Aromatherapy Recipes and Practices for Cold and Flu Prevention

By Laura Dees

The body of scientific evidence regarding the potency of plant medicines against a great variety of viral and bacterial illnesses is growing. And with the Winter months -- the "cold and flu season" -- coming, now is the time to investigate all the ways you can protect your health and the health of your family. More and more people are turning to the vast healing potential of essential oils, getting beyond the soft ideas of "aromatherapy" and into the practical value of "aroma medicine". Using essential oils for immune system support is a tried-and-true application -- in fact, most medical aromatherapists consider the most important use of essential oils in medical applications will be for the prevention and treatment of infectious illness (see Dr. Kurt Schnaubelt's 'Medical Aromatherapy').

What Are Essential Oils and How Can They Help Us?

For the uninitiated, essential oils are the volatile aromatic compounds distilled from plants. In this way, they just happen to be a particular form of herbal medicine, just any other medicinal plant extract. At the same time, they're quite unique in terms of their health effects: Firstly, they are easily absorbed by our bodies, getting into the nooks-and-crannies of our physiology -- some other forms of herbal medicine are difficult to absorb, and require extensive preparation, which is really already done by the person who has distilled the essential oil. Second, in terms of infectious illness, essential oils can do for us EXACTLY the same thing they do for plants: prevent infection from bacteria, viruses and fungus. An excellent analogy would be extracting particular antioxidants from a plant and ingesting this for capturing oxidative radicals in our bodies -- the antioxidant serves precisely the same function for the plant.

The Science Behind Essential Oils As Agents For Immune-System Protection

For the treatment and prevention of infectious illness, essential oils are used for two purposes: the general strengthening of the immune system and the direct eradication of viruses. A great many peer-reviewed research papers have been produced showing the efficacy of essential oils for both purposes. Using the database of the National Institute of Health ( one can review the data by searching for terms such as 'essential oil virus' (currently producing 93 results) or 'essential oil immune' (producing 143 results) and the like. Essential oils have been shown to actually increase the power of lymphocytes and increase the speed at which the immune system produces antibodies to eliminate an infection. And of course many essential oils are highly-regarded antibacterial agents (we all know about Tea Tree and Oregano), and a few of them have been shown to destroy viruses directly (Laurus Nobilis was shown to eradicate the virus causing SARS, and very recently Tea Tree was shown to be effective against the Swine Flu virus).

Cold and Flu Prevention At Home and In The Workplace

So how can you employ essential oils for the health of your family and children? Or for those in clinical settings, how can oils be used to prevent the spread of infection? There are two primary features to the oils that you'll want to utilize: their direct eradication of microbes in the air, and their ability to support our immune systems to prevent infection within our bodies. There are two methods of using essential oils for these purposes: Diffusion and topical application. Both these methods are also useful if one has already caught a cold or flu, particularly in the early stages.

Easy, Profound Benefits Through Diffusion

Diffusing essential oils is one of three primary modalities of aromatherapy (the other two being aroma-massage and ingestion). Evaporating the oils in your environment offers several important benefits: the air is disinfected, the scent of the oils is apparent -- offering mood lifting effects, and secondary immune-enhancing effects for some people, and the oils are inhaled and absorbed by the body. This is an exceptionally useful means of using the oils for immune support in crowded environments, having the potential effect of reducing the spread of contagions. Perhaps the most important effect is the direct contact of the essential oils with our respiratory system -- the sinuses and the lungs -- where having cells be more resistant to infection can have the most beneficial result.

The Right Diffuser For The Job

One means to do both is using a professional-grade essential oil diffuser. For all these purposes, a high-quality nebulizing diffuser is the best choice, capable of making the highest concentration of essential oil in the air in your environment. Other diffusers will make a nice aroma for sure, but the cold-air (as opposed to 'ultrasonic') nebulizer will make a fine mist of pure essential oils, and is easily adjusted to suit the size of your environment. A nebulizer should only be used for a few minutes every hour; essential oils are very potent, and one should never feel overwhelmed by their aromas. By using a diffuser coupled with a timer, you can cycle the diffuser ON for 10 minutes, then OFF for 50 throughout the day and night. This method also conserves the oils to keep costs to a minimum.

