Essential oils from many plant families have demonstrated antiviral properties in laboratory. Use before exposure can lessen the potential of infection. This is the case for any type of virus, be it our 'regular' flu season or potential pandemic threat of H1N1 swine flu.
Many of the abstracts on Pub Med, the database of the National Institute of Health for peer-reviewed journal articles, describe essential oils activity as an excellent preventative measure. In this case, some advanced practitioners would apply small amounts of oil several times a day to the neck & sternum, &may even ingest one or two drops of an anti-viral oil blend.
Enveloped viruses are most sensitive to essential oils with a high amount of monoterpene alcohols (e.g. Linalool, present in Lavender, Coriander, Petitgrain and Thyme. Citronellol present in Geranium; alpha-terpinol found in Eucalyptus Radiata & Niaouli Ravensara; Terpinol-4 present in Tea Tree, Hyssop and Marjoram and Menthol, found in Peppermint, Spearmint and monoterpine phenols, Oregano, and Thymol in both Thyme and Oregano). Influenza (Flu) viruses are Enveloped viruses.
Non-enveloped, or 'naked' viruses are more sensitive to essential oils with a high content of terpenoid ketones (eg. Pinocamphone in Verbenone Rosemary, Pinocarvone in Eucalyptus Globulus, and Thuja in Sage). (Note: Other oils and components have also demonstrated anti-viral effects.
Essential Oils and Influenza Viruses
Essential oils stimulate the immune system and can drastically alter our immune defences to protect against the Influenza virus. The pH and electrical resistance in the 'host' (infected) cells and tissues can be altered in such a way as to be unfavourable to virus replication. Further, research has shown that many of these oils raise chemical markers in the body, which indicate positive stimulation of the immune system. Essential oils may provide a dual-protective effect;
- Increasing the strength and efficiency of our immune response
- Limiting the ability of viruses to replicate.
Topical application of essential oils is highly recommended for this application
The oils are rapidly absorbed in the bloodstream, and can be found throughout the body in less than 20 minutes. An example may be the use of undiluted Niaouli, 20 drops or so, massaged into the sternum, or a 5% concentration of Thyme or Hyssop massaged onto the feet.
Besides antiviral oils, oils that are immune stimulants are recommended
Oils that are considered immunostimulants are;
Frankincense, Bergamot, Rosemary Cineol, Eucalyptus Radiata
In addition, it is known that immune system cells have receptors for neurotransmitters. The implication is that a positive mental state will result in a stronger immune system, so any aromatherapy that is uplifting to the individual is recommended.
Additional Antiviral Components of Oils
The list of essential oils exhibiting antiviral effects is extensive: Melissa, tea tree, juniper, eucalyptus, thyme, palmarosa, lavender, rosemary, clove, laurel, cinnamon bark, anise, rose, lemongrass, geranium, neroli, bergamot, clary sage, and dill.
The components of essential oils showing antiviral activity, and the oils in which they can be found, are as follows (from K. Schnaubelt, Ph.D. - Advanced Aromatherapy, p. 36):
- Anethol - found in Anise, Alpha-Sabines - found in Tea Tree, and other oils
- Beta-Caryophyllene - found in Lavender, Rosemary, Thyme, and other oils
- Carvone - found in Dill
- Cinnamic aldehyde - found in Cinnamon Bark, Lemongrass and other oils Eugenol - found in Clove
- Gamma-Terpinene - Found in Juniper, Eucalyptus Niaouli, Tea Tree Linalyl acetate - found in Clary Sage, Lavender, Bergamot and other oils
For respiratory infections and Influenza, Eucalyptus and Ravensara have been used with success, and can be safely used as an adjunct to regular medical care. Hyssop is considered the single most broad-spectrum antiviral. Essential oils for such cases may be used either in a diffuser, being taken internally at regular intervals according to instructions, or through massage, diluted in a carrier oil.
Carina Harkin BHSc.Nat.BHSc.Hom.BHSc.Acu.
Cert IV TAE.