What you need to know about essential oils, the cold and flu, current scientific research, your health and safety, and anecdotes.

Hi Nate! I had a question about essential oils. I have come down with a cold/flu, is there anything safe I can use to boost my immune system? Oils I should avoid? Also, anything I can use to avoid getting sick all the time?

It’s a myth. No essential oil can boost your immune system. In fact, many MLM companies and other distributers of essential oils recently received a slap on the back of the hand for the way they were disseminating information.

Studies show that many oils are antibacterial and antiviral, implying some essential oils could be good germ fighters in certain situations. There are no human trials yet of essential oils boosting the immune system. Current research has conducted in-vitro/petri dish experiments and animal experiments, neither of which qualify for claiming equivalent human physiological response no matter how promising and convincing the data.

Here’s 3 of those studies:
1. Stimulatory effect of Eucalyptus essential oil on innate cell-mediated immune response.
2. Immunological and Psychological Benefits of Aromatherapy Massage
3. Anxiolytic Effect of Aromatherapy Massage in Patients with Breast Cancer

So how do I use essential oils when I have a cold or flu, or think I may be exposed to germs?

Primarily, I spray or diffuse them into the air and onto surfaces, including my hands to sanitize them. In this way an essential oil can help your immune system by eliminating bacteria and viruses in your environment. I prefer to use this natural solution over other chemicals. It is very important to realize, though, that even though essential oils are plant material, they can still be hazardous, dangerous and toxic. Natural does not necessarily mean safe.

My favorite oils to use in this way are: narrow-leaf eucalyptus (Eucalyptus radiata), niaouli (Melaleuca quinquenervia), many of the citrus oils, many of the species of lavender (Lavandula), and bay laurel (Laurus nobilis).

All-purpose cleaner
Mix the following ingredients into a spray bottle. Shake well before each use. Wipe with soft cloth.

1/4 C. white vinegar
1/4 C. alcohol (80+ proof)
1/2 C. distilled water
75 drops of EO total

Secondly, I use essential oils when I am sick for emotional and spiritual well-being. We know there is a strong correlation between stress and a weakened immune system. So, I use essential oils that promote rest and relaxation, which can support the immune system and overall health indirectly. I meditate and use yogic breathing techniques (pranayama) in combination with essential oils to help me relax and reduce stress.

My favorite oils to use in this way are: sandalwood (Santalum album), rosewood (Aniba rosaeodora), Roman chamomile (Anthemis nobilis), rose geranium (Pelargonium odorantissium), and clary sage (Salvia sclarea).

These oils can be diluted to 1% for topical application, or diffused into the air for 20 minutes at a time.

Third, my personal experience is that when people are seeking natural solutions, they also tend to make other healthy lifestyle choices (balanced diet, exercise regularly, adequate sleep, community and family ties, etc.). It’s not a guarantee that taking good care of yourself eliminates your chance of getting sick, but it does reduce the risk. In this way, essential oils are part of a holistic system.

Overall, I think it’s important to understand essential oils are not a magic remedy. They can support good health and wellness, butthey do not necessarily create it. By the time you are symptomatic and really sick, essential oils are not necessarily the best “cure.” Hydration and rest for a cold are better help, although the oils can help comfort you during that time.

I realize this answer is not what you may have hoped for, but it is certainly that one that you need. We are subjected to a lot of marketing with quick fixes and cure-alls, but my success personally and with my clients is never from the quick fix. It is always about creating long-lasting, sustainable changes for creating a healthy life, which has a side-effects of getting sick less often!

I also make custom blends for specific uses. You can read more here about the types of blends I make. I have a short questionnaire to help me determine your wellness goals and scent preferences, and then make a custom blend. I highly recommend this blend as your “personal rescue formula” to help you stay calm and focused instead of stressed out and feeling anxious. I’d also suggest with using this oil, pairing it with some training in either breathing exercises, meditation or guided imagery.

With warm blessings of health and healing,
The Green Shaman

Do you have a question that you’d like answered?
Send me an e-mail!