‘Now that we are into the flu season I am worried about how I can keep my family healthy? Are there specific essential oils I should use? And what are the best ways to use them?‘
Staying healthy throughout what is projected globally to be a particularly long and difficult influenza (flu) season has been a popular topic since the World Health Organization declared that a new strain of the virus H1N1 is responsible for a 2009 flu pandemic.
I am not sure where you live, but in my city – Victoria, British Columbia, Canada – there is a buzz of activity focused on informing the public about the flu and advertising or enforcing particular health and hygiene practices to help protect people from contracting or spreading the flu virus. And no matter where one lives there are regular updates from all forms of media on the state of affairs regarding the flu. Add to this an increase in advertising by health care product manufacturers offering ‘solutions’ to the flu season and it can be overwhelming if not confusing.
Understandably, people are exploring a variety of natural ways to stay healthy, to improve their immune system and to care for a loved one who has symptoms of the flu. Aromatherapy and the antiviral and immunostimulant properties of essential oils are getting increased attention.
In traditional holistic aromatherapy it is understood that our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health are deeply intertwined and have a profound effect on one another. Everyday aspects of healthy living work together to support and optimize the body’s vitality and natural ability to defend itself against disease. This includes meeting nutritional and dietary needs, integrating regular moderate exercise, getting adequate rest and sleep, managing stress, balancing mood, nurturing healthy relationships, maintaining spiritual health, practicing self-care and making other healthy lifestyle choices. This all works to enhance our body’s natural ability to resist disease, fight infections and heal damaged cells. Sometimes, it is not enough!
Traditional holistic aromatherapy uses high quality essential oils for their pharmacological, psychotherapeutic and metaphysical properties to enhance or support one’s state of health and well-being. If required, this would include the use of selected high quality essential oils that are most known for their antiviral and immunostimulant properties.
Dependent upon the situation, the use of selected high quality essential oils may be by way of diffusion into the air, by absorption into the body system through the skin or a combination thereof. The School of Complementary Therapies promotes the safe and effective use of essential oils and does not endorse the internal use of essential oils.
Writing about the impact of holistic aromatherapy on the immune system and viral disease, Dr. Kurt Schnaubelt summarizes, “The effectiveness of terpenes for emotional and physical health has been clinically proven for a long time … Improvement of emotional stability and mood has a pronounced influence on the ability of the immune system to defend against disease. Summarizing, it can be stated that essential oils strengthen the immune response and are immediately effective against viruses, a combination which explains the dynamic effectiveness of essential oils against viral illnesses” (Advanced Aromatherapy, 1998, page 123).
In both Advanced Aromatherapy and Medical Aromatherapy (1999) Dr. Schnaubelt identifies the use of high quality essential oils containing terpene alcohols and citrals with strong antiviral but mild qualities as effective against viral conditions including the flu. These essential oils include Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia), Ravensara (Ravensara aromatica), Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus and Eucalyptus radiata), Peppermint (Mentha x piperita), Palmarosa (Cymbopogan martinii), Spike Lavender (Lavendula spica ct linalool) and Niaouli (Melaleuca quinquenervia viridiflora). He also suggests that while Bay Laurel (Laurus nobilis) is not within this grouping it is effective for lymphatic support. Melissa (Melissa officinalis) is highlighted for its strong antiviral properties
In the Complete Illustrated Guide to Aromatherapy (2001 edition), Julia Lawless indicates Tea Tree, Cinnamon Leaf (Cinnamomum zeylanicum), Clove bud (Syzygium aromaticum), Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus and Eucalyptus citriodora), Thyme (Thymus vulgaris ct thymol/borneal), Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis ct cineole), Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) and Pine (Pinus sylvestris) as the essential oils of choice when dealing with influenza. She offers, “To help build up resistance levels, use 8 to 10 drops of Tea Tree oil in the bathwater at least twice a week. [I recommend that the tea tree be combined with 1/2 cup/115 grams of epsom salts and/or 1T/15 ml of cold pressed virgin olive oil to aid the essential oil’s disbursement. Get into the bath before dispersing it into the water and avoid direct contact with genital areas.] To strengthen the immune system, have a massage once a week using 7 to 8 drops each of Tea Tree and Rosemary, and 2 to 3 drops of cinnamon leaf oil in 2 fl oz/60 ml of base [carrier] oil“ (page 161).
In addition to distributing essential oils, aromatherapy massage is a valuable relaxation technique for reducing anxiety and stress and promotes the distribution of lymph (tissue fluid that delivers nutrients, oxygen and hormones to the body’s cells).
Valerie Ann Worwood (Aromatherapy for the Healthy Child, 2000) writes that the treatment of influenza with high quality essential oils will help to curb symptoms and assist with a full recovery. “If one member of the household has the flu, diffuse or spray antiviral essential oils in the atmosphere to try and keep cross infection down” (page 176). Her recipe includes 4 fl oz/120 ml filtered water, 2 fl oz/60 ml alcohol/vodka, 20 drops Thyme Linalool (Thymus vulgaris ct linalool), 5 drops Cinnamon Leaf, 5 drops Clove Bud, 10 drops Tea Tree and 10 drops Lemon (Citrus limon). Put all the essential oils into the alcohol and then add to the water. Let stand for 24 hours and transfer to a clean plant mister bottle for spraying. Avoid letting the droplets fall on products and materials that could be damaged by the water or essential oils.
She also suggests a nighttime diffusion blend for children over 4 years of age. In a diffuser use a blend of 2 drops Thyme Linalool, 2 drops Oregano (Origanum vulgare), 2 drops Cinnamon Leaf and 2 drops Clove Bud. Use according to the directions for the diffuser and do not leave diffuser in the room overnight!
I applaud your action to guard against the flu this season! Traditional holistic aromatherapy and the use of selected high quality essential oils play a critical role to support one’s overall state of health and wellness throughout and beyond the flu season. Remember that support for your body’s systems and that of your family is all-inclusive, a multi-level approach. Make informed decisions and ALWAYS consult your health care provider should you have any health concerns.
Barbara Power, Certified Aromatherapist