Essential Oils for Flu Season

Many of us are aware that certain essential oils have anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties, but did you also know that some oils can also strengthen the immune response? Use of essential oils as part of your daily bathing and skincare routine can help you resist illness, ‘catch’ fewer colds and other infections, and recover more quickly if you do.
Here are three of my favourite oils for cold and flu season, and some suggestions for the best ways to use them:
Eucalyptus has to be my number one oil for winter illness - it’s best known as a decongestant inhalant for colds and catarrh, but it has many other properties. It has a powerful bactericidal and anti-viral action, so used in a steam inhalation it not only eases nasal congestion, but also inhibits proliferation of cold, flu and other viruses within the nasal passages. Combined with its use as an airspray or in a vaporiser, and you have a very effective method of reducing transmission of illness (whenever anyone in my household starts coughing or sneezing, I start up with the eucalyptus in a vaporiser!) - extremely useful! As well as this, it’s cheap as chips and easy to find - most supermarkets carry it. By no means should you discount humble eucalyptus.
The uses of lavender are too many to name here and stay on topic, so I shall just say that it is analgesic, anti-septic, anti-biotic and anti-viral, and still gentle enough for all ages. A dab of lavender rubbed onto the throat (always externally) can soothe a sore throat, massaged into the temples it helps a headache and it is an effective sedative - use in a steam inhalation last thing before bed to help the sick person get some much needed rest. Lavender is particularly valuable for attacking the bacteria which cause secondary infections, leading to sinusitis and catarrh following colds or flu. Diluted and massaged over the chest lavender helps soothe a tickly cough, working on any infection in the respiratory tract. If you have the shivers and aching limbs, a warm bath with lavender added will ease aches and pains and allow you to rest.
Tea tree is a powerful immuno-stimulant, so when the body is threatened by infection, Tea tree increases its ability to respond. If used in a bath at the first signs of a cold or flu it can often stop it developing, and if not it can reduce the duration and severity and help to prevent secondary infections. It is also very valuable for people who are prone to repeated illnesses, or who are very slow to recover due to its immune boosting action. Be aware that although Tea tree is usually safe to use on the skin undiluted, a very few people react to it so if you have sensitive skin go carefully.
My favourite method for using essential oils for colds, coughs and flu is usually inhalant as the steam itself helps to kill viruses and bacteria. For a simple steam inhalation, fill a washing up bowl (or other suitable receptacle) with just boiled water, add 1 or 2 drops of your chosen essential oil and hold your face about 12 inches over the steam. Drape a towel over your head and the bowl to keep the steam in and stay there, breathing slowly and deeply, for 10 minutes. Have a breather, and then repeat up to 2 more times (a word about safety - I’m sure we all know steam is hot, so make sure you’re on a stable surface and try not to dip your face in boiling water! Children should be supervised at all times, and use 1 drop of oil).
I also like oil burners and vapourisers, these are excellent to dot about the house to prevent transmission of illness and speed recovery. Try lavender by the bed overnight (following all safety precautions, of course) - 6 drops.
In a bath, use up to 6 drops of your chosen oil (3 for younger children) and try to stay in for about 20 minutes.
Hopefully this was helpful! Let me know if you try any of these suggestions.

(not intended as medical advice. Check with your doctor if you have health concerns) 

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