With flu news everywhere we turn, more and more people are looking for every possible way to support their immune system and potentially prevent infection with any number of serious viral transmissions – most notably “Swine Flu” these days. There may be more in our future. Historically, essential oils have been used as a way to prevent infection during major epidemics. Pictures can be found in natural medicine textbooks of medical practitioners wearing face masks filled with cinnamon, cloves, sage, and other botanicals to ward off illness. Today’s leading professional aromatherapists also argue that the most important use of essential oils for humanity will be in the treatment and prevention of such infectious diseases. Are essential oils a viable option as an alternative therapy for use at home? Here’s a look at the scientific research and formulas and applications to take advantage of aromatic medicines.
Supporting Data: Antiviral Actions of Essential Oils
In the last decade, laboratory researchers around the world have discovered that many essential oils can directly destroy viruses. They can even prevent viruses from moving between cells in the body and limit the spread of infection. This is not an overly optimistic interpretation of the data by an essential oil advocate, but the actual results of controlled research studies. Summaries of all studies cited here can be found at pubmed.gov, the database maintained by the National Institute of Health and the US National Library of Medicine. If you wish, you can browse through these results by entering search terms such as “essential oil virus”, “antiviral essential oil” and more specifically “laurus nobilis SARS” (Laurus nobilis is Mr. Laurel essential oil and SARS is highly contagious). viral respiratory disease). While there is no evidence yet that essential oils have been specifically tested against Swine Flu and Avian Flu, there is every reason to believe that the oils will also be effective against these strains of viruses, as we shall see.
What Does the Data Mean?
A summary with more than one hundred published research papers on the subject is listed. What the scientists found is that many of the essential oils commonly used today have antiviral properties. Whether an oil is effective against a particular virus depends on the natural chemical makeup of the oil and the nature of the virus being studied. The data are undoubtedly very encouraging. A study conducted in Germany this year resulted in the note that Tea Tree “can reduce viral contagion by more than 96 percent.” The same study went on to clarify that whole, natural oil, rather than a single synthetically extracted chemical, is TEN TIMES more effective as an antiviral agent. The exact reason is unknown — it’s clear that some of the most chemically complex oils exhibit the greatest antiviral effects, and perhaps this blend of nature’s chemicals attacks the virus AND supports immune function.
A Pandemic Virus and Bay Leaf Oil
Most studies use the Herpes Simplex Virus as a “test subject” due to the widespread prevalence of the infection and the relative ease of testing. However, if the data is examined, many articles offer information on the influenza pandemic. SARS ‘Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome’ is caused by the highly contagious SARS-CoV virus that made worldwide news in 2003. A study in the March 2008 Journal of Chemical Biodiversity noted that Mr. Laurel essential oil has significant antiviral effect against this virus. They also noted the natural components of this oil, which are also found in many other essential oils. This is why you will see MANY essential oils cited as antivirals, as many oils share similar natural chemical components. Therefore, the data is very interesting, although the next oil is not ready. In 2005, Chinese researchers evaluated the anti-influenza potential of an essential oil derived from a root used in Chinese medicine and concluded: “It prevented influenza virus-induced deaths in vivo in a dose-dependent manner”. And the list of oil/virus combinations goes on and on. But this begs the question: How can we derive the formula to prevent Swine Flu?
Splitting the List: Highly Respected Anti-Viral Oils
It is the sharing of these natural compounds in the literature that supports the claim that there are many oils in use today that are antiviral – one reason why you typically see several oils, not just one, in an antiviral formula. But which oils should you use for your needs? This is where the long historical practice of aroma-medicine therapists helps us make choices. Antiviral and immune-boosting essential oils are categorized according to the symptoms produced by the infection. Oils containing cineole, such as Eucalyptus and Ravensara, are chosen where the bronchial system is affected. Melissa and Tea Tree are most commonly used for viruses that infect the skin – but their antiviral effects for other parts of the body should not be overlooked, as their synergistic effects with other oils create a formula containing a complex blend of natural chemicals – similar to the balance found in the only oil Mr. Laurel. with regard to. Other oils are widely respected for their positive effects on the immune system in general: Frankincense is considered by some to be the strongest immune stimulant, and Melissa has just that.
