8 Best Essential Oils for Cold and Flu Symptoms - Public Goods

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8 Best Essential Oils for Cold and Flu Symptoms

When you’re suffering from a bad cold, there’s no shortage of advice from family and friends. But have they ever recommended using essential oils for cold and flu symptoms? 

two public goods essential oil bottles, tissues

As just about everyone knows, there’s no actual cure for common colds. They’re caused by viral infections, so antibiotics don’t help. Over-the-counter pain relievers and cold medicines can help ease symptoms, but they don’t make the cold go away any faster. A couple of your friends’ and family’s suggestions like chicken soup and rest may help a little.

But primarily, all modern medicine can tell you is to take it easy, stay hydrated, and do what you can to ease symptoms like sore throats, coughs, stuffy noses and clogged nasal passages, until you feel better.

Most alternative medicine therapies can’t do much to cure your cold either, but relieving the symptoms is another story. In particular, aromatherapy has been shown to be surprisingly effective at easing much of the pain and discomfort caused by severe or nagging colds.

There’s some evidence that a few essential oils, such as tea tree oil and eucalyptus oil, not only have antibacterial properties, but antiviral properties as well — which would make them possible treatments for common colds.

Want to learn more about which essential oils can help put your immune system back on a healthy track? We’ve created a list of the eight best essential oils for colds. For those unfamiliar with the immensely popular world of essential oils, we’ve also provided a quick recap on how to use them.

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Which Essential Oils Are Best for Colds and Flus?

Here are eight of the best essential oils you can use to alleviate cold and flu-like symptoms.

Eucalyptus Essential Oil

eucalyptus leaves

Most experts believe eucalyptus essential oil is most effective for colds because of its key ingredient, eucalyptol. Eucalyptol has antimicrobial properties that can help fight bacteria; it’s also an anti-inflammatory and pain reliever. The menthol in eucalyptus can help ease both sinus congestion and chest congestion by acting as an expectorant. Eucalyptus, by the way, is the same ingredient contained in many over-the-counter chest rubs used to treat coughs.

Peppermint Essential Oil

amber glass bottle of peppermint essential oil

This is an excellent choice for treating respiratory system issues, since peppermint essential oil also contains menthol that can numb or ease sore throats while acting as a decongestant. Peppermint can also relax the windpipe’s bronchial muscles to prevent coughing and breathing difficulties. Research suggests that peppermint oil may provide antiviral, antibacterial and antiseptic properties.

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Tea Tree Essential Oil

amber glass bottle of tea tree essential oil

Tea tree essential oils and extracts have been shown to have strong therapeutic benefits due to their antiviral, antimicrobial and antibacterial powers. When inhaled, tea tree essential oils can break up congestion and help sore throats. They can also help heal cold sores when diluted and applied topically with cotton balls.

Lavender Essential Oil

amber glass bottle of lavender essential oil

The medicinal benefits of lavender essential oils are almost too many to mention. When it comes to cold symptoms, two of lavender oil’s most important properties are its ability to boost the immune system and to loosen the phlegm that causes breathing issues and coughs.

Rosemary Essential Oil

amber glass bottle of rosemary essential oil

Rosemary essential oil is another decongestant with antibacterial properties that help the immune system. Other similar herbal oils, like oregano and thyme essential oils, are antimicrobials and antifungals as well. They contain a substance called carvacrol that can protect against both viruses and bacteria.

Lemon Essential Oil

lemon slices

Lemon essential oils are not only suggested for colds, but they’re one of the choices recommended for flu symptoms due to antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that ease coughs and congestion, body aches and swollen glands. Diluted lemon oil is also an excellent ingredient for a gargle when you’re suffering from a cold or the flu.

Chamomile Essential Oil

chamomile flowers

Another tried and true natural remedy to quell your cold symptoms is chamomile oil. A 1990 study determined that inhaling steam with chamomile extract could alleviate the symptoms that accompany the common cold. Chamomile oil has also demonstrated value as an anti-inflammatory while also providing a calming effect.

Cinnamon Essential Oil

rolled cinnamon

Cinnamon oils have also showcased antiviral activity in several different studies. For example, a 2014 study published in the American Journal of Essential Oils and Natural Products found that an essential oil blend including cinnamon oil completely inactivated the influenza virus. Cinnamon oil also offers a potent punch of antifungal and antioxidant properties that can strengthen the immune system.

Essential Facts About Essential Oils

If you’re new to essential oils and want to add them to your daily routine, here’s what you need to know.

Essential oils are extracted from plants. As their name implies, they contain the essence of the plants’ beneficial and medicinal properties.

Just as not all plants are good for your health (when was the last time you ate a poison ivy salad?), not all essential oils are good for your body. But in the same way that spinach and carrots are good for you, many essential oils distilled from plants can provide major health benefits without the side effects of prescription medications.

