There are many essential oils that many claim are useful in treating the symptoms of colds and congestion. Use essential oils in a blend, with other essential oils and a carrier oil, in the bath or through inhalation. Essential oils for colds and congestion are often bactericidal and stimulating, which allow the body to fight infection and strengthen the immune system. Consult a qualified aromatherapist for further advice before using essential oils if you are unfamiliar with the use of them.
Lemon Essential Oil
Lemon essential oil is good for treating colds because it is antiseptic, bactericidal and is capable of stimulating white corpuscles. According to Julia Lawless in her book, “The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils”; white corpuscles form part of the body's defense system against bacteria, fungi and infections 1. However, lemon essential oil might cause skin irritation in some people and is phototoxic, so use with care in sunlight.
Eucalyptus Essential Oil
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Eucalyptus essential oil is an antiviral and decongestant oil so is extremely useful in helping to treat colds and congestion. Patricia Davis, in her book “Aromatherapy An A – Z”, recommends using eucalyptus oil in a steam inhalation because the combination of the steam and eucalyptus oil will relieve congested nasal passages, soothe inflammation and fight off bacteria 2.
Rosemary Essential Oil
Rosemary essential oil is antiseptic and antimicrobial. Rosemary oil is not recommended for use in pregnancy, with high blood pressure or for epilepsy.
Tea Tree Essential Oil
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Tea tree essential oil is bactericidal, anti-infectious, expectorant and antiseptic, which means it relieves the congestion caused by colds and fights off infection. Patricia Davis recommends using tea tree oil in a bath to ward of the symptoms of colds or in a steam inhalation, similar in use to eucalyptus oil. Eucalyptus and tea tree oil can be used interchangeably as they are very alike in their actions for colds and congestion.
Pine Essential Oil
Pine essential oil is good for relieving congestion and helping to clear the nasal passages. Pine oil is bactericidal, antiseptic and expectorant in its actions. Use pine oil to relieve sore throats and clear catarrh. Choose scotch pine essential oil over other pine oils, which might not possess the same properties.
- Pine essential oil is good for relieving congestion and helping to clear the nasal passages.
- Use pine oil to relieve sore throats and clear catarrh.
Lavender Essential Oil
True lavender essential oil is antiseptic and antimicrobial in its actions, in addition to possessing a number of other properties which are capable of uplifting the spirits and restoring health. Lavender oil is gentle to use and recommended by many for relieving colds and congestion in everyone.
Peppermint Essential Oil
Peppermint essential oil provides relief from the symptoms of colds and congestion as it is antiseptic, anti-viral and expectorant in its actions. Use in a steam inhalation for the best effect. However, use peppermint oil in moderation as it might cause sensitization in some people because of the presence of menthol in its chemical make-up. In addition, never use peppermint oil on, or in the vicinity of, babies and young children due to potential lethal effects.
- Peppermint essential oil provides relief from the symptoms of colds and congestion as it is antiseptic, anti-viral and expectorant in its actions.
- However, use peppermint oil in moderation as it might cause sensitization in some people because of the presence of menthol in its chemical make-up.
Thyme Essential Oil
Thyme essential oil is antiseptic and bactericidal. Valerie Ann Worwood recommends using thyme oil in a blend with tea tree, lemon and eucalyptus oils in the bath; inhaling this blend of essential oils will help relieve some of the symptoms of colds and congestion 3. Do not use thyme oil if you have high blood pressure and be aware that some varieties of thyme oil might cause skin sensitization if not used in moderation.
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- “The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils”; Julia Lawless; 1995
- “Aromatherapy An A – Z”; Patricia Davis; 1999
- “The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy”; Valerie Ann Worwood; 1991
- de Groot AC, Schmidt E. Essential oils, part IV. Contact allergy. Dermatitis. 2016;27(4):170-175. doi:10.1097/DER.0000000000000197
- Posadzki P, Alotaibi A, Ernst E. Adverse effects of aromatherapy: a systematic review of case reports and case series. International Journal of Risk and Safety in Medicine. 2012;24(3):147-161.
- University of Minnesota. How do I choose and use essential oils?
- University of Minnesota. Are essential oils safe?
- Nath S, Pandey C, Roy D. A near fatal case of high dose peppermint oil ingestion- Lessons learnt. Indian J Anaesth. 2012;56(6):582-. doi:10.4103/0019-5049.104585
- The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne. Essential oil poisoning. Updated June 2017.
- Bowles, Joy E. Case study – possible interaction of herbal sleep remedy containing Lavender essential oil and anxiolytic drugs. Updated 2018.
Sharon Falsetto is a certified aromatherapist who founded her own aromatherapy practice in Arizona in 2007. She has been writing professionally since 2008 and has been published in a variety of professional journals and e-zines. Falsetto is the Arizona regional director for the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy and she has a degree in business from the U.K.