When it comes to a striving for a strong immune system during cold and flu season, you need to have a few tricks up your sleeve. There are so many remedies out there that it can be a bit mind-boggling when trying to choose which ones are best for you and your family. I certainly have a number of favorite remedies in my medicine cabinet, but I have to admit that if I were stranded on a desert island I would want a few tried and true essential oils on hand.
Immunostimulant Essential Oils – The Real Essential Oils for Boosting The Immune System
It’s funny how often many essential oils are considered to be immunostimulant because they have bactericidal, antiviral, antimicrobial, or antiseptic qualities. However, these properties do not mean immunostimulant.
An immunostimulant affects the cellular or humoral immune system, or sometimes both. One of the most studied herbs with this ability is Echinacea which has no antibacterial properties yet is known to increase phagocytosis (the ingestion of bacteria) and stimulate the lymphocytes (a subtype of white blood cell).
There are of course a wide variety of essential oils that are reputed to stimulate and boost the immune system.
Some of the best include:
Bergamot – This oil recharges the central nervous system with renewed energy which indirectly helps strengthen the immune system. Bergamot’s coumarin content has also been found to stimulate white blood cell transformation values in cancer patients.
Eucalyptus – Especially cineole-rich varieties, Eucalyptus stimulates the immune system because it has an enhancing effect on beta and gamma-globulins (antibodies). Eucalyptus also reduces inflammatory reactions which is said to be immunomodulant.
Frankincense (Boswellia carteri) – frankincense strengthens the immune system by proliferating white blood cells and reducing inflammation which is known to be a primary risk factor for chronic disease.
Niaouli – This essential oil is believed by many to be the single most powerful immunostimulant due to its lymph and circulation-stimulating properties.
Rosemary (officianalis and verbenone) – Rosemary is a very detoxifying essential oil in the sense that it encourages the cleansing of the excretory ducts and organs which drains the hepatobiliary system (the liver, gallbladder, and bile ducts). This process strengthens natural immunity.
Essential oils with high terpene alcohols also have the ability to correct pathologically depressed or elevated immunoglobin (antibody) counts to their proper levels.
It’s also interesting to note that our immune system can be conditioned by olfactory stimulation. Adrenalin and cortisol are but two of the many neurotransmitters released by negative emotions that can be positively affected by smelling essential oils. These two hormones directly influence the immune system by switching it off making it entirely possible that negative emotions can translate into a weakened immune system. This is known as psychoneuroimmunology.
Essential Oils for Boosting The Immune System and Fighting Cold and Flu
There are of course other essential oils that may not directly affect the immune system yet help take the load off a cold or flu by killing bacteria, microbes, fungi, and viruses on and around us. These oils can also help reduce discomfort associated with cold and flu symptoms which will help us rest and allow our immune system to focus on eradicating illness.
Some of my favorite essential oils for boosting immunity in this way include:
Cinnamon bark essential oil has been proven to be one of the most powerful antibacterial/antivirals among essential oils. I often use it diffused throughout the house and in cleansing spray recipes to keep surfaces bacteria-free. Simply add 20 drops to a spray bottle of water, shake well, and spritz surfaces like doorknobs, the toilet, countertops, the fridge, sinks, floors etc. and let it sit for 5 minutes before wiping. Fewer germs for your body to deal with while sick will help you recover more comfortably AND it will keep others in your house from getting sick too.
Clove essential oil is one of the most antioxidant substances on earth and has many applications for oral health. For colds and flu this essential oil is a great addition to homemade gargle (just add 1-2 drops of clove oil to a tsp of sea salt and mix that into warm water) due to its strong antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties. Clove will also help numb and take the edge off a sore throat by doing this.
Clove is so powerful that it even has the ability to fight off many drug-resistant bacteria making it perfect for resistant illnesses like strep.
You can also use clove essential oil as an expectorant for coughs, sinusitis, asthma, and bronchitis by taking 1-2 drops in a spoonful of raw honey 2-3 times a day.
