch of skin first to ensure there are no adverse reactions.
How to use essential oils
Essential oils are not the same oils you might cook with, or drizzle over salads. These are powerful remedies that pack a punch and can be dangerous if used incorrectly.
Both de Beaudrap and Meyer say quality is key. Choose a therapeutic grade oil, preferably organic, to ensure there are no hidden fillers or synthetics that might cause irritation.
Once you have a good quality oil, there's a number of ways to use it. Meyer likes to mix peppermint, lemon and lavender to make a healthy air freshener—
“They blend well together as a room spray for cold and flu season for all the bugs that are in the air.”
You can also “Apply the oils at night before bed,” as a chest rub.
For a great list of essential oil Dos and Don’ts, check out our other post on the topic!
Interested in trying herbal remedies or essential oils as part of your self-care? Which Doctor has dozens of qualified herbalists and aromatherapists in our practitioner network. Sign up today to browse our online clinic and book a session.
Catherine Morris is an award-winning journalist with a bad case of wanderlust and a passion for all things health and wellness. Originally from Northern Ireland, she worked as a news and feature writer for media outlets in the UK, South Africa, France and the Caribbean before settling in Canada. Catherine now lives in Alberta with her husband and rescue mutt and spends her time happily exploring the great outdoors with both.