A short list of essential oils that can be chosen to support immunity against influenza infection include: Melissa (has significant anti-HSV activity, it is also thought to be a powerful immunostimulant – boosts our immune defenses), Tea Tree (a very broad spectrum antiviral/antimicrobial) , Rosalina (also known as Lavender Tea Tree, which has a natural chemical profile containing components of these two oils), Lavender (often used as an anti-stress agent – itself supports immune system function — and also has an antiviral effect), Mr. Laurel (Bay Leaf, reported to be effective against SARS-CoV), Ravensara aromatica, Eucalyptus Radiata (one of many Eucalyptus species, this is often referred to as “antiviral”), Frankincense (considered by some to be the most effective immunostimulating oil available) , Thyme and Hyssop decumbens (a highly respected antidecumbent with a highly complex natural chemistry viral).
A Balanced Formula You Can Make at Home
A blend can be made using the following oils (and this exact formula can be adapted to different applications as we will see later): 1 milliliter (ml) Melissa, 1/2ml Thyme, 2ml Lavender (use Lavendula angustifolia), 1 and 1/2ml Ravensara aromatica, 2 ml Eucalyptus Radiata, 1 and 1/2 ml Hyssop decumbens, 3 ml Maleleuca ericifolia and 3 ml Laurus Nobilis (Mr. Laurel). A simpler yet effective formula with a gentler texture – and more suitable for children: 4ml Lavender, 3ml Melaleuca ericifolia, 1ml Ravensara, 1ml Eucalyptus and 3ml Laurel. Even though they have a medicinal purpose, these blends really smell great.
Diffusion: Breathing Oils into the Air
The best way to use these oils is by diffusion, which is essentially “rapid evaporation”. A nebulizing aromatherapy diffuser will create a fine mist of essential oil that evaporates cleanly around you. This method allows regular inhalation of low concentration oils. Its effect is to actually disinfect the air in your home, as well as get the oils into a person’s lungs and bloodstream in small quantities. A feature of the activity of oils is reported to reduce the ability of viruses to penetrate cell walls, so that the lungs and sinuses are protected by simply inhaling oil-infused air. Be careful not to overdo it, though – the flavor should never be overwhelming or bothersome, and your body will tell you you’ve had enough. Fats do their immune-supporting job in subtle ways that require only the least amount of fat. Random inhalation of oils also circulates them in the bloodstream, penetrating all organ systems and most importantly the lymph system, the home of our immune function. The cold air nebulizing diffuser (as opposed to ‘ultrasonic’ which dilutes oils with water) should ideally be operated for 5-10 minutes per hour for this purpose.
Lymphs, Baths and Foot Massages, Oh My!
Where diffusion is impractical, topical application of the oil formula is the next best thing. This can be done in several ways: either with an aromatherapy bath or with the ancient practice of reflexology, where oils are absorbed into the reflex points of the feet. For a bath, mix 4-6 drops of essential oil in some carrier oil (or any ready-made bath oil). Spin this mixture into a pre-drawn bath and soak! For children, reduce the amount of essential oil to 2 drops (for 2-8 years) or 4 drops (9-13). The feet and body areas where the lymph nodes are close to the surface are also excellent places to massage in this recipe. The oils penetrate the skin easily and are quickly absorbed. For adults, make a 5% concentration of the essential oil recipe in any carrier oil (coconut, with its own antiviral activity, may be best – otherwise, any will do). A 5% concentration is simply a ratio of 1 to 20 – a mixture of 1 part essential oil to 19 parts carrier (this same concentration is made by adding 44 drops of the formula to every 1 fluid ounce of carrier oil). For children, reduce this concentration in a similar way to an aromatherapy bath. A daily foot massage and/or armpit, neck and rib cage massage is an excellent way to treat yourself and your family with these wonderful herbal remedies.
The Future of Aromatherapy: Aroma Medicine
As noted earlier, the world’s leading practitioners of aroma-medicine believe that the most important healing potential for essential oils lies in the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases. Of course, they should consider every available way to boost their immune system and the immune system of their loved ones – there are many ways health professionals would recommend for doing this. Given the scientific data, essential oils are certainly an invaluable way to provide this boost. Given all transmissions, Swine flu, Avian flu, and those yet to be named, natural remedies have the long-term advantage of not being easily “adapted” by viruses. Oils are so complex and have evolved over millions of years as a defense mechanism for plants that they can pose a much greater challenge for a virus to become resistant compared to synthetic preparations. And they’re fun to use — your home will smell great while protecting your health; Many amateur practitioners will find essential oils invaluable.
Final Note: The recommendations and statements in this report have not been evaluated by the FDA. It is not intended to treat, cure or prevent any disease, but to present the views of those interested in natural health based on historical references and peer-reviewed scientific publications. As always, consult a qualified medical practitioner for any health issue.