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When cold and flu season rolls around, you'll do anything to relieve your symptoms, or, if you're healthy, prevent yourself from getting sick. Some steps to ease that stuffy nose, sore throat, or cough include staying hydrated, packing on the vitamin C, and getting enough rest. To avoid getting sick in the first place, well, you've got to stay away from those around you who are sniffling (we think they'd understand your distance), wash your hands regularly, and eat the right foods to keep your immune system in check.
Another thing that can help combat colds? Essential oils. We know that aromatherapy can help relieve stress, aid in sleep, and soothe muscle aches, and some believe that these oils can also treat symptoms of the common cold. Studies have found that many essential oils contain antibacterial, anti-inflammatory properties.
While essential oils shouldn't be the only thing you use when you're under the weather, they may be worth a try along with everything else you're doing to ward off sickness, like medication. And as always, check with your doctor or a healthcare professional if you have any questions or concerns. Like a lot of remedies, they're not one-size-fits-all, and you may have different reactions to them.
Now before you start rubbing random essential oils all over your body, you've got to take a few precautions. Most oils will have to be diluted with a carrier oil before using as they're very potent. And you could get very sick if you ingest some of them—so do your research and talk to your doctor if you are looking into that. After you've got the safety precautions sorted out and in mind, you start experimenting. Here are some that experts recommend:
"Like many essential oils, eucalyptus oil can be effective in easing chest and throat congestion," says Sara Panton, co-founder of Vitruvi. "It's antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and its antibacterial properties can help loosen mucus secretion and make way for easier breathing." You can also use it to make a DIY vapor rub, Panton recommends. Mix four drops of eucalyptus, four drops of peppermint oil, and one tablespoon of coconut oil. Rub it on your chest before you go to sleep.
There is research out there that frankincense can reduce swelling and is an antioxidant, and some experts believe it can help with coughing. Melody Brandon, an essential oil educator, recommends mixing it with other essentials oils to soothe fevers. "I always make a roller bottle of peppermint, lavender, and frankincense to help calm down and cool down the body. I rub this down the spine about every 15 to 30 minutes," she says. Remember to dilute with a carrier oil, like jojoba or coconut.
"Lemongrass oil is a sweet, earthy essential oil with a soothing, spa-like effect that can be useful around cold and flu season," Panton says. "It's antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial, which has been shown to help soothe stomachs, headaches, and colds."
You might have heard through your friends or even social media about the healing effects of oregano. One study found that carvacrol, a chemical found in oregano, could help reduce infection, but much more research needs to be done on its capabilities. If you opt for it, be mindful if you are taking certain medications. Celebrity nutritionist and wellness expert Cara Clark recommends rubbing it on your feet as a cold remedy.
You might be using hair or skincare products with the ingredient, but tea tree oil also can help with colds, too. "This essential oil is antiseptic, antiviral, and antimicrobial—a great combination for treating coughs, colds, and sore throats," Panton says. "Tea tree oil is also a natural disinfectant, so it can be used preventatively as well!"
If you're dealing with a sore throat, Brandon recommends tea mixed with manuka honey and lemon essential oil. Again, if you're ingesting essential oils, you'll want to be very careful. Lemon can also help de-stress and energize, which can be helpful if your cold is making you feel all out of sorts—just put a few drops in your diffuser.
We've already mentioned above that peppermint can be used as a DIY vapor rub with eucalyptus and coconut oils. You can also put a few drops in your diffuser, too. "Peppermint is antiviral, antimicrobial, and is rich in antioxidants and is magical in the way it can help relieve chest and throat congestion," Panton says. "This bright and fresh essential oil has even been shown to help soothe body aches and pains that come with the common cold and flu."
Clove is another aromatic essential oil to try to prevent colds, Clark recommends. Like a lot of the other essential oils mentioned here, it has antibacterial properties. She suggests diffusing or mixing with a carrier oil to apply.
Known for its calming and sleep-inducing properties, lavender is also a cold fighter, too, because it's anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-carcinogenic. "Our lavender oil is filled with immune-boosting compounds that can be incredibly useful in treating congestion and coughing," Panton says. "When inhaled, it's known to help loosen up phlegm and ease your breathing. Just add 10 to 15 drops into a diffuser and you're all set!"