While the fall and winter months bring spectacular beauty and holiday cheer, catching a case of the common cold or flu can quickly bring your spirits down. Luckily, there are many essential oils for colds and flu symptoms that can just as quickly bring your spirits back up by providing soothing, comforting relief and support healing.
Colds versus “the Flu” – What’s the Difference?
According to the Quick Reference Guide for Using Essential Oils by Connie and Alan Higley ¹ , influenza, also known as “the flu”, is a highly contagious viral infection of the respiratory system. Symptoms include high fever, dry cough, sore throat, muscle aches and pains, headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, and nasal congestion. Some viruses cause vomiting and diarrhea. Yuck!
Web MD ² describes the common cold as a less severe version of “the flu” and typically lasts for a few days to a week versus potentially weeks of symptoms which is common with influenza. It’s important to note that influenza can result in serious health conditions, like pneumonia, particularly for young and elderly people and folks with lung or heart problems. For a user-friend chart and more specific descriptions related to the difference between the flu and the common cold, follow the link in the footnotes of this article.
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Essential oils can help alleviate symptoms and support the healing process, but do check in with a doctor if symptoms are persistent, or if you are vulnerable to complications, or are caring for someone who is vulnerable to complications.
Essential Oils for Common Cold and “the Flu”
The following is a list of the top essential oils for the common cold and influenza compiled based on personal experience and research and includes a mix of strong popular essential oils to gentle ones and offers suggestions for home remedies to soothe symptoms.
- Thieves Essential Oil
Thieves essential oil blend of lemon, eucalyptus, cinnamon, clove, and rosemary is a popular choice among essential oil enthusiasts. Sources recommend this essential oil for colds and flu symptoms because of its anti-bacterial, anti-infectious, anti-viral and antiseptic properties and is known to aid in eliminating symptoms from colds and flu quickly. It works wonders in combating chest congestion, stuffy noses, sore throats, and reducing fever. Diffuse, or put a few drops in a capsule or in a glass of water and drink for fast acting support in healing.
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- Peppermint Essential Oil
Peppermint essential oil is effective for soothing headaches, chest congestion and reducing fever. Apply a small amount on your temples to combat head pain and to the bottoms of your feet to reduce your fever. Rub on your chest for soothing relief of chest congestion. Peppermint essential oil is a great go to essential oil for cold and flu season. Make sure to dilute it with a carrier oil as this essential oil is strong.
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- Lemon Essential Oil
Lemon essential oil is a phenomenal decongestant and is known to be an effective antiviral agent. It’s fresh, uplifting vitamin-c infused scent can bring your spirits up when your down and out with a cold or flu. Add this drop of sunshine to your diffuser to enhance your well being while you’re feeling sick and purify the air to help you breathe better. According to an article titled, Essential Oils for Cough, Cold, and Congestion written by Jon Yaneff, CNP, for doctorshealth.com, a study published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy in 2001 ³, the antibacterial action of lemon oil was found to be effective against cold and allergy symptoms.
- German Chamomile Essential Oil
German Chamomile is a gentle and soothing essential oil for colds and flu. This oil will help melt away tension and pain from headaches and muscle aches and pains. Diffuse in the air or add it to your favourite carrier oil and rub on your neck, shoulders, and feet, or put a few drops in a warm bath to soothe aching muscles and calm chest and throat pain. A warm compress on the back of your neck will also do the trick. Plant Therapy offers a lovely German Chamomile Oil here.
- Oregano Essential Oil
Oil of Oregano is a popular essential oil for colds and flus and a long list of other ailments. This powerful essential oil is known to be as effective as antibiotics. Studies show its properties are antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-parasitic. Add to a diffuser, vaporizer or personal inhaler to decrease the effects of a sore throat and combat virus and infections.
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- Lavender Essential Oil
Lavender is a common essential oil and its uses as an essential oil to aid in cold and flu symptoms are abundant. It is a gentle oil extracted from the lavender plant, which is part of the mint family. As an essential oil for colds and flu it has anti-septic and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s wonderful as a neck and shoulder rub to relax tense muscles and ease headaches. Place a few drops on a cotton ball and place under your pillow to help you get some much-needed rest. Add a carrier oil and create a decongestant rub. Lavender oil also has a ton of other benefits, so if you do add it to your medicine cabinet, it will continue to serve you even after cold and flu season is over. Read more here.
- Eucalyptus Oil
Eucalyptus oil eases the respiratory system during colds and flu. Diffuse it to support breathing through stuffy noses or create a soothing rub with your favourite carrier oil for your chest and shoulders. Eucalyptus oil is often used in cough drops and ointments. Create your own home remedies with your favourite diffuser and carrier oils.
Start With Eucalyptus Oil Here
Cold and Flu Home Remedies
There are various home remedy options for you to try with your essential oils.
- Apply topically with a generous amount of carrier oil.
- Diffuse through steam inhalation or in a cold-air diffuser.
- Apply a few drops on a warm cloth and use as a compress to relieve aching muscles.
- Apply on the bottoms of your feet
If you chose an essential oil brand that is safe to ingest, you can:
- Add two drops to a glass of water or juice and drink for an effective solution to sore throat and chest pain.
- Add two drops of a recommended essential oil into a caplet and take with water.
- Make sure the brand of essential oil you pick for this option is safe to ingest! Find options here.
Use Oil of Oregano
- Oil of Oregano is NOT an essential oil. It is a blended formula where oregano essential oil is mixed with extra virgin olive oil to provide you with strong immunity system support. It’s not the most tasty, but it’s one of those home remedies for cold and flu you’ll want to teach your kids – because it works!
Steam Inhalation versus Diffusing the Essential Oil
When I’m sick, my diffuser is my best friend. I bring it with me to every room I lay in. When it comes to choosing to use steam inhalation versus diffusing the recommended essential oils there are a few ideas to keep in mind.
Steam inhalation is done by adding a few drops of the recommended essential oil into a bowl of hot water, and leaning over the bowl with a towel over your head to keep the steam in. What I like about this method is the steam facial you get from it and its effectiveness as an instant decongestant. Also, you get to be up close and personal with your favourite oil and it works well.
Diffusing the recommended essential oils with a cold-air diffuser is effective in distributing the oil throughout a room, but you don’t get the concentrated results as provided by steam inhalation. For an effective solution when you’re sick I recommend using your favorite diffuser while having a hot, steamy bath – this will allow you to get an effective use of the diffused essential oil while enjoying the steam to aid in decongesting your nose and chest.
There are many beloved oils that work to alleviate symptoms from colds and flu, Tea Tree Oil, Thyme, and Ginger are three other examples that would work well. What’s wonderful about essential oils is the various uses you can get out of each one. Lemon works as a great decongestant and it also makes a nice cleanser for your kitchen counters; lavender is great to aid in sleeping and it can soothe burns, cuts and scrapes as well.
While the effects of a cold or flu can leave you feeling miserable, just know there are many essential oils for cold and flu for you to choose from. Finding what works for you based on your personal preference will lead to your own essential oil first aid kit in no time. If you already have a few preferences, please share what works for you in our comments section below.
Hope you feel better soon.
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