Everywhere you look you find people worried about getting the flu. This year’s flu season, which began in October, has hit hard and caused concern. The unease may be warranted, as The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that “it looks like this flu season continues to be particularly challenging. Our latest data tracking information indicates that influenza activity is still on the rise overall.” If you are sick, we strongly suggest that you see your doctor. But if you are trying to avoid getting the flu, then antiviral essential oils may help.
To start, I want to point out that I mentioned antiviral essential oils. The flu is caused by a virus, not a bacteria. This is important to note because its growth can only be destroyed by antiviral agents. An antibacterial that is not antiviral may worsen things by killing bacteria, and the virus’ competition, allowing the virus to run rampant.
Another significant difference is that the flu is an upper respiratory virus, not a cold, and has its own symptomatology. A cold is less severe, does not include a fever, and the symptoms show up in a day or two after a person has been exposed to the germs responsible. The flu comes on within hours of exposure and can cause more dire complications, such as pneumonia or bronchitis.
The best way to deal with the flu is to ensure that you don’t get it in the first place. There are many antiviral essential oils you can reach for, so sometimes choosing an oil has to do with how it is going to be used. Many antivirals are skin irritants or sensitizers, so it is safest to use them in low dilutions. They excel at cleansing non-porous surfaces, a good thing to do regularly because a virus can remain viable for up to three days on a surface such as a doorknob or phone. Just remember to protect your skin by wearing gloves with these oils, especially Clove bud (Eugenia caryophyllata) and Cinnamon bark (Cinnamomum zeylanicum).
Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) is probably the best known antiviral. Researchers have become concerned that virus-fighting medications are becoming less effective so they look for alternatives. Tea Tree is often analyzed, and in one study they proved that it “could prevent influenza virus from entering the host cells.” This is terrific news because if the virus can’t get in then it can’t make you sick.
Diffusing essential oils as a preventative is another safety measure. With this method it is wise to use antivirals that also have an affinity for the respiratory system. Ravensara (Ravensara aromatica) and its sound-alike Ravintsara (Cinnamomum camphora) are tonics for respiration, as are Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus), Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis var decumbens), and Pine (Pinus sylvestris). A few more antiviral essential oils are Bay (Laurus nobilis), Kunzea (Kunzea ambigua), and Thyme (Thymus vulgaris). So load up your diffuser on an intermittent setting and stay healthy!
* Thanks to the Franklin Institute of Wellness for their webinar explaining the differences between a cold and the flu.