Topical Application: Easily Absorbing the Essential Oils

Essential oils are also very effective when topically applied -- they readily pass through the skin and into the bloodstream. For this purpose, very simple blends of essential oils and carrier oils can be made. A carrier oil is just any "fixed" oil (one that does not easily evaporate) like Jojoba, Olive, Almond and the like. The dilutions are as follows: for application to the feet, use ten percent total essential oils in carrier, for other parts of the body and for a bath oil, use five percent. A soak in a warm tub, with your oil formula mixed in is an absolutely lovely way to gain all the benefits of the oils: they're absorbing into the skin and evaporating from the surface for inhalation. For blending: a one-percent concentration is equal to eight drops of essential oil per fluid ounce of carrier oil -- from there you can multiply up to whatever volume of blend you'd like to make. For children, cut these concentrations by half, for children under 7, in half again, and under 4 half again. Do not topically apply essential oils to children under two without consulting a professional or highly-knowledgeable practitioner for precise instructions.

Therapeutic Immune-Stimulating Massage

If you keep a pre-mixed formula on-hand, simple massage is easily performed one or two times daily. The feet are reputed to be highly receptive for all aroma-therapeutic treatments, including immune-support. Deeply massage both feet thoroughly with the mixture; if you have access to a reflexology chart, you can focus extra attention to the respiratory and lymph system reflex points. These are the important areas of the body to massage directly as well: the chest, the neck, the armpits, and being careful about sensitivity (dilute further if necessary) the sinuses and temples, and the groin area.

Choosing The Essential Oils

The list of antimicrobial and immune-supportive oils is lengthy; here we'll narrow it down as much as possible to those that are also highly regarded as specifically antiviral as well. Melissa -- also called "lemon balm" may be the most versatile, all-around immune-supportive essential oil. It is well-known to make cells resistant to viral infection, and its aroma is one that has statistically significant antidepressant properties. It is thought to potentate the effects of other oils, and because of its very high potency, can be used in very small percentages in relation to other oils. Tea Tree is the most widely studied of the antibacterial and antiviral oils, and the only essential oil thus far shown to specifically eradicate H1N1 influenza. Bay Laurel -- or "laurus nobilis" has been shown to have direct action against against a highly infectious virus causing severe respiratory ailments. Narrow-leaf Eucalyptus has both antiviral and proven immune-modulating actions. There are several other important oils worth mentioning: Lavender (great for children), Hyssop, Thyme, and Rosemary Verbenone.

Mixing any three of these oils will create an effective synergy (it appears that the more chemically-complex essential oils have greater antiviral action, and blending this way replicates this). A specific formula may be made like this: 1 milliliter each of Bay Laurel, Eucalyptus, and Lavender, plus 8 drops of Melissa. This recipe can be used directly in a diffuser, or blended in a carrier oil as above. In one ounce of carrier, this would make a 10% concentration (for foot use), in 2 ounces of carrier for application to the rest of the body and as a bath oil. Continue diluting the recipe as necessary for children depending on their age. Essential oils are highly potent, so don't be afraid of really diluted them down for use by children (in fact, this should be the rule!).

Essential Oils: A Simple Means to Vibrant Health

Regular use throughout the Fall and Winter months is an excellent way of supporting immune function and providing antimicrobial protection for your whole family, co-workers or clients and customers. The oils work in so many ways: through disinfection, immune system stimulation, and supporting overall well-being which then strengthens our immunity to infectious illness. They're easy to use, have scientific backing for their efficacy, and even provide a doorway to tapping into the vast medicinal potential of aroma-medicine. These wonderful features really make them worth a try! - 30540

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