Using Essential Oils May Help Calm Cold and Flu Symptoms

By Shelly Allen, CEOC, AADP

Every year millions of people suffer from symptoms of a cold and flu. Did you know essential oils may help relieve some of those symptoms?

According to estimates, adults and children in the U.S. get 1 billion colds each year. There are over 200 viruses that can cause a cold. Cold viruses take up residence in the lining of the nose and grow, eventually attempting to infect the body. If the body is weak or unable to resist the germs, it will get sick. Despite what some people think, there’s no evidence that cold weather, large tonsils or other such wives’ tales can make you “catch” a cold.(1) Evidence does suggest that stress and allergies can increase your chances of getting a cold. Colds generally last from about two days to two weeks. Some common symptoms of a cold include runny or stuffy nose, low-grade fever, sore throat, cough and body aches.

The flu is a common viral infection that attacks the lungs, nose and throat. It is similar to the common cold, but, generally, flu symptoms are more severe. It is incredibly common, with more than 10 percent of the U.S. population affected each year. Symptoms include a temperature of 100 degrees or higher, cough or sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headaches, body aches, chills, fatigue, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Young children, adults, pregnant women and people with chronic illnesses or weakened immune systems are at high risk. Essential oils can provide immune support and may help to ease some of the flu’s most bothersome symptoms.

In the case of the common cold, the number one essential oil you should have in your arsenal is Lemon. Lemon can support lymphatic drainage and help to overcome a cold quickly. Lemon essential oil’s primary compound is d-limonene at 70 percent. According to a 2002 study, d-limonene directly activates the immune response of alveolar phagocytes. Phagocytes are cells that protect the body by ingesting harmful foreign particles, bacteria and dead or dying cells.(2)

Along with lemon, the use of thyme may help drain congestion and it is proven to fight infections and rid the body of toxins.(3) Ginger may help relieve discomfort caused by congestion and respiratory tract infections. Finally, eucalyptus and peppermint work as expectorants and may help cleanse the body of toxins and harmful microorganisms that can lead to a cold.

As you might expect, all of these oils can be used when combating the flu. Adding Tea Tree and Manuka to the fight may help with congestion and support respiratory tract health. Both display promising anti-viral capabilities.(4) In fact, a 2009 study reported that tea tree oil showed anti-viral activity against influenza virus sub type H1N1; the anti-viral activity is principally attributed to terpinen-4-ol, the main active component. They concluded that tea tree essential oil is a promising remedy for influenza.(5)

Use these oils topically diluted with a carrier oil, aromatically with a diffuser or directly in the palms. Always remember quality is key. Whether using topically, aromatically and especially when ingesting essential oils, you must make certain the oils you are using are pure/unadulterated, free of added chemicals and from a reputable company. I hope these tips help to keep you healthy and happy throughout this new year.

1. Worth, H., Schacher, C., Dethlefsen, U. (2009, July 22). Concomitant therapy with Cineole (Eucalyptole) reduces exacerbations in COPD: A placebo-controlled double-blind trial. Respir Res. Retrieved from
2. Hamada, M., Uezu, K., Matsushita, J., Yamamoto, S., Kishino, Y. (2002, April). Distribution and immune responses resulting from oral administration of D-limonene in rats. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). Retrieved from
3. Gill, TA., Li, J., Saenger, M., Scofield, SR. (2016, June 2). Thymol-based submicron emulsions exhibit antifungal activity against Fusarium graminearum and inhibit Fusarium head blight in wheat. J Appl Microbiol. Retrieved from
4. Schnitzler, P., Schön, K., Reichling, J. (2001, April). Antiviral activity of Australian tea tree oil and eucalyptus oil against herpes simplex virus in cell culture. Pharmazie. Retrieved from
5. Garozzo, A., Timpanaro, R., Bisignano, B., Furneri, PM., Bisignano, G., Castro A. (2009, December). In vitro antiviral activity of Melaleuca alternifolia essential oil. Lett Appl Microbiol. Retrieved from
6. Essential Oil Institute

Disclaimer: The statements made have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These essential oils are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. All information presented here is not meant as a substitute for information from health care practitioners. Please consult your health care professional about potential interactions or other possible complications before using any essential oils.

Essential oils may help in the fight against breast cancer as well, learn more by clicking here.