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Your Cold and Flu Arsenal #5: Essential Oils

by Confluence
Reading Time: 5 minutes

By: Sarah Grace Powers – Confluence Daily is your daily news source for women in the know.

I’m continually amazed by the healing potential of essential oils. The more I learn about these concentrated plant essences, the more inspired I am to add new ones to my collection.

Pure and unadulterated essential oils are natural antimicrobials – some stronger than others –  and they can be used in many ways to prevent colds and flus from taking hold. 

In this installment of Your Cold and Flu Arsenal, you’ll learn about some of the most effective essential oils for the respiratory system and some easy ways to get them into your system. We’ll continue next week, to further expand on this subject.

Add a one or two drops to a hot bath, after you have filled the tub with water, or mix with some almond or jojoba oil and rub a little on your body (I like to rub a bit on the side of my neck especially if I’m experiencing swollen glands. The bottom of the feet is also a great way to absorb the protective action of essential oils.)

It’s so easy to carry a few small bottles in your purse or bag (or even just one), and it can mean the difference between the total misery of clogged up head for days – or the sweet relief of busting that bug out of your system fast.

Because of their antimicrobial properties, essential oils go a long way in preventing a cold or flu from ever taking hold.

I don’t depend solely on essential oils to knock out a case of the sniffles (read my other tips on preventing and treating colds and flus listed below), but I do love the fact that I can carry an arsenal of healing in a few inches of space.

All you really need two or three versatile oils to address most respiratory problems – but if you want to branch out and experiment with more you won’t have to clear much space in your medicine cabinet.

Remember, it’s important to use high quality essential oils that have not been adulterated with other substances. These are not perfumes but concentrated plant essences.

The best oils include a Latin name on the bottle and are packaged in tinted glass. True essential oils will vary in price depending on the oil. Many natural foods stores carry a line of therapeutic grade essential oils. And of course you can buy them online, just be sure you are clear on the quality.

You might know someone who reps Do’Terra or Young Living oils, and these pass the quality test too.

Ready to bump up your winter wellness with essential oils? Here’s a list of oils to try.

Five Beneficial Essential Oils For The Respiratory System

  1. Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus, or E. radiata) – acts as a decongestant, potent antiviral and antibacterial and is ideal for treating sinus infections. Since it is drying it is particularly beneficial for those colds that produce copious amounts of mucous. E. radiata has a cooling and anti-inflammatory action.
  2. Peppermint (Mentha piperita) – a steam inhalation (see below) can help clear sinus and lung congestion and even treat infection.
  3. Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) – An antiseptic oil, this is a good choice for lung congestion, sore throats and canker sores. Can also be added to steams.
  4. Ravensara (Ravensara aromatica) – A good antiseptic treatment for bronchitis and sinus congestion. It can reduce throat irritation and when I first learned about this oil I was told to put a drop of the oil on a throat lozenge to address the infection as well as soothe the sore throat. This one can also be helpful for seasonal allergies
  5. Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens) – Can alleviate laryngitis, spasmodic coughing and lung congestion. Try a drop in a cup of water and gargle at the first sign of a sore throat. It’s antiviral action can nip a cold or flu in the bud and it works to slow the spread of infection. Also good for coughs.

How To Use The Oils

Okay, so you’ve got a few of these tiny bottles of essential oils and you feel the sniffles coming on. How do you use the stuff?

Remember these substances are highly concentrated and potent. It’s best not to use essential oils undiluted unless directed by a qualified practitioner. Here are some of my favorite methods to treat a cold or flu with essential oils:


This is my tried and true method for moving out a congested infection that is not responding to other natural remedies. A steam will carry the essential oils directly to sinuses and lungs and helps open the nasal and bronchial passages with warm, moist air. You can steam several times a day if you are able to.

You’ll need a small pot with a tight-fitting lid and a towel. Fill the pot with water and bring it to a boil. Then carry it over to a table or counter,  and add up to 6 drops of essential oils. You could just use eucalyptus, or a try a mixture of any of the oils listed above (if using thyme though, only use one drop – it’s strong!)

Lean over the pot and drape the towel over both your head and the pot, creating a little cocoon. Very carefully lift the lid just a bit and begin to inhale the aromatic steam. You can close the pot and lift the lid several times, continuing to breathe in the steamy aroma.


Although steaming brings the benefits of the hot vapor along with the therapeutic qualities of the essential oils, you can still derive their benefits by simply breathing in the aroma.

Try placing 1-2 drops of oils of your choice on a cotton ball or Kleenex and placing it in your nostril. Or, just keep it close by and breathe in the aroma. You can also place a few drops on a handkerchief, or even on a special mouth and nose mask.

Remember old-fashioned smelling salts? Well, the same principal can be used for a portable natural inhaler for soothe congestion and clear the head. Make your own nasal inhalant by placing a tablespoon of rock salt into a small vial. Add two drops each of eucalyptus and rosemary essential oils and one drop of peppermint oil. Inhale as needed.


Many types of diffusers are used to spread a pleasant aroma throughout a room, but to treat a cold or flu you’ll need to use an electric diffuser or a nebulizer – not a little dish with a candle. Try 2-8 drops of essential oils in your diffuser and breathe in the aroma for a 10-15 minute session. Repeat frequently if you are dealing with a serious infection.

Since all essential oils are antimicrobial, it’s a super helpful practice to just keep a diffuser going all the time during the worst of the season – as a preventative measure.


Add several drops of antimicrobial essential oils of your choice to a couple of ounces of almond oil, or another carrier oil. Rub this therapeutic oil under your arms, on the soles of your feet, and the palms of your hands. This will bring the beneficial properties directly into your lymph system.


Essential oils are fantastic for traveling because they are so small and compact. Way easier to pack a couple of small vials, than bottles of herbal supplements or tinctures. Try some this week, and check back next week to learn more.

More by Sarah:

Your Cold and Flu Arsenal #4 with Four More Tips to Prevent and Treat

Your Cold and Flu Arsenal: Three More Tips for Fending Off the Cold and Flu

Your Cold and Flu Arsenal #3: Fight it Off or Get Rid of it Fast!

Sarah Grace Powers is a certified life coach and EFT Practitioner. She is a ‘dream resuscitator’ for women in their second half of life, supporting them to rediscover their passions and make their impact in the world no matter their age or circumstance. In her previous career she owned and operated an herb shop and has practiced holistic living for more than three decades. Find her at sarahgracecoach.com

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