Disclaimer: While the information shared in this article is substantiated through documented public studies by credible institutions, it does not constitute as medical advice. Consult with your doctor if you have any concerns or questions prior to using EOs.
Essential oils (EOs) can lessen the adverse health symptoms associated with a cold or flu, research shows. Many individuals develop congestion and the symptoms related to it. Others report a flare up in their allergies. Either way, EOs can help relieve many of these issues affecting your throat, nose, ears, and lungs. EOs may also reduce anxiety and help you sleep. They can treat acne & other skin issues, too. Garlic extract may also play a role in treating specific health issues.
Best Practices: How to Use an Essential Oil
Before you use an essential oil, do a patch test prior to applying it fully to your skin. This practice is a precaution. You may develop dermatitis or an allergic reaction due to its strong concentration of ingredients, a 2002 paper explains. Instead it’s recommended using them in the following methods:
- Indirect inhalation - (also known as aromatherapy) by adding a few drops into your humidifier or facial steamer.
- Direct inhalation - (also known as therapeutic inhalation) by breathing in the aroma from a bottle or container.
- Apply it topically for a massage by diluting it with a carrier oil such as argan, camellia seed, oat, apricot, flaxseed, coconut, grapeseed, almond, avocado, sweet almond, carrot, pumpkin seed, or olive oil. Add between 5 and 10 drops of the essential oil to one ounce of carrier oil.
- Diffuse it into the air via a diffuser.
- Add 10 drops of it to your bath.
Continue reading below for a recap on essential oils and how they can benefit symptoms associated with the flu and/or respiratory illnesses.
A 2016 study published in the National Library of Medicine says adding sandalwood, geranium, and almond oils in aromatherapy alleviates the symptoms of allergies (also known as allergic rhinitis) in patients. It also demonstrates that rose, fennel, and bergamot oils stops the inflammation process by suppressing COX-2, a substance that supports it. Frankincense is another stellar option to soothe allergies–mainly in part to alpha-pinene, showed a 2014 study.
For respiratory diseases:
Asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, lung cancer, cystic fibrosis, and pneumonia are all respiratory illnesses. A 2016 article detailed that tea tree oil is more beneficial than fluconazole in treating pneumonia (in rats). While a 2013 article showed that eucalyptus oil can reduce pain, swelling, and inflammation associated with pneumonia. Eucalyptus oil’s concentration of cineole, which is a proven remedy in treating asthma and other respiratory diseases, helps you cough up mucus and phlegm.
For congestion and sinus infection:
The culprit behind sinus congestion tends to be bacteria. A 2006 review found that tea tree oil is antibacterial, along with oregano, peppermint, eucalyptus, and rosemary oils, making them suitable treatments for congestion. A 2008 clinical trial details the beneficial effects of treating rhino-sinusitis with some of the essential oils mentioned above.
For bug bites:
One thing is clear: no one enjoys a bug bite. You can actually use EOs to repel bugs. For example, a 2005 abstract revealed that thyme oil has mosquito-repellent properties that surpass N-diethyl-m-methylbenzamide (DEET). A Cornell University profile lists rosemary oil as an insect repellent for minimum risk pesticide use. In fact, a 2011 review detailed that citronella-based repellents only protect from host-seeking mosquitoes for about two hours despite being as effective, dose for dose, as DEET. A 2005 clinical trial found that citronella, patchouli, clove, and limonella oils were the most effective at repelling bugs for two hours. Spearmint oil has a cooling effect on bug bites to relieve itching. Camphor oil has the same effect by creating a warm, pleasant sensation.
Peppermint oil is one of the most commonly used essential oils to treat tension headaches and migraines. All you need to do is add a drop of oil to your index finger, and then dab that drop in between your eyes (also known as the third eye chakra). It contains menthol, which can help relax muscles and ease pain. Lavender oil is commonly used for stress relief and relaxation. Inhaling lavender oil via aromatherapy can help you manage your migraines, according to a 2013 study. The study’s participants noticed a reduction in pain after 15 minutes of breathing it in.
For muscle pain (such as fibromyalgia):
In a 2015 study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, basil oil was used as a remedy for the symptoms of chronic muscle pain in mice. This finding led researchers to suggest basil oil as a potential method of pain relief for people with fibromyalgia.
For menstrual pain (such as menstrual cramps and dysmenorrhea):
You can use copaiba oil, which has anti-inflammatory properties for soothing tense muscles, to remedy menstrual cramps. You can ingest your essential oil by placing a drop directly under your tongue. The findings from a 2006 report, suggest that aromatherapy (using lavender, clary sage, and rose oils) is effective at decreasing the severity of menstrual cramps. This is due in part to the active ingredients of the EOs mentioned above–linalyl acetate, linalool, eucalyptol, and β-caryophyllene–which are analgesic (i.e., relieves pain). A 2012 randomized controlled trial showed that massaging the lower abdomen with an essential oil mixture of lavender, clary sage, and rose oils (in a 2:1:1 ratio) reduced pain related to dysmenorrhea.
A 2014 study showed that cypress oil could improve blood flow and reduce pain around hemorrhoids due to its antimicrobial, soothing, and astringent properties. Bergamot, nutmeg, and cypress oils contain camphene, a compound similar to camphor, that’s noted for its cooling effects. It also has antioxidant properties, which may help to protect cells from damage and ward off harmful germs.
For weight loss:
EOs can help decrease your appetite. A 2015 study published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine, shows that inhaling the scent of lemon oil improves the neurological activity that promotes the breakdown of body fat. A 2020 study says that garlic oil suppresses a high-fat diet (in obese rats).
Infusing your humidifier with the right essential oil isn’t just about a pleasant-smelling room. Consider adding an EO to your humidifier based on your health needs or if you’re removing bacteria from the atmosphere. According to a 2020 review in the Annual Review of Virology, your home’s humidity environment should be between 40 to 60 percent so you can prevent respiratory viral infections such as influenza. According to a 2012 study published in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology, the level of humidity in your home influences your sleep and circadian rhythm.
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