Essential Oils for Common Cold Symptoms

Aromatherapy — the use of essential oils — can relieve pain and reduce the length of illness. Essential oils can be used topically or inhaled using a diffuser, cotton ball, or steamer. Oral ingestion of essential oils is not recommended unless directed by a certified practitioner because a great deal of knowledge and expertise of essential oils is required for safe use. Some essential oils are toxic if ingested or may react with medications.

While there are dozens of options, the following are common essential oils that are affordable, versatile, and effective for cold and flu relief.

Melaleuca, more commonly known as tea tree oil, is an antibacterial and antiviral. It provides relief from sinus infection, cough, congestion, bronchitis, and any other infection of the nasal or upper respiratory system. 

Carrier oils are used to dilute essential oils prior to topical application. Undiluted essential oils applied directly to the skin can cause minor to severe skin irritation in some individuals.  Virgin coconut oil, olive oil, and unscented lotions are simple carrier oils for topical use of essential oils.
Lavender oil is the queen of essential oils. Widely known for relaxing properties, it is also credited with antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. With a carrier oil, apply lavender topically to the throat for sore throat. A few drops on a pillowcase will provide relaxing aromatherapy to help you get some sleep.

Peppermint oil contains compounds that relax the airways and open congested sinuses and nasal passages. It has strong anti-inflammatory effects and must always be used with carrier oil. Beware that peppermint oil is too strong to use on children unless heavily diluted. Use a cotton ball for direct inhalation or put a couple drops in a warm bath or on a wash cloth in steaming shower.

Rosemary oil is gentle as a topical application with antimicrobial and pain relieving properties. It provides relief from congestion and its antiseptic action makes it useful for respiratory infections. It can be added to carrier oil and massaged on sinuses, forehead, neck, and shoulders to reduce pain. If applying to an adult, rub it over the sinuses if peppermint oil is too strong. Make a bath to relieve sinus congestion by adding five drops of peppermint oil, 10 drops of rosemary oil, a half-cup of baking soda, and one cup of Epsom salts to a warm bath.  

Antiseptic steam can be inhaled deep into the chest and nasal passages to loosen heavy congestion. Simply heat water to boiling point, remove from heat, and pour into a large ceramic or glass bowl. Add three to four drops of rosemary or tea tree oil, place your head above the steaming bowl and cover your head and the bowl with a large bath towel. The steam will be hot so be very careful not to put your head too close to the bowl. Inhale slowly to disinfect and relieve inflammation in your sinuses, throat, and chest.

Combine these essential oils to augment their healing properties. For sinus and chest congestion, steamers and baths are really effective. Headaches, sinus pressure, and sore throat gain quick relief with a topical application. Antiseptic properties may be enhanced when inhaled while asleep, so use a diffuser or put a cotton ball with oils in your pillowcase for overnight healing.