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How to Support the Immune System with Essential Oils

Authored by: Kristine Stein, B.Sc., MS, Natural Health Practitioner at Total Health Nutrition Center

The best way to prevent any illness is to keep your immune system strong and avoid exposure. In all cases of illness, general precautions are important. We all know when a person has a healthy immune system, they are less likely to become sick. Like other respiratory illnesses, the coronavirus can be transferred between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet). This happens through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can spread to people who are nearby and possibly be inhaled. 

The good news is you can help prevent illness by building your immunity, therefore, taking preventative measures into your own hands. Even better, you have some potent allies in this pandemic: essential oils. 

How do essential oils support the immune system?


Essential oils are very effective against airborne diseases because of their volatile nature and their anti-bacterial, anti-microbial and anti-viral qualities. Essential oils are distilled from plants into concentrated, volatile substances that can purify the air. This quality makes them extremely effective for respiratory conditions by way of inhalation. It is this diffusive quality that allows essential oils to strengthen the immune system.

Historically, aromatic herbs and spices have proven useful in times of airborne illnesses precisely because of their anti-microbial, anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. Many discoveries revealing the benefits of using aromatic plants to prevent and treat respiratory conditions came from Europe. 

During the 19th century, it was observed that there was a low incidence of tuberculosis in the flower-growing districts of France. It was then realized that the workers who processed the flowers and herbs remained free of the respiratory illness that was common at the time. This led to published studies showing that essential oils were able to kill the micro-organisms of glandular and yellow fever. They particularly noted the properties of oregano, cinnamon, angelica and geranium (Battaglia, 2008). 

Epidemics of the past were worsened by several factors:

  • Rapid growth of urban areas with poor sanitation
  • Horrific working conditions in factories – dawn to dusk, 6-day work week
  • Vitamin D deficiency – rickets affecting many urban populations
  • Deterioration of the diet; sugar and white flour as staple foods for the first time in history

Today we continue to see many people deficient in vitamin D, and over consumption of sugar, processed foods and white flour. These lifestyle choices do not support a healthy immune system. They actually weaken it. Scientific studies have found that a high amount of sugar profoundly suppresses the immune system.

How to help maintain a healthy immune response

Reduce Sugar intake. Two hundred years ago, the average American ate only 2 pounds of sugar a year. In 1970, we ate 123 pounds of sugar per year. Today, the average American consumes almost 152 pounds of sugar in one year. This is equal to 3 pounds (or 6 cups) of sugar consumed in one week! Again, scientific studies have found that a high amount of sugar profoundly suppresses the immune system. 

Get adequate Sleep. Sleep deprivation causes elevated cortisol levels and results in impaired immune function. 

Reduce unnecessary stress. Stress has been shown to be a common denominator in an impaired immune system.

OKAY, let’s get to the good stuff.

Which oils are the best and how do I use them?

Some great anti-viral essential oils include oregano, thyme, myrrh, lemon, cinnamon (cassia) and blends such as “Ancient Fortress” by Ancient Nutrition and “Thieves” by Young Living. You can find these oils in our retail section at Total Health.

Six Ways to Use the Benefits of Anti-Viral Essential Oils:

• Steam Inhalation – Fill a pot full of water and bring to a boil, remove from stove and add 2-4 drops of any of the following: eucalyptus, myrrh, clove, oregano, or lemon. Combinations such as “Ancient Fortress” by Ancient Nutrition or “Thieves” by Young Living are very effective as well. After you add the essential oils, hold your head over the pot (staying at least a foot away from the pot) and inhale for about 10 minutes. You can drape a towel over your head if you want more of a concentrated steam, but again, stay at least a foot above the hot water.

  • Direct Inhalation – Simply open a bottle of essential oil of choice, put the cap up to your nose and inhale deeply. This can be done several times a day. 
  • Room Diffusers and Atomizers – these are also practical ways to disperse the anti-viral qualities of essential oils into larger spaces.
  • Topically – applying essential oils on skin over the lymph nodes and adrenal glands after a shower. This will help to strengthen the immune system. Dilute a total of 3-10 drops of a single or combination of the above oils in an unscented lotion or carrier oil (almond, jojoba, hazelnut, etc.) and massage on the sides of the neck, arm pits, lower back, and just above the kidneys. 
  • Disinfectant Room sprays – Add 20-30 drops of essential oil to 4 ounces of distilled water. Shake well before using. Add to a spray bottle and deodorize and disinfect as needed.
  • Household Cleaners – Add 20-30 drops of essential oil to a spray bottle with 6 ounces of distilled water and 1 oz. vodka. Shake before use. You may also test on a corner of surface before using on the entire surface.

Note: As with any essential oil that you are using for the first time, make sure to do a patch test before applying to the body. To do a patch test, simply put 1 drop of essential oil on the inside of your wrist and wait about 1-3 hours to see if you get a reaction (i.e. rash, redness or hives). If nothing develops, the oil should be safe to use in the proper amounts. 

Have questions for Kristine?
Give a call to Total Health: 262-251-2929

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