Aromatherapy Advice for Colds & Flu

Sneezing, coughing, runny or blocked nose, headache and a chill …….. sound familiar? You’ve probably fallen victim to the nation’s most common ailment; a cold. Unpleasant as it may be its something we’ll all experience many times throughout our lifetime and albeit usually a mild complaint; it’s still the most common cause of missed work and school days.

Contrary to the cliché warning your mother used to drum into you; it is not being outside with wet hair in the cold weather that will cause you to develop a cold, it’s a virus that is passed through human contact; either directly or by touching contaminated surfaces. You can also catch a cold by picking up secretions which have been sneezed into the air by a fellow cold-sufferer. Urrrgghh!

So what is the “common cold?” There are many different viruses that can cause it but the most familiar is the Rhinovirus. When the virus enters the body the immune system opens up the blood vessels which increases the production of mucus. This is what will make your nose feel stuffy, yet it will continue to run. The mucus and fluid in the nose and throat is what will then trigger the tickly cough and sneezing. The mucus will thicken and often change colour as the immune system starts to kick-out the last of the virus. If the virus is a strain that your body has not encountered before then your immune system has to work extra hard; so you may find that you are feeling tired and drained during this time. It should only take a few days before the symptoms have lifted and the fluid clears – then you’ll start to feel well again.

Symptoms of the Flu, or Influenza as it’s medically referred to; are similar to that of a cold – but usually more severe. They can also include fever, sore throat, muscle aches and in cases of Swine Flu; diarrhoea and vomiting. The Flu virus enters the body in the same way as a cold, is spread in exactly the same way; yet is said to take a little longer to shift the virus entirely. It’s not uncommon to feel extreme exhaustion for 2 weeks or more.

Although there is a vast array of over-the-counter “solutions” available, many can carry unwelcome side-effects; as well as being costly. And in the end we all come to the same conclusion – there is actually no cure for a cold or flu. You can only aim to ease your symptoms at home with good old-fashioned rest, plenty of fluids and some basic pure Essential Oils.

As we’re getting to that time of year again when the temperature outside has dropped, while we are busy making plans for the run-up to the festive season and, let’s face it; when we could most do without it….we fall ill with a cold or flu. There are some quick and easy home-remedies which you can use to help fight and prevent an untimely bug. And it’s important to remember that treatment is most effective at the first sign of infection.

Anti-viral oils like Tea Tree, Lavender, Ravensara and Eucalyptus will be at the root of most natural cold and flu remedies. These oils work by attacking the virus to stop it from developing further, and by strengthening the immune system. Here’s just a few suggestions..

A quick Hot Bath Remedy

A speedy self-help antidote at the on-set of the virus is very effective. A hot bath will provoke sweat which when coupled with a restful night’s sleep and plenty of fluids will usually prevent a full-blown viral attack. Add 2 drops of Eucalyptus Radiata, 2 drops of Lavender and 2 of Tea Tree into a hot bath, and relax. This may need to be repeated over 2-3 nights.

Bug-Busting Balm

Make yourself a decongesting, bug-busting balm with a base of Beeswax and Jojoba Golden oil. Melt approx 50gm of Beeswax over a bain-marie, when melted and cooled to room temperature stir in 75ml of Jojoba Golden, then add to this a blend of Ravensara and Lavender Essential Oils to create a soothing rub. This balm can be applied to the chest, neck and temples. Another great defence is to smother the soles of the feet with your balm before bed and pop on some socks. The oils are absorbed overnight and start to cleanse the body by drawing toxins from the feet. It’s amazing how well this method works.

Steam Inhalation

If a hot bath is not possible or you are feeling too unwell, the use of steamer or even just bowl of piping hot water is a good way to get the oils into the body. Add 2 drops of Ravensara and 2 drop of Tea Tree to your water and sit-a-while whilst your body absorbs the oils through the nasal passages. You will feel instant decongestive benefits from the oils, but a repeated process over several days is recommended.


As a pre-emptive defence you can strengthen your immune system by adding moisture to the air. This inhibits the virus from making its way through the nasal passages and into the trachea. A humidifier, diffuser or vaporiser will disperse oil and water particles which will make breathing easier by decongesting the nose and throat. Just add 2 drops of Eucalyptus Radiata and 2 drops of Rosemary to your chosen device and relax while you inhale the fresh scent. Clove is also a good anti-infectious oil to place in a vaporiser. Please Note: this is a stimulating oil and is not advised for bathing in.


If fever has set in then a cool compress of Roman Chamomile and Peppermint on the brow will help to soothe and regress a fever. If you have the chills then a warm compress of Lavender and Rosemary will help comfort and sedate.

Hints and Tips…

Prevention is the best cure, so keeping your home and office environment free from germs will help strengthen your immunity to the virus. By burning or diffusing anti-viral oils such as Tea Tree, Clove or Thyme you will be helping to keep your space free from problem-posing particles.

Creating your own surface spray using distilled water, vodka and Essential Oils such as Lemon, Grapefruit or Tea Tree will not only give you a non-toxic degreasing detergent but also sanitise your surfaces.

It’s important to remember that some of the anti-viral oils such as Thyme, Clove and Rosemary can be stimulating; . Think about others who may be affected before use. Also note that Lavender is a sedentary oil and most appropriately used when you’re able to relax. If you are struggling through with a cold or flu whilst at work then uplifting oils such as Lemon or Bergamot will still help you combat the virus; whilst keeping you a little more focussed. Both Eucalyptus Globulus and Eucalyptus Radiata are great for decongesting, however it is said that Radiata is better for respiratory aid and also more suitable for use with children.