5 Healing Essential Oils You Need To Eliminate Cold and Flu

Colds (common colds) and the flu (influenza) are contagious infections that affect the respiratory system. Both are airborne illnesses, spread through coughing and sneezing. Colds typically are confined to the upper respiratory system—the nose and throat—but the flu affects the lungs and in severe cases may cause death, especially in senior citizens, young children, and those with a compromised immune system.

What Are the Causes of Cold and Flu?

Both the common cold and the flu are typically caused by viruses. According to the Mayo Clinic, there are over 100 viruses that can cause cold symptoms (Mayo Clinic, 2013).

There are also many different viruses that can cause the flu. According to the World Health Organization, the medical community combines the three most common viruses (A, B, and C) under the heading of seasonal influenza. Type A influenza has several subtypes or strains, and is believed to be the most dangerous of the three viruses that cause flu. Researchers believe that strains of type A influenza were responsible for the global outbreaks of flu in 1918, 1957, and 1968 (WHO, 2009).

Flu or Cold Symptoms?

When you wake up sneezing, coughing, and have that achy, feverish, can’t move a muscle feeling, how do you know whether you have cold symptoms or the flu?

It’s important to know the difference between flu and cold symptoms. A cold is a milder respiratory illness than the flu. While cold symptoms can make you feel bad for a few days, flu symptoms can make you feel quite ill for a few days to weeks. The flu can also result in serious health problems such as pneumonia and hospitalizations.

What Are the Symptoms of Cold?

Symptoms of the common cold are unpleasant, but not usually dangerous. Beginning two to three weeks after infection, they include

  • sore throat
  • stuffy nose caused by buildup of mucus or phlegm
  • swelling of sinuses
  • sneezing and/or coughing
  • headaches
  • general sense of being tired and out of sorts

Adults usually don’t run temperatures when they have a cold, but children can run temperatures of up to 102 degrees.

The symptoms of the common cold usually last anywhere from 48 hours to 14 days. Most people recuperate fully within 10 days.

What Are the Symptoms of Flu?

The flu has many symptoms in common with a cold, but there are some significant differences as well. Symptoms found in both cold and flu may include:

  • headache
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • stuffy or runny nose

Symptoms that set the flu apart from a common cold include:

  • high fever, usually of sudden onset
  • chills (related to fever)
  • muscle aches and joint pain

How Are Colds and Flu Diagnosed?

Most people with colds do not go to the doctor. When they do, the doctor usually makes his or her diagnosis based on the patient’s description of symptoms. However, there are effective natural treatments you can use to help eliminate and protect against colds and flu.

Essential oils, or volatile oils derived from plant material, have shown great benefits during the cold and flu season. Many essential oils have strong antibacterial and anti-viral properties. They help protect against viruses, as well as promote quicker recovery if you are already sick. Essential oils can be used in a humidifier to prevent the air from getting dry (viruses thrive in a dry environment), and reduce the germs in the air. They also can be inhaled to soothe respiratory problems, applied topically for antibacterial and anti-inflammatory benefits, and even administered orally, as it is very popular in Germany and France. Here are the five essential oils that are important to have in your medicine cabinet for the cold and flu season.

1. Oregano

Oregano oil has proven antibacterial properties, is very useful for respiratory infections, and many call it a strong “natural antibiotic.” Drinking a glass of water with a few drops of this oil (or used as a gargle in a 1 ounce of water) helps relieve sore throat, mouth sores, alleviates congestion, and fights sinus infections. The oil is very strong, and needs to be used diluted and as a short-term remedy.Clinical Herbalist Michelle Lynde’s recommendation is to use 4-6 drops of oil at a time for 7-10 days for acute illnesses, reported Huffington Post.A 2009 study found that oregano oil prevents the growth of a few bacteria that are responsible for respiratory infections. Two studies from 2008 and 2012 showed that it is effective against multiple antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

2. Clove

Clove essential oil has antimicrobial properties, making it a highly effective ingredient for a homemade gargle to ease throat pain and irritation. The oil has a cooling effect and anti-inflammatory properties and can be used as an expectorant for respiratory issues such as: colds, cough, sinusitis, asthma and bronchitis. As an added benefit, clove is great for giving the immune system a boost.A 2007 study confirmed clove oil’s antimicrobial, antioxidant, antifungal and antiviral benefits, and its ability to help fight certain multidrug resistant bacteria. The Department of Infectious Diseases of the University of Heidelberg also studied antiviral activity of essential oils, and clove oil was on the list together with oregano and eucalyptus.

3. Eucalyptus

Eucalyptus oil has a long list of medicinal properties; it is anti-inflammatory, decongestant, antiseptic, antibacterial, anti-viral, expectorant, immune-stimulant, and antibiotic. It promotes easy breathing and is effective for any respiratory conditions, including colds and flu, sinus problems and asthma, throat infections and coughs. To treat the respiratory ailments, the oil is used in a vaporizer or humidified, either commercial or homemade.A 2010 article in Alternative Medicine Review concluded that eucalyptus oil’s antimicrobial effects work on variety of bacteria and viruses; it is useful against respiratory illnesses such as bronchitis, asthma and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, an inflammatory lung illness); and it helps against tuberculosis and MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, an infection that often is antibiotic resistant).

4. Peppermint

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, peppermint is useful for colds and flu because it is an excellent expectorant and decongestant, and will help loosen phlegm and break up cough. It also soothes sore throat or dry cough. People have also successfully used peppermint oil for reducing a fever by rubbing a few drops of the oil on the bottom of the feet or the back of the neck (the two places of the body that absorb the best). Peppermint can also ease headaches. A review of all of its benefits including decongestant and expectorant properties, can be read in a 2009 article by the Asian Journal of Pharmaceutical and Clinical Research. Their recommendation for a daily dosage is 6-12 drops internally or 3-4 drops for inhalation.

5. Juniper

Juniper “berry” oil is yet another oil with strong antimicrobial and antifungal properties. Like eucalyptus, it has been shown effective in treating MRSA, and other infections that are resistant to antibiotics. Inhaling this oil through a vaporizer helps treat bronchitis.A Holistic Practitioner, Brandi Ryans, recommends using juniper oil with eucalyptus for deep chest colds. Together they will help the congestion by loosening mucus, relieve bronchial inflammation, and lessen the coughing reflex.

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