The best essential oils to prevent colds and flu

by Alison Angold CIDESCO ITEC

Colds and flu are very common at this time of year.

The changing weather and less fresh air indoors enable the flu virus and the common cold to be picked up and spread very easily. There are many over-the-counter remedies available, some of which are effective, but using essential oils to prevent colds and flu could be a more natural (and pleasant) way to beat colds and flu, or ease the symptoms of these illnesses.

There will always be some skepticism about the use of essential oils for medical issues, however, a 2010 study shows some benefits for colds and flu

(While I am a qualified and experienced aromatherapist, I am not medically trained)

Essential oils to prevent colds and flu

There are lots of oils that can be best to use during cold and flu season, however, these are the most powerful and give you a good mixture of aromas to blend together.

  • Peppermint
  • Tea tree
  • Thyme
  • Eucalyptus
  • Bergamot
  • Black pepper
  • Juniper
  • Lavender
  • Lemon
  • Myrrh
  • Rosemary

How do essential oils work to prevent colds and flu?

Essential oils are the pure oils extracted from the leaves & flowers of plants, herbs, fruit, or even the bark, resin, and roots of trees. The molecules in essential oils are so fine that they can penetrate the skin when applied topically.

They can be absorbed into the deeper layers of the skin and from there, can enter the bloodstream and travel around the body to have a positive effect where it is needed. So in the case of essential oils for colds and flu, they may have an effect on the lungs, the immune system, or the cells of the body where the virus or infection is developing.

In addition, the molecules can travel through the membranes in the nose, when inhaled, so, in this case, the oils will have an effect on the nasal passages and sinuses, to help clear these areas and relieve pain.

And in addition, the smells of the oils have a relaxing, uplifting, or nostalgic effect on us, so can instantly make us feel better.

Each essential oil has a variety of properties, or therapeutic actions, meaning that it will have a particular effect on an area or system of the body. The properties that we want to look for to treat and prevent colds and flu are;

  • Analgesic – relieves pain
  • Anti-catarrhal – relieves and removes catarrh from the chest and lungs
  • Antiviral – kills viruses or prevents a virus from developing
  • Expectorant – helps remove fluid from the lungs and respiratory tract
  • Febrifuge – helps to reduce fever
  • Immuno-stimulant – stimulates and strengthens the immune system
  • Tonic – invigorates and gives strength to the body

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Essential oils to prevent colds and flu, sitting a white shelf

Essential oils to prevent colds and flu


Probably the best oil you can use during the winter months to help prevent and ease cold and flu symptoms! Peppermint relieves pain, prevents viruses, and gives strength to the body. Alongside this, it helps to ease congestion in the chest and lungs and helps to reduce a fever, due to its cooling properties.

(Do not use peppermint in conjunction with homeopathic remedies, as it counteracts their benefits)

Tea Tree

One of the only oils that stimulate the immune system, meaning that your body will be better equipped to fight off infection and viruses. Tea Tree also has antiviral properties and gives strength to your body systems.


Another great antiseptic oil that is antiviral and a tonic as well as being an expectorant, meaning that it eases congestion in the chest and lungs.

(Do not use during pregnancy or if you suffer from high blood pressure)


A very popular essential oil to treat cold and flu symptoms, that is often found in medicines. Using the pure, natural essential oil will help to fluidify mucus on the chest and lungs, therefore easing pain and coughs associated with colds. It is also antiviral, so good to use to prevent illnesses from developing, and analgesic, so pain relieving too.

(Eucalyptus is incompatible with homeopathic remedies)


This is a beautiful, fresh, citrus oil that has pain-killing properties and is also antiviral, so great at helping to prevent viruses from occurring.

(Avoid direct sunlight, if applied to the skin)

Black pepper

A very stimulating oil, that should not be used alone, as it is too strong. But, very useful, at easing congestion in the chest and giving strength to the body as a whole. Black pepper also has analgesic properties.

(Use in low concentrations. Incompatible with homeopathic remedies)


A great oil to have around as it relieves pain prevents viral infections from occurring and gives strength to the body.

(Avoid during pregnancy and if suffering from kidney disease)


A good all-round oil that is analgesic, so relieving pain, antiviral, so preventing viruses, and a tonic that gives good strength to the body.


