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Natural, Cold-Fighting Essential Oils for Your Sick Day

Wednesday, January 05, 2022 10:13 AM

By: Lauren McRae

Colds can send us scrambling to store shelves in search of medicines that bring relief. You may want to consider adding essential oils to your cold-fighting arsenal. Essential oils are concentrated plant extracts that can boost your mood and help with congestion.

And, they may also be helpful for mild COVID-19 symptoms.

Essential Oils for Colds

Leslie Mendoza Temple, MD, Medical Director of the NorthShore Integrative Medicine Program, says her favorite essential oil for a cold is eucalyptus because it helps refresh and open nasal passages. To use, you can splash some drops on the walls of the shower or add them to a very warm and wet washcloth. Breathe the eucalyptus aroma in from the steam several times a day when feeling congested.

Dr. Mendoza Temple also suggests:

  • Rose may help promote a happier mood and calm an anxious mind.
  • Ginger’s prokinetic (enhancing gastrointestinal motility) and anti-inflammatory effects may help reduce nausea and joint or muscle pain.
  • Oregano oil – 2 drops in the mouth or diluted in water and gargled/swallowed - may help sore throat symptoms while also serving as a mild disinfectant. The initial sensation can be burning or tingling and the taste is bitter but it dissipates over time.

Lori Walsh, MD, NorthShore Integrative Medicine physician and a Fellow at the Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine, said simply smelling a few drops on a cotton ball may create the effect you are looking for. For example, use eucalyptus to open the airway or lavender to create a feeling of relaxation.

Dr. Walsh answers these questions about essential oils:

Who should not use essential oils?
Dr. Walsh: Some medical concerns arise for people with kidney failure, liver disease, hypertension, seizure disorder, moderate to severe asthma, and anyone with skin sensitivity or allergies. Pregnant women should not use them in the first trimester. Children age 3 and younger should not use peppermint or menthol because the airway can constrict.

Another caution: Anyone with allergies to any of these substances should avoid the specific essential oil that could trigger them.

Are essential oils supposed to be used alongside medications or can they be used alone?
Dr. Walsh: Essential oils can be used with a prescription or over-the-counter medicines.

Is there a standard dosage for essential oil use? If not, how do you gauge how much you should use?
Dr. Walsh: When used on the body, essential oils must be diluted in a carrier oil. This dilution percentage depends on what part of the body or if it is needed for an adult or child.

Remember to always make sure to read directions before you use essential oils, and check to see how often they can be used. Do not ingest essential oils unless under medical supervision from a knowledgeable professional.