Many people run to their doctor at the first sign of a cold or flu, demanding a prescription for antibiotics. But antibiotics are only effective against bacteria, not viruses, which are the true cause of cold and flu infections. If you want an effective strategy against flu or other types of viruses, stock your medicine cabinet with natural, hard-hitting antiviral remedies, including these essential oils.
Not just for sprinkling on lattés, cinnamon essential oil is effective against multiple virus strains. In a recent study published in the medical journal MicrobiologyOpen, researchers found that cinnamon essential oil was effective against flu viruses when combined with eucalyptus and rosemary essential oils.
Cinnamon essential oil is extremely potent and can irritate the skin or respiratory system if used incorrectly. Dilute 1 drop in 1 1/2 tsp (7 mL) of a carrier oil such as coconut or apricot kernel oil for topical applications. Avoid internal use, unless you’re using a product specifically formulated and diluted for this purpose.
Most people grab oregano essential oil at the first signs of a flu virus—and for good reason: oregano exhibits potent antiviral activity against a variety of different viruses, as indicated in a study published in the journal Food Chemistry. While the flu virus wasn’t studied in this particular research, oregano’s widespread antiviral activity suggests it may be a good option against flu viruses as well.
Melissa essential oil, also known as lemon balm, is a well-documented antiviral herb. Research in the medical journal VirusDisease found that, in lab studies, the essential oil of the plant prevented the avian flu virus’s ability to replicate, which is necessary for the disease to spread or survive.
Peppermint essential oil is among the most promising natural antiviral remedies, particularly when dealing with the herpes virus, which is at the root of cold sores. In a study published in the journal Phytomedicine, scientists reported peppermint essential oil demonstrated high potency in lab tests against the herpes virus, even against strains that did not respond to the drug acyclovir in the study.
Did you know?
A drop of peppermint essential oil may help alleviate cold sores.
This long-time favourite demonstrates antiviral activity against colds and flu. An animal study found gingerroot to have antiviral action against the avian flu, while other research shows activity against the herpes simplex virus.
Did you know?
While research into ginger’s viricidal effects is in its infancy and has largely been completed on animals, it bears consideration given its lack of harmful side effects. Additional research should help us understand more about its antiviral abilities.
Best known for the honey produced from its pollen, the essential oil of the manuka tree may also have applications in the fight against viruses. According to research published in the journal Planta Medica, manuka essential oil demonstrates effectiveness against herpes simplex viruses. Both the honey and the essential oil derive their antimicrobial strength from the powerful manuka tree.
Did you know?
Manuka honey isn’t the only way to obtain this plant’s potent antiviral activity—you can also do so through the essential oil.
Research in the medical journal Phytotherapy Research found that thyme essential oil, in conjunction with tea tree and eucalyptus, reduced viral infectivity by more than 96 percent. On its own, thyme is a powerful anti-infectious agent that has been found in many studies to kill harmful bacteria and fungi, in addition to viruses.
8. Tea tree
While tea tree oil is known mostly for its antibacterial action, research in the medical journal Molecules found that the essential oil also prevents influenza viruses from entering test cells, which could reduce the likelihood of getting sick. The study was completed in a laboratory setting, so more research needs to be done to test tea tree’s antiviral effectiveness in a clinical setting.
9. Star anise
Your antiviral medicine cabinet won’t be complete until you’ve added this licorice-like aromatic oil to it. That’s because star anise is one of the most powerful antiviral remedies available. This oil is not suitable for internal use and is best diluted in fractionated coconut oil and applied to the skin or diffused in the air to help kill viruses.
Did you know?
Star anise contains a potent antiviral substance known as shikimic acid, which the pharmaceutical industry synthesized to create flu drugs.
Using essential oils
- Essential oils can be diluted and applied to the skin or diffused in an aromatherapy diffuser, and some can be used internally.
- Check package directions to determine whether the oil you select has a dosage amount or is suitable for cooking or ingestion. If the label doesn’t indicate dosage, it is not suitable for internal use.
- Work with a qualified aromatherapist, herbalist, or doctor if using essential oils internally.
- Dilution depends on the individual oil and level of skin sensitivity:
- a few drops per 1/2 tsp (2 mL) of carrier oil for manuka, Melissa, peppermint, or tea tree
- one drop per 1 tsp (5 mL) of carrier oil for ginger, oregano, star anise, or thyme
- Avoid burning essential oils; this can alter their chemical structure and therefore therapeutic effectiveness
Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM, RNCP, is an international best-selling and 21-time author whose books include Be Your Own Herbalist and The Cultured Cook (New World Library, 2016 and 2017). drmichellecook.com; foodhouseproject.com; facebook.com/drschoffrocook; Twitter: @mschoffrocook