Wellness and prevention information from the experts at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing

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Three ways to fight cold and flu with aromatherapy

by Mary Ellen Kinney, RN, BA, HN-BC, CCAP, Integrative Health Nurse Clinician

Recently, a friend invited me to a play.  She was so generous that she not only bought my ticket, she also shared her flu virus with me! Three days later, a dry throat, a headache, sneezing and aching muscles started.

I knew this was a possibility. So to boost my immune system, I started aromatherapy ― the use of essential oils from specific plants to maintain and improve health.  Though the dry throat and sneezing continued for a few days, the symptoms stopped there. I’m convinced aromatherapy shut down the flu.

Here are three strategies that worked for me that you can try, too:

  1.  A diffuser – This is a small device used to disperse essential oils so that the scent enters the surrounding air. I used my diffuser for five nights while I slept until the symptoms resolved. My diffuser holds about two cups of distilled water to which I added 10 drops of two oils ― Ravensara (agathophyllum aromatica) and Eucalyptus radiata (eucalyptus radiate). Both contain ingredients with antiviral properties. If you don’t have a diffuser, simply put two drops of each essential oil on a tissue and slide it between your pillow and pillowcase.
  2. Steaming water – Heat up water to almost boiling, pour it in a bowl, add two drops of essential oil, put a towel over your head (which you hold over the bowl), and breathe the steam vapors for about five minutes. It’s important to keep your eyes closed the whole time. Steaming is also effective when your sinuses are congested. You can steam with Eucalyptus Radiata or the stronger Eucalyptus Globulus.
  3. Massage – I massaged an aromatherapy blend of essential oils on the skin of my neck, upper chest, the base of my head and my face (especially under my nose) to keep my immune system strong. I blended two drops each of Lavender (lavandula angustifolia) and Blue Cypress (callitris intratropica) with a teaspoon of jojoba massage oil. Essential oils can be blended into any unscented lotion or massage oil.


You don’t need to go out and buy all these essential oils. Instead, consider which essential oil most interested you, and start with that one. The Penny George Institute for Health and Healing Outpatient Clinics in Minneapolis and Fridley sell a selection of essential oils. If you want to order online, the companies I know to be reputable are Plant Extracts International, Aromatics International, Aromaceuticals and Mountain Rose.

Before you start, here a couple of safety tips:

  • Always dilute essential oils before applying to the skin. A one percent to four percent dilution is best. Less is better than more in aromatherapy. One drop of essential oils in one teaspoon of carrier oil/massage lotion gives you a one percent dilution.
  • If you are pregnant, have medical problems, or are tending to a child under the age of six, it is wise to use essential oils under the guidance of a qualified aromatherapy practitioner.