Eucalyptus is known for its ability to support upper respiratory health and break up congestion. It’s also anti-inflammatory for the lungs which makes it a perfect essential oil to use in saunas, a hot shower, in facial steam recipes, and cupped over the face during colds and flu where there is mucus present. Eucalyptus also stimulates your antibodies to help fight infection.
Frankincense is an amazing overall constitutional immune booster. It doesn’t just stimulate the immune system, it modulates it by helping your body produce more white blood cells. Frankincense is also an excellent anti-inflammatory and can help with common gut maladies as well when rubbed diluted on the stomach and abdomen.
Lemon essential oil is a fantastic lymph tonic which means it helps your body move cellular waste out of the body during cold and flu. You have to imagine that fighting a virus is basically a battleground meaning that there will be casualties and waste produced by both sides. The lymphatic system is responsible for rinsing away these waste materials so that your cells can perform optimally.
Applying 2-3 drops of lemon diluted in 1 tsp of carrier oil and applied to the back of the neck while sick is a great way to stimulate lymph drainage. You can even use this as a body massage or use with a dry brush. Keep in mind though that you should not be in direct sunlight if you do this as you will burn!
Diffusing lemon essential oil will also greatly reduce nausea.
Oregano essential oil is nature’s all-natural antibiotic due to its high carvacrol and thymol content. It’s especially useful against gut illnesses like E. Coli and different types of stomach flu and traveler’s diarrhea.
A common way to use oregano oil is to dilute a few drops in coconut oil and rub the bottoms of the feet before putting on warm socks to help fight cold and flu. For stomach issues, you can take a few drops of food-grade oregano essential oil in a veggie capsule diluted with fractionated coconut oil and take it internally 2-3 times a day at the onset of discomfort. If you do this, you will need to take a probiotic as oregano oil kills not only bad bacteria but good bacteria as well.
Peppermint essential oil is an excellent oil to start using at the onset of a cold or flu especially when you start getting a scratchy sore throat. One of the best quick remedies to make it a simple throat coat syrup by adding 1-3 drops of food-grade peppermint essential oil to a spoon and then drizzling raw honey (manuka honey is best) over it. Taking this 2-3 times a day at the onset of a scratchy sore throat will help bring down inflammation, soothe soreness, kill germs and bacteria, and cool the tissues of the throat.
Peppermint essential oil is also an amazing oil for stomach and abdominal upset. You can mix 3 drops of peppermint EO in 1tsp of carrier oil and rub it over the stomach and abdomen to help soothe cramping and nausea.
You can also use peppermint essential oil for controlling fevers by applying it diluted to the back of the neck and on the soles of the feet for relief.
These are just a few of my favorite essential oils for boosting immunity and fight cold and flu, what are yours? Let me know in the comments!
You may also enjoy reading:
Basmacioğlu Malayoğlu, H., et al. “Effects of oregano essential oil with or without feed enzymes on growth performance, digestive enzyme, nutrient digestibility, lipid metabolism and immune response of broilers fed on wheat–soybean meal diets.” British poultry science 51.1 (2010): 67-80.
Chen, Yingli, et al. “Composition and potential anticancer activities of essential oils obtained from myrrh and frankincense.” Oncology letters 6.4 (2013): 1140-1146.
Giovannini, D., et al. “Lavandula angustifolia Mill. essential oil exerts antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effect in macrophage mediated immune response to Staphylococcus aureus.” Immunological investigations 45.1 (2016): 11-28.
Niphade, Samir Ramchandra, et al. “Immunomodulatory activity of Cinnamomum zeylanicum bark.” Pharmaceutical biology 47.12 (2009): 1168-1173.
Serafino, Annalucia, et al. “Stimulatory effect of Eucalyptus essential oil on innate cell-mediated immune response.” BMC immunology 9.1 (2008): 17.