What Have Essential Oils Got to Do with the Flu?


Ah, the flu.

It throws wrenches into our holiday plans. It steals our energy. And it jumps from person to person like an ambitious mosquito—the flu is no fun. 

And since it mutates every year, we all stand a good chance of catching it every year. 

It’s a pain.

Still, just because the flu comes back into town every year doesn’t mean you and your family have to fall prey to its yearly ravages. The flu can be deterred! What’s more, once caught, it can be defeated! And, as ever, essential oils can help us fight the good fight against our least-favorite visitor of the season. 

Keep reading and we’ll cover:

  1. ways you can use essential oils to help prevent the flu and;
  2. ways you use essential oils to combat the flu. 

Essential Oils & Preventing the Flu

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”

–is a phrase especially applicable to the flu as the “flu season” is pretty regular. (In the United States, flu season typically starts in fall, ramps up through the winter to peak in February, and peters out around Easter. See CDC report here.)

Every year we can see it coming and put preventative and EO-inclusive measures in place to protect ourselves and our loved ones: 

1. Purify the Air in Your Home

Every winter it’s the same story—we hide indoors from the cold inside, close the windows, and stay at home more. And while a cozy winter at home sounds nice, the trouble is that our warm hideaways are the perfect growing grounds for the flu virus.  

Warm, stale, human-populated, and constantly-circulating indoor air can multiply the number of toxins in our home air, lower our immune systems, and give the virus easy access to our bodies. 

To combat this, make surethe air inside your home doesn’t go stale! Apart from making sure your home air filtration system is in place, you can also boost the air quality inside your home with essential oils (see our guide for indoor air purification here)! 

The virus will have to find other places to stay for the winter and you can breathe easy!

Learn more about the effect of air-borne essential oils in the flu virus through these studies from Griffith University and the American Journal of Essential Oils & Natural Products

2. Destroy the Virus Where It Lurks on Home Surfaces

Apart from hanging around in the air, viruses also like to hide and multiply on home surfaces. 

This is especially true of often-touched places and items such as doorknobs, kitchen appliances, electronic devices, desktops, the insides and outside of shoes, cleaning tools, and bed linens. 

(And nobody wants viruses hanging out on their TV remote!)

Fortunately, essential oils can help here too. Many essential oils have antibacterial, antimicrobial, anti-fungal, and/or antiviral properties making them great for cleaning (Click here for our full guide on cleaning with essential oils). 

And as for what essential oils can do about the flu virus in particular—the research is young but promising. For example, the aforementioned study from  the American Journal of Essential Oils & Natural Products found that cinnamon, bergamot, lemongrass, and thyme oils could all inhibit the flu virus at concentrations less than 0.4%!

3. Support Your Immune System

Your immune system is built to instantly attack any virus that makes it into your body. And you only really “get the flu” when the virus manages to overwhelm your immune system past a certain point. 

So, during flu season, it pays to give your immune system the royal treatment! This includes using essential oils to support your immune system by: 

  • Destressing,
  • Getting regular, high-quality sleep,
  • Exercising and managing your weight, and;
  • Eating healthily. 

Also, certain oils show immune-supportive or immunomodulatory effects, especially eucalyptus, ginger, clove, tea tree, and lavender, so consider prioritizing their use during flu season. 

Essential Oils & Combating the Flu

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, the flu just gets to us. Fortunately, mild cases can usually be overcome in just a few days. 

Luckily, there are a number of ways you can apply your essential oils to help you overcome a bout of the flu: 

1. Oils for Respiratory Relief

One of the primary symptoms of the flu is an irritated respiratory tract, including runny and/or stuffy noses, sore throats, and coughs. Usually we stock up on tissues and drink warm, soothing liquids. But we can also support the respiratory system with essential oils!

In these cases, the go-to method is either to diffuse essential oils (ideally for only 20-30 minutes at a time) or mix them into a 2% concentration into DIY neck-and-chest rub. Note: Do not ingest any essential oils while your respiratory tract is inflamed. 

The top oil in this case is eucalyptus oil as it is the best-researched essential oil for respiratory system benefits. (Note eucalyptus oil is an ingredient in the popular, over-the-counter cough medicine Vicks VapoRub.) And other top choices include peppermint oil, tea tree oil, and oregano oil. 

2. Oil-Enhanced Baths for Muscle Aches and Congestion

A warm bath can do several things to help you with the flu. The warm temperature can help boost your immune response, the warm water can help ease achy muscles, and the steam can help clear your sinuses of congestion. 

Basically, if you have the flu and are not curled up in bed—the next best place to be is in the tub!

Essential oils can help you maximize your bath benefits, but don’t just put a dozen drops of oil straight into the tub! See our post Safe & Effective Bathing With Essential Oils for guidance on how to enhance your flu-combative bathing with essential oils. 

3. Oils and Restorative Sleep

Sleep is a natural, powerful healer. It allows your body to turn off non-essential functions and focus on kicking the flu virus to the curb! 

Of course, while some of us find it easy to sleep when sick—others have a hard time overcoming their irritating symptoms (and winding down their brains) long enough to get the kind of health-restoring sleep they need!

So, after you’ve used your oils to reduce some of your flu symptoms, you might consider using them to help coax your body into a more sleep-inclined state. 

The most well-researched oil for this purpose is, of course, lavender. But may also find success with chamomile, clary sage, or even bergamot!

4. Use iTOVi To Support Your Body’s Personalized Path to Recovery

While it is good to soothe symptoms and promote general healing measures, your flu is ultimately going to have to be overcome by the complex workings of YOUR body. 

And your body knows better than anyone else could what it needs to make a full recovery. 

Which is why we recommend staying in touch with your body through the iTOVi Scanner!

As you fight the flu, scan yourself regularly and use the recommended oils to tend to emotional or physical issues that may be exacerbating your illness. 

The iTOVi will show you which oils you are responding to most strongly (and what categories of wellness those oils tend towards). And from there, it’s up to you to understand the why of your results and adjust your behavior accordingly. 

This is a great way to personalize your care. And, as a bonus, by the time your flu is gone, you may have gained a better understanding of your own body and thus be better prepared to deal with the flu the next time it rolls into town!

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