Essential oils for flu and colds

An article by Lia Leontidou, aromatherapist, member of HAA.
Translation: Vivi Kavvada, aromatherapist, member of HAA.

This winter we will not allow viruses to take control! We can confront them at any ailment stage with the help of essential oils!
For one more year, as temperature is falling colds and flu make their appearance. Catarrh, cough, joint pain, fever... These are the most common symptoms of a cold, which we can rarely avoid during the cold months of the year.
Colds and flu are caused by viruses spreading when we are in close distance with other people. In most cases, these unwanted viruses remain inactive because of our immune system, which is constantly guarding against anything might threaten our organism. If our immune system is weak though, defense is low and chances of getting a cold or flu are maximizing.
The big question is: can we shield our bodies against these intruders? And what can we do in order to relieve the symptoms once viruses have entered our system?
We can start by keeping our environment clean and free of viruses. We can achieve that by using essential oils with an oil burner, which is a simple appliance with a bowl full of water placed above a heat source, usually a tea light. The heat produced by the candle causes water evaporation and small molecules of the essential oil are filling the atmosphere of the room. Through inhalation the essential oil is entering our breathing path, neutralizing viruses in the nose, trachea, bronchi etc. Essential oil vapors also have the ability to destroy viruses that are suspending, for example after a sneeze.
Releasing essential oils in the air of the rooms we live or work in can help reduce virus presence. The most effective essential oils you can use in an oil burner for air disinfection are lavender, eucalyptus, camphor, cajeput, rosemary, pine and sage. These essential oils can also be used in a spraying device filled with water in order to humidify the air or disinfect surfaces which we touch often, for example door handles. All the above mentioned methods will keep viruses away this winter!
If you are receiving homeopathic treatment keep in mind that the stronger menthol essential oils could inhibit its action. You could use lavender, however it is mainly considered relaxing and most probably it is not the best choice for a working environment, since it could cause sleepiness. But lavender is the perfect choice for bedrooms. Prefer rosemary, pine and eucalyptus for offices and working areas.
By taking measures right from the beginning of a cold (for example if you notice that you have a sore or dry throat and/or you sneeze) you can stop its progress or at least lessen its severity. The usual symptomps of a cold are congested nose, headache, wet eyes, dry or productive cough and sore throat, while in the case of flu you would probably experience all previous nuisance plus joint pain and fever.
If microbs have already entered your body and you are going through the phase of irritated throat, the most effective way to use essential oils are gargles. Essential oils should not be used internally, but in the case of gargles most part of the dilution is rejected and the method is considered safe. Of course caution is required. The methodology is simple: in a glass full of warm water drip one, maximum two drops of an essential oil and gargle as usual. Attention, do not swallow the dilution! Essential oils appropriate for gargles are teatree, sage, eucalyptus and ginger (e.n. This method should not be used by children as the risk of swallowing the dilution is high!).
The most suitable essential oils for dealing with fever and shiver are chamomile, black pepper, peppermint, hyssop, lemon and teatree. These essential oils can be used with a cold compress on the head or just drip a few drops in the lukewarm water of a bath. Another technique, used in the old days to lower fever, is the wetting of cotton socks in cold water containing a few drops of essential oils. If you wear the socks and place your feet in plastic bags, so you don't make a mess, the heat from your inner body will be drawn to your limbs and the fever will fall. There is no doubt, this method is worth trying!
If your cold is even worse or you are having a flu, you feel pain in the joints and your muscles are tensed and sore, the most beneficial way to use essential oils is with a massage. Blend  six drops maximum of essential oil in a blending oil (for example almond oil), rub with the mixture all irritated areas and cover with a warm cloth. Most suitable essential oils for this case are teatree, eucalyptus, ginger, black pepper, rosemary, cypress and lavender.
Finally, if a cold has affected your breathing path, massaging your breast with a dilution of essential oils in base oil or adding essential oils in an oil burner next to your bed will relieve all symptoms. Essential oils ideal for that case are sandalwood, eucalyptus, cedarwood, peppermint, rosemary, frankincense and hyssop. Another old but effective method are inhalations. Fill a bowl with warm water and add a few drops of essential oils. Keep your face above the bowl, in a distance of 20-30 centimeters, place a towel over your head so the vapors do not escape in the room and inhale for a few minutes. It is very impressive how fast you will be relieved and your breathing system will feel decongested with this method!
(e.n. Aromatherapy is not a substitute for medical treatment. If the symptoms of a flu or cold are intense and persistent seek medical advice.)

About the author: Lia Leontidou is a certified aromatherapist, graduate of NHS. She is professionaly engaged with alternative therapies and is an active member of the Hellenic Aromatherapy Association BD.

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