As the nights get longer and colder and the days get damper, the inevitable cold and flu season approaches. Chances are we will all suffer from a seasonal cold; whether it’s a head cold that lasts a few days or something a little more persistent that knocks you back for a few weeks, it’s good to know how you can help yourself to recover.
Waging war on the common cold often seems like a lost cause with most of us resorting to over the counter remedies that allow us to ‘soldier on’ at home and at work. Keeping warm and drinking fluids is good advice, but what if there was something more you could do?
Essential oils have some powerful properties to fight the common cold and can be used as part of a self-care routine that in itself can help you feel much better. Although I wouldn’t recommend casting aside medical advice in favour of home remedies, there are things you could try to complement medical advice that could help you feel better physically and mentally and get you back on your feet sooner.
So what can you do? There are a number of essential oils that have been used for centuries (and proven in modern trials) to combat the symptoms of colds.
Oils you might like to have in your basic care kit:
Cinnamon, clove or rosemary – if mixed with warm water, can be effective as a surface cleanser or room mist to combat bacteria, viruses and fungus
Chamomile (Roman)– excellent at relieving cold and flu symptoms as it has antiseptic and antibacterial properties. It also has calming and sedative properties
Eucalyptus (Radiata) – Excellent in fighting respiratory tract infections
Lavender – Excellent calming effects and helps with sleep. Can also be used to treat headaches
Lemon – Has stimulating effects on the digestive system and is great at relieving headaches. Is generally good at uplifting mood and has antiseptic properties (making it great for room mist)
Peppermint – A wonder oil with analgesic, antiseptic, cooling and anti-inflammatory properties. Can relieve mucus and catarrh and relieve headaches
Tea Tree – An all-rounder for cold fighting; antiseptic, antibiotic, antiviral and antifungal. If you find the scent too antiseptic, it can be easily blended with lemon to disguise it.
Thyme (Linalol) – Great at fighting infections or contagious conditions and also at stimulating the immune system.
How to use the oils:
Steam – add up to 4 drops to a bowl of hot water and inhale the steam (placing a towel over the head). This is particularly useful for mucus, catarrh and headache relief. Alternatively, to get the benefits of steam and topical application, add a blend to the bath and soak yourself until you feel relief.
Topical application – a foot or hand massage is a great way to get the benefit of the oils and the relaxation of a massage. Add an oil blend to a carrier oil (such as coconut or grapeseed) and massage into hands and feet before bed. Blend the oils in the following quantity: 5 ml carrier oil, 1 drop of essential oil. 10 ml of carrier oil, 5 drops of essential oil.
Room mist or surface cleanser – Adding drops of a blend (up to 6 drops to 500 ml water, test on surfaces before full use) to warm water and shaking well (in a misting spray bottle) can make for an effective surface cleanser or room mist to clear away infectious microbes or bacteria.
Oil burner – get the benefits of the oils while relaxing in front of the TV or a good book. Add drops of essential oil (up to 5 drops) to 10ml of water and heat in an oil burner (over a candle). The room will be cleansed as well as your airways.
Experiment with blends that appeal to you as fragrances as well as for their cold and flu fighting properties and you will find something that works well for your mind as well as your body. Instead of fighting through and carrying on as normal, take some time to care for yourself through bathing with essential oils, giving yourself a massage or relaxing in a candle-lit room with an oil burner. Colds need not be the struggle that they usually are.
Regulating your body clock can be a difficult task in the winter months as we set off for work in the dark and come home in the dark. It starts to become a struggle to get out of bed and sleep is often disturbed and unrefreshing. Add in the potential for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and it can feel like a real challenge to find motivation.
Women are often more susceptible to SAD but also more likely to struggle on without any help. The good news is, that there are some simple essential oil remedies that can both relax you in the evening for restful sleep and energise and motivate you for the day time.
Lavender (lavandula augustifolia)
The champion of champions in the aromatherapists kit bag. This wonder plant is very well known for its sleep inducing qualities. It also has the ability to reduce anxiety and emotional stress and is a strong antioxidant making it excellent for pain reduction and skin replenishment. Add a few drops of lavender essential oil to a lavender filled pillow or bag and hang it near the head of the bed. The relaxing, floral aroma will help you drift off.
You can also add a few drops of lavender essential oil to water and using a mist spray bottle, mist your bedding so that the aroma is an encompassing experience.
Lemon (Citrus Limonum)
A long-time favourite of mine, this zesty essential oil is great for enlivening you when the afternoons and dark evenings are dragging and for enhancing concentration. Although lemon is a stimulating oil, it is also calming and works well as a pairing for lavender or on its own. As an extra benefit, lemon is great for calming the digestive system.
Add a few drops to a burner mixed with water to freshen the air after a long day at work (this is when mixing lemon with lavender would be a winning combination) or for use during the day, add a drop or two to a tissue and inhale the refreshing aroma while at your desk or in the car. If you don’t like the fragrance of lemon, you can try grapefruit essential oil instead.
Jasmine (Jasminum Officinale)
Jasmine has a distinctive sweet and flowery fragrance which can be quite heady for some. It does however, have great properties for relieving the blues that often come when the darker months are dragging on. When vaporised (by placing in a burner with some water) Jasmine stimulates the autonomic nervous system and enlivens and awakens the mind and body. It is also excellent as a room fragrance and can be mixed with water for use in a mist spray bottle.
Rose (Rosa Damascena)
Known for its strong but pleasing floral fragrance, rose essential oil is excellent for calming anxiety or stress and is a friend to those who struggle to regulate sleeping in the darker months. Inhaling rose essential oil through vaporisation (by placing in a burner along with some water) will relax the mind and body. Not a scent to be used when looking for alertness, the properties of this oil are all about relaxation. It has a beneficial uplifting effect on the mood, but really helps sooth the body into a good night’s sleep.
Sandalwood (Santalum Album)
Sandalwood has been used for many hundreds of years for its antidepressant and anti-anxiety qualities. It is also recognised for its properties of focusing the mind. By adding a few drops of sandalwood to a tissue and inhaling throughout the day, it can help to improve the mood and attentiveness but also calm and relax the body.
Sandalwood makes an excellent room fragrance when vaporised, but has the same beneficial properties when burnt in the form of cones or incense sticks. The fragrance can be a little overpowering for some, so as an essential oil it should be used sparingly.