When cold and flu season strikes, your immune system goes from fighting the occasional battle to being embroiled in an all-out war that can last all winter long, depending on where you live and how many germs you’re exposed to. This is where essential oils can be a great option!
According to scientific studies, essential oils have been shown to have antibacterial and antimicrobial properties which may help shorten the duration of the common cold. Essential oils can be especially beneficial when fighting colds and the flu (among many other things), and there are lots of ways to reap their benefits.
Diffusing is one of the easiest ways to use essential oils and it can help purify the air as well as be beneficial when dealing with congestion in the lungs. The Chalkboard runs down how to properly inhale and diffuse essential oils, and the importance of using a carrier oil when inhaling. Many oils can be applied to the bottom of your feet or added to body wash, lotions or moisturizers.
And whether you’re trying to not get sick or just fighting a stuffy nose, here are 11 cold and flu diffuser blends.
Essential oils are a helpful addition to any winter survival kit, but buying individual oils can get expensive quickly. If you can only purchase a couple, I recommend choosing ones that have multiple benefits and that are versatile enough to use in lots of different blends. If you can put them to work in beauty recipes, cold and flu remedies, and diffuser blends you’ll be able to reap the benefits all year long!
Best Essential Oils for Cold & Flu
Antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial, oregano essential oil is a heavy-hitter. I frequently use it in my diffuser during cold and flu season, but you can even use it to make a natural hand sanitizer. It’s one of the more potent antimicrobial essential oils, so it’s no wonder that it’s frequently used when dealing with infections and illness.
However, because of its potency, it can easily irritate the skin so it should always be properly diluted when applied topically. It should be used at no more than 1%, according to Essential Oil Safety, and should not be used if pregnant or breastfeeding.
Did you know that thyme oil is one of the original ingredients in Listerine? This oil has a number of uses due to its antiseptic properties. If you have a cough that is accompanying your cold, you might consider using thyme.
The herb is often used in cough formulations and one scientific study even found that thyme essential oil combined with primrose oil and thymol (a component found in thyme oil) was comparable to a popular over-the-counter expectorant when dealing with coughs stemming from upper respiratory infections.
Different species of thyme contain different percentages of compounds, so it’s always a good idea to know which one you are getting. A good rule of thumb is to stick to using no more than a 1% dilution of thyme topically to avoid irritation. Additionally, diffusing thyme is always a great way to utilize its antiseptic properties!
This antiseptic and antibacterial oil has tons of everyday uses and is often found in cough drops and ointments (if you’ve ever used VapoRub, you’ve smelled it). Eucalyptus essential oil stimulates the immune system and combats inflammation, making it a no-brainer to use during cold and flu season. Use it to make your own steam inhalation remedy which is great option to consider when dealing sinus infections.
Eucalyptus is a fantastic essential oil to use to support your health, especially in the winter months. However, it should always be used with caution and never on or around the mouth or nose of children under ten.
Like its cousin orange oil, lime oil has tons of uses. This essential oil is antiseptic, antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral. And like other citrus oils, it’s perfect for diffusing in an air-purifying blend. It can also be added to natural household cleaners, and is great at removing sticker residue and gum from surfaces.
But that’s not all! Lime is also perfect for those times when you’re feeling down in the dumps or you need help feeling energized. So next time your immune system has taken a hit and you need a bit of a mental pick-me-up, reach for the lime oil!
Just remember, lime is phototoxic. If used topically, it should be used in very low dilutions and sunlight exposure should be avoided for several hours.
Frankincense oil is an incredibly popular essential oil and is often used when dealing with respiratory illness. It’s antibacterial and antimicrobial and many essential oil users like to use it for coughs, colds, and other respiratory issues.
Interestingly, another common use for frankincense is due to the belief that it can help with anxiety and/or depression. Although human studies are needed, one scientific study on mice found that frankincense essential oil did have an “antidepressant-like effect.” So if illness has you feeling stressed or even a little down, you may consider giving frankincense a try!
Use it in this DIY antiseptic spray, too, when dealing with wounds. A couple more options include using it in diffuser blends or even in a DIY salve recipe.
This essential oil is also antibacterial and antifungal and one sniff of the crisp, cool aroma can make you feel more energized, which is perfect for when you’re feeling under the weather. However, due to its menthol content, peppermint should not be used around the mouth or nose of infants or young children.
The essential oil of Hyssop can help support the respiratory system and is often used for a wide variety of respiratory illnesses. If you get chronic bronchitis or just have a pesky cough that won’t go away, try this one out.
It has strong antiseptic properties that make it useful for a number of issues, however, hyssop should not be used if pregnant or breastfeeding and should not be used around infants or young children, according to Essential Oil Safety.
When illness has you feeling run down, lemon oil (with carrier oil) can help brighten your day. Lemon has antibacterial properties, making it perfect for purifying the air or for use as a DIY air freshener. It is also especially useful in DIY cleaning formulas.
Lemon also happens to contain antioxidant properties as well. This is significant because stress, illness, toxins, and more enable free radicals to wreak havoc on our bodies. This is where antioxidants come in–they help by scavenging the free radicals.
Just remember that lemon is phototoxic so if it’s used on the skin it should be used in very low dilutions and sun exposure should be avoided for several hours.
Known for its toothache-remedying powers, clove oil is also anti-inflammatory, analgesic and antibacterial. It’s often mixed with cinnamon, eucalyptus, lemon and rosemary in a blend called Thieves Oil. Or mix it with vanilla and use it in this DIY body oil.
Clove has warming properties and is often used in formulations for muscle or joint pain. However, it can cause skin irritation if not diluted properly and it should not be used around infants or young children.
If nausea is what’s getting you down (that darn flu!), you might give ginger essential oil a try. It’s a fantastic option to consider for a multitude of illnesses. Like clove, ginger is a warming oil that can be beneficial for a number of symptoms.
It would be great to use in a diffuser blend if you’re struggling with stomach issues, or if you simply want to help purify the air. As with all essential oils, ginger should be used in appropriate dilutions and with caution around young children.
What oils do you use for colds and flu?
This post was medically reviewed by Dr. Holly Smith, a board certified physician in nephrology and internal medicine with a background in nutrition. Learn more about Hello Glow’s medical review board here. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.439