Essential oils for winter ailments

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A common over-the-counter remedy is “Vicks VapoRub”, which is indicated “for temporary relief of nasal congestion and cough associated with a cold”.  The active ingredients in this product include the isolated constituents of camphor, menthol and eucalyptol, all of which can be found in particular essential oils.  Pure, whole essential oils are preferable for optimal health, as studies have been performed to analyze the effectiveness of isolated constituents and the results have shown the components to be weaker when isolated.  One example cited is lemongrass [Cymbopogon citratus], which has the antibacterial constituents, geranial and neral that are considered active in the essential whole oil of lemongrass, while myrcene is considered inactive.  However, when the myrcene component was taken out, the antibacterial activities were not as effective.  The postulation is that the chemical components that make up an essential oil are complementary to each other and actually perform better as a whole i.e. synergism – the whole being greater than the sum of individual parts.

General antimicrobials specific for colds and ‘flu

Ajowan [Tachyspermum ammi] – a powerful anti-infectious oil, high in thymol and paracymene, which should not be used undiluted on the skin because it is mildly dermocaustic.

Bay laurel [Laurus nobilis] – ‘flu, and ear, nose and throat [ENT] infections due to its antiviral, antibacterial, mucolytic and expectorant properties.  In addition, it is specially indicated for chronic sinusitis and bronchitis due to its chemical specificity, which contains constituents from almost all the functional groups, including significant oxides, alcohols and esters.

Eucalyptus [Eucalyptus radiata],  [E.globulus] – excellent all ‘rounders for winter respiratory ailments

Honey myrtle [Myrtus communis ct cineole] – great for bronchopulmonary infections where lots of mucus is involved

Labdanum [Cistus ladaniferus ct pinene] – powerful immunomodulant and antiviral agent

Niaouli [Melaleuca quinquinervia or viridiflorol] – strong expectorant, mucolytic, decongestant and balsamic properties, thus excellent for sore throats, coryza, influenza, bronchitis, coughs, sinusitis and any catarrhal infections.

Lemon [Citrus limon] – great for all infectious illnesses

Marjoram [Origanum majorana]  – not nearly as effective as origanum, so don’t confuse the two

Origanum/Oregano [Origanum compactum] – possibly the single most potent, broad-spectrum, eubiotic essential oil available for a variety of infections – it’s outstanding

Palmarosa [Cymbopogon martinii] – especially good for lung and ENT infections

Ravintsara [Cinnamomum camphora ct cineole] – an outstanding winter oil, free of toxicity, and safe even for infants

Rosemary [Rosmarinus officinalis ct cineole & ct verbenone] – good anticatarrhal and mucolytic, with the verbenone chemotype being the safer of the two for unqualified use

Rosewood [Aniba rosaeodora] – but only if from proven sustainable resources – ENT and bronchopulmonary infections, also safe for infants

Spruce [Picea mariana] – outstanding for bronchitis, immunodepression and fatigue

Tea tree [Melaleuca alternifolia] – needs no elaboration I’m sure!

Thyme [Thymus vulgaris ct linalol] – a great antiseptic and a good expectorant that is also good for clearing phlegm and combating chest infections.

Thyme [Thymus vulgaris ct thujanol] – powerful viricide and antibacterial

For coughs, catarrh, congestion and rhinitis

Cypress [Cupressus sempervirens] – antitussive [cough], but there are better options

Inula [Inula graveolens] – antispasmodic, antitussive, potent mucolytic and expectorant – a very powerful oil, so consult a qualified aromatic medicine specialist for best results, as it can be used undiluted and per rectum [suppositories].

Eucalyptus [Eucalyptus radiata] – excellent decongestant

Peppermint eucalyptus [E.dives] – potent anticatarrhal and mucolytic, best used with professional supervision, and not on young children

Everlasting [Helichrysum italicum] – mucolytic and antispasmodic

Labdanum [Cistus ladaniferus ct pinene] – specially spasmodic coughing

Niaouli [Melaleuca quinquinervia] – good anticatarrhal, among other properties

Peppermint  –  decongestant,  anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and analgesic, and uplifting

Marjoram [Origanum majorana] – spasmodic coughs

Rosemary [Rosmarinus officinalis ct cineole & ct verbenone] – anticatarrhal and mucolytic

Thyme [Thymus vulgaris ct linalol] – gentle and effective

For sore throat [rhino-pharyngitis]

Eucalypts: [Eucalyptus radiata], [E.globulus], [E.polybractea ct cryptone & E globulus] – also professionally used for acute and chronic bronchitis, and sinusitis

Honey myrtle [Myrtus communis ct cineole] – bronchopulmonary infections in general

Niaouli [Melaleuca quinquinervia] – as above, but also for “strep” throat

Palmarosa [Cymbopogon martinii] – bronchopulmonary infections in general

Peppermint  – especially if accompanied by headache and fever

Thyme [Thymus vulgaris ct thujanol] – outstanding for all symptoms of respiratory ailments

Thyme  – [Thymus vulgaris ct thymol] powerful immunostimulant and anti-infectious agent – can be skin irritating though


There are many essential oils reputed to strengthen the immune system, due to their extensive range of properties, which contribute to immune enhancement.  Some of the best-known ones include [alphabetically]:

Bergamot [Citrus bergamia] – works via central nervous system modulation, which indirectly impacts on the immune system

Eucalyptus oils [preferably unrectified] and other 1,8-cineole-rich oils  – besides having exceptional expectorant properties, cineole-rich oils positively enhance gamma- and beta-globulins by reducing the inflammatory reaction and thereby contributing to an immunomodulant effect.  There are several other postulations regarding the immunostimulant properties of essential oils on the immune system available in aromatherapy literature, attributed to Schnaubelt, Pénoël, Price and other authors.

Frankincense [Boswellia carterii] – great for helping with “inspiration” or breathing

Niaouli – excellent all ‘round winter remedy

Oregano [not marjoram] – very effective eubiotic and potent immunostimulant

Rosemary [Rosmarinus officinalis ct verbenone] – which works as an anticatarrhal, mucolytic, and anti-infectious agent, as well an hepato-biliary drainer to strengthen and restore natural immunity

Spruce [Picea mariana] – outstanding for bronchitis, immunodepression and fatigue

Tea tree [Melaleuca alternifolia]

Thyme  – [Thymus vulgaris ct thymol] powerful immunostimulant and anti-infectious agent

In fact, all the thymes are wonderful for winter ailments.


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