Essential oils and the coronavirus (COVID-19)
With UK cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) increasing and shelves being emptied of hand sanitiser, anti-bacterial wipes and other medicines, we thought we’d offer our expert advice on how we can use essential oils to improve hand hygiene, boost immunity and support our respiratory system.
What are essential oils
Firstly, for those who aren’t familiar with aromatherapy, essential oils are 100% natural substances derived from plant material such as flowers, leaves, twigs, fruits and berries. They are extremely powerful, complex substances that have a wide range of therapeutic benefits.
How essential oils can prevent infection
Essential oils can strengthen and support our immune response in two ways:
- By directly opposing bacteria and viruses
- By increasing the activity of the organs and cells that fight them
Anti-viral essential oils
Many oils offer protection against different types of infectious organisms such bacteria, fungi and viruses. The oils that will potentially be most useful with the current coronavirus outbreak will be those with anti-viral properties.
According to Caddy (1997) the following oils possess anti-viral properties:
- Clove Bud
- Eucalyptus globulus, citriodora, radiata and smithii
- Lavender Spike
- Sweet Marjoram
- Tea Tree
- Sweet Thyme
Although not listed by Caddy, Manuka can also be added to this list.
Using essential oils for anti-viral protection
Using essential oils from the above list in your daily routine can help strengthen your immunity and promote a speedier recovery if you happen to fall ill.
If you have no aromatherapy experience, or if you don’t have any of the above oils then you could try our new Anti-Virus pure essential oil which has been expertly blended with anti-viral and immune-supporting oils.
The blend is inspired by the legend of the four 15th century French Thieves, who were said to have robbed the bodies of plague victims and protected themselves from infection with aromatics such as rosemary and cloves.
Our consultant aromatologist, Jeni Broughton, has drawn on this knowledge to create our own take of the famous ‘Thieves’ blend. Our unique version contains a powerful combination of Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), Cinnamon Leaf (Cinnamomum zeylanicum), Pimento Berry (Pimento officinalis), Eucalyptus smithii, Mandarin (Citrus reticulata), Grapefruit (Citrus x paradisi) and Carrot Seed (Daucus carota).
- Rosemary has anti-viral and antioxidant properties and is also excellent for relieving respiratory congestion.
- Cinnamon and Pimento help fight infection, ease the breathing and soothe aches and pains. Pimento also has antioxidant properties which may improve the immune response.
- Eucalyptus is renowned for its anti-viral, immuno-stimulant and decongestant properties and is also helpful for clearing the head and relieving fatigue.
- Mandarin and Grapefruit help stimulate the lymphatic system which plays a vital role in fighting infection. They can also help boost energy levels and lift the mood when feeling run-down.
- Carrot Seed assists in the removal of toxins and boosts immunity. It is also believed to strengthen the mucous membranes which act as a barrier to infection.
Our Anti-Virus oil can be used in a variety of ways:
- In an aromatherapy burner or diffuser – ideal for neutralising airborne viruses and for building immunity around the home or workplace.
- In a steam inhalation – this is one of the best ways of getting the therapeutic oils into the body (via the blood-rich lining of the lungs) and for treating respiratory infections.
- In an aromatherapy inhaler – ideal for use when out and about. Alternatively pop a few drops on a tissue and sniff regularly throughout the day.
- For massage - the therapeutic oils are absorbed into the blood stream via the skin.
- In hand washes and alcohol-based hand sanitisers to improve hygiene and increase protection. NHS guidelines state that washing your hands frequently with soap and water is the most effective way to protect against the current coronavirus, but remember to wash them hands for at least 20 seconds. An alcohol-based hand sanitiser is recommended as a back-up if soap and water aren’t available.
Aromatherapy diffuser or oil burner
Add up to 20 drops of Anti-Virus oil to a burner or diffuser (or reduce to a max of 10 drops if using around children). Diffuse for up to 10 minutes three times per day.
Fill a bowl with steaming hot water and add up to 10 drops of Anti-Virus essential oil. Lean over the bowl with a towel over your head and inhale for up to 10 minutes. If you suffer with asthma or allergies such as hay fever, steam inhalations should be used with care. Start by inhaling for 30 seconds and gradually build up to a maximum of 5 minutes if there are no adverse effects.
Aromatherapy inhaler/DIY inhaler
Add up to 40 drops of oil to the inhaler wick taking care not to get the oil on your skin. Use tweezers to insert the wick into the inhaler. This is the maximum amount of oil that the wick can hold, and should last for up to 3 weeks.
Alternatively, if you have an old 5ml essential oil bottle you can make your own DIY inhaler by filling the bottle ¾ full with salt. Add your oils then pop the dropper back in, if you have one, as this will minimise the risk of spills and sniffing up salt. To use, hold the bottle under the nostrils, and breathe deeply. Take care to avoid direct contact with the skin.
Mix 100ml of organic Liquid Castile Soap, 40ml of your choice of carrier oil (for moisturising properties) and up to 84 drops of Anti-Virus oil (this equates to a maximum 3% dilution for wash-off products). Half the quantity of essential oil if you are using with children.
Mix 125ml Aloe Vera Gel, 5ml Witch Hazel Hydrolat and up to 50 drops of Anti-Virus oil (this equates to a 2% dilution for leave-on products). If the product is too watery you can add a little more gel to thicken it up.
Important safety notes
For children under 12 we recommend using the oil in a diffuser or hand wash only, as directed above. Avoid contact with eyes and other mucous membranes. Do not take internally and do not use if pregnant or epileptic. Patch test first on sensitive skin.
Other ways to boost immunity
Having a strong immune system is one of the key ways of fighting off viruses. As well as using essential oils, try the following:
- Ensure you’re getting sufficient sleep.
- Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
- Use a humidifier to keep mucous membranes moist (these trap viruses and prevent them entering the body but don’t work as effectively if they dry out).
- Eat more immune-boosting foods such as citrus fruits, red peppers, broccoli, garlic, ginger, spinach and turmeric.
- Take a Vitamin C supplement.
- Moderate exercise boosts immunity, but don’t overdo it, as overly strenuous exercise can suppress the immune system.
- Try to reduce stress levels as the stress hormone cortisol can suppress the immune function.
- Book a professional massage - massage is thought to stimulate the production of white blood cells which protect against infection and disease.