A lovely refreshing, citrus oil, that makes a great addition to other heavier-smelling oils. Lemon has good antiviral properties and uplifts to give strength to the body.

(Avoid direct sunlight if applied topically)


A great oil, specifically to treat coughs and colds, as it helps remove catarrh and chest congestion during the illness. Myrrh also is a tonic, so helps to build up a weak system.

(Avoid during pregnancy)


With a wonderful herby aroma, rosemary relieves pain, helps prevent viruses, and is a tonic to the body as a whole.

(Avoid during pregnancy, with epilepsy and high blood pressure)

How to use essential oils to prevent colds and flu

Burner or diffuser

This is probably the most effective way to use essential oils to prevent colds and flu. Using oils in a burner or a diffuser will allow the aromas to scent your room. Inhaling the oil will enable the molecules from the oils to penetrate through the membranes in the nasal passage, where they will be most effective for colds, coughs, or chest congestion.

Any of the suggested oils can be blended together, but I would recommend no more than 3. Most of the oils have an antiseptic quality, so will smell quite medicinal. Adding lemon or bergamot to the stronger-smelling oils gives a refreshing top note to the blend.

Add a few drops of each chosen oil, to some water on the top of the burner, light a tea light underneath and you are good to go! The burner makes a lovely addition to any room, and the glow from the candle is lovely.

The diffuser, gives a more constant stream of aroma, so ideal to use when actually suffering from a cold, cough, or flu, as it fills the space you are in with the aromas of the oils.

Body oil

Essential oils can also be applied to the skin to be absorbed and have their effect here. Essential oils must be mixed with carrier oil and not applied neat on the skin. Blend an oil to apply to your skin using a carrier oil and 2 or 3 essential oils. Application to the chest area will be particularly useful for treating the symptoms of a cold or flu.

Massaged into the skin regularly, oils with antiviral or immuno-stimulant properties could prevent illness from occurring.

When blending an oil for the body, use 15 drops of essential oils to 50 ml of carrier oil. Use a carrier oil such as Sweet Almond or Grapeseed oil.

Mix up to 3 of the suggested oils, remembering that most of the oils are quite strong smelling, with a medicinal quality. Recommended blends;

  • Tea Tree, Lavender & Lemon – preventing the onset of colds and flu
  • Myrrh, Black Pepper & Bergamot – ease congestion on the chest and lungs
  • Peppermint & Lemon – Uplifting, gives strength and reduces fever, or cools a ‘hot body’
  • Rosemary, Lavender & Bergamot – pain relieving

For full instructions on blending essential oils READ HERE


Inhaling the oils directly is useful if you are suffering from a blocked nose, headache, or sinus congestion due to the cold or flu. You can inhale the oil directly from the bottle or add a few drops to a handkerchief, to keep with you and sniff the aroma throughout the day.

In the bath or shower

While if you are in the midst of a cold or flu, you may not feel like lying in a bath, but, as a preventative, this can be quite useful. By adding a few drops of your chosen oils to your bath water, the aromas can be inhaled into the respiratory system and absorbed by the skin.

Similarly, adding a few drops of essential oil to the floor of the shower, and letting hot water run before you step in, creates your very own aromatherapy steam room to inhale the fragrant vapours.

For more uses of essential oils in the bathroom READ HERE.

Essential oils to prevent colds and flu

There are many different companies offering essential oils. You must ensure that the oils are 100% pure. These are my favourite;

Most essential oils are safe to use in small quantities, however, if ever in any doubt about the use of essential oils, please contact me, for a consultation, or see your local aromatherapy practitioner.

About the Author
Alison Angold is a fully qualified (certified) beauty therapist, massage therapist, and aromatherapist from the UK. She has over 25 years of experience in this industry and has worked in a variety of beauty salons, spa’s as well as running her own successful beauty and massage business. Her career has allowed her to treat many, many clients, with skincare concerns, medical conditions, and a whole variety of other ailments and issues, which has enabled her to work closely with essential oils, prescribing specific blends for these clients to help with these conditions. Her qualifications in the use of essential oils and aromatherapy, allow her to share this knowledge with others, in a safe, reliable way.

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