Did you know there are roughly one billion cases of the common cold each year in the U.S.? The common cold is the number one cause for adults to miss work and for students to miss a combined 22 million school days each year. Wow! With school in full swing and winter weather keeping many of us indoors for the next few months, it’s a good time to learn what we can do to stay healthy.
In addition to practicing good health habits like eating well, getting enough rest, and managing stress, adding essential oils to your routine is an easy and fun way to enhance your immune system. Essential oils support the overall health of the body while they kill bacteria and viruses. They may help you avoid getting sick, and can help you recover more quickly if you do get sick. In my own experience, since I incorporated aromatherapy into my life, I have not had a cold in over four years.
Many essential oils are wonderful for respiratory illnesses. German Chamomile, Eucalyptus globulus, and Rosemary are anti-viral and anti-bacterial, and are serious decongestants. Ravintsara, Lemon, and Siberian Fir are anti-bacterial and are mucolytic: they break up and make expelling mucous easier. Adding oils like Lavender, Peppermint, and Tea Tree to your blends will give the immune system a boost.
Three ways to use essential oils to support your health or while you are sick are:
1) In a steam: to a bowl of boiling water, add 1 drop of any of the essential oils listed above. Drape a towel over your head, lean over the bowl making sure to close your eyes, and inhale. This is a good way to reduce congestion, support the immune system, and the steam is like a mini-facial, adding any needed moisture to your skin. Another way to do this is to add 3-5 drops of essential oil to your shower (away from the drain). The heat and steam from the shower have the same effect as inhaling over a bowl.
2) In a hand soap: to a 2 ounce PET plastic bottle with a flip top, add 1 ½ ounces Castile soap (found in health food stores). To this, add 20-24 drops of any of the essential oils above and about ½ ounce water. Shake to combine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites hand-washing as one of the best ways to avoid catching the flu.
3) In a carrier: to 1 ounce of a quality, unscented lotion or organic Jojoba, add 5-6 drops of essential oil. Apply this blend to your throat and chest 2-3 times per day to enhance your immune system or to help relieve any congestion. (A word of safety: due to the strength of some of their components, avoid using Eucalyptus globulus, Rosemary, Ravintsara, and Peppermint with children under 5 years of age and use caution around those with asthma).
These suggestions for using essential oils are a wonderful way to defend yourself against germs, naturally!
Contributing Writer and Certified Aromatherapist