It takes a lot of work to extract essential oils, which are heavily concentrated and sometimes expensive. However, they contain much more medicinal power than the extracts created by soaking the plant in a solvent or cold-pressing it.

Because the oils are so strong, they have to be diluted before use. The ratio should be a few drops of essential oils for each ounce of carrier oils like sweet almond or coconut oil. They normally cannot be used undiluted.

All essential oils have different properties, so they’re not a “one-size-fits-all treatment.” It’s important to consider the symptoms you’re trying to relieve and then choose the best essential oils (or oil blends) to treat that problem. An experienced aromatherapist can be invaluable in suggesting the right oils or combination for your cold.

Do Essential Oil Diffusers Help With Colds and Flus?

Yes. Aromatherapy diffusers spread the essential oils into the air to be inhaled. These items can be nebulizers, ultrasonic, evaporative or heat-driven. A diffuser is a device that disperses essential oils, filling a closed area or room with the oil’s natural fragrance.

Other Ways To Administer Essential Oils For Colds and Flus

There are several different ways essential oils can be administered.

Steam Inhalation

Drops of essential oil are placed into boiling water, and the head is covered by a towel or “tent” above the container so the vapors can be inhaled.

Bath Oils

A less-effective but calming aromatherapy method is to put a few drops of essential oil into a warm bath.


A few drops of diluted essential oil can be applied directly to the affected area to treat some pains and illnesses. However, for the common cold, using a diffuser or the steam inhalation technique may be more effective.

Diffusers and vaporizers are the most common, but once again, an aromatherapist can provide the best advice on essential oil administration for your particular symptoms.

A Little Extra Advice for Your Next Cold

Other essential oils you can drop in your diffuser or bathtub to treat cold symptoms include sandalwood, lemongrass, frankincense and chamomile.

None of these essential oils have been proven as a preventative. Nonetheless, many aromatherapists suggest that prophylactic use of eucalyptus, tea tree, and thyme oil during the flu season — as your grandmother might say — can only help. Essential oils may also be beneficial in treating coughs, seasonal allergies, and even weight loss.

One added benefit: many of these oils have disinfectant properties, so they’re also perfect for cleaning up the mess remaining after you’ve recovered from your cold.

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Comments (13)

  • Other than the great prices, please tell me how the essential oils compare in quality to DoTerra or Plant Therapy.

  • I will say doTerra is pricey. It is sourced from the countries where it grows best. Efforts are made to support the poor economies of the various countries. This plus doTerra’s excellent testing drives the price. This diligence also provides the purest essential oils I have ever used. I tried a few different brands before doTerra and have no desire to switch back. L

    • I can’t imagine any ouls being better than Yoyng Living Essential Oils. The owners of DeTerra worked for Gary Young with the intention of mimicking his life’s work. Gary felt completely betrayed. But there is only one Gary Young, a genius naturopath and blender of oils. He has healed countless people if cancer and almost every other malady. He owns multiple farms where his plants are grown and distilled. He oversees the quality of additional farmers who grow for him. I don’t believe any of these copycat companies di anything other than sourse plants and oils on the open market without that much consideration. I’ll gladly pay the extra money for the finest quality available – Young Living. These Young Living products made a huge difference in my blood tests with lupus. Gary told me about the autoimmune version of the Paleo Diet 20 years before anyone recognized the AIP protocol (autoimmune protocol). It’s shameful what these founders of DiTerra did to him. Gary is now deceased.

  • I got rid of my cold over night with diffuser last year had cold for 2 days happened to be at my doctors she said yes you have a cold . I don’t like coughing so that night used diffuser inhaled till sinuses ran went to bed got up at 2am to go to bathroom, did same thing cold symptoms all gone

    • Woo hoo! Glad to hear that it helped, that’s fantastic! If you need to stock up on any essential oils and haven’t given ours a try, feel free to use code BLOG15 at checkout for $15 off of your first purchase. 🌿🙌

  • Thank you for planting a tree for me. Cannot wait to start ordering some of your old.. Monday or Tuesday at the latest. Thanks again

    • Brenda, thanks so much for planting a tree! We couldn’t have done it without you.

      If you haven’t ordered from us before, feel free to use BLOG15 for $15 off of your first order as a gift from us at Public Goods. 🌳🙌

  • Yes indeed I totally agree with you.
    Doterra is the ultimate treason.
    Thieves of intellectual property and far more than dishonest.
    The good work of Gary Young lives on.
    Doterra is shameless plagiarism. Young living
    Has good vibes, Doterra can’t possibly reproduce that.

  • I have been using Now essential oils for over 10 years now and the essential oils are amazing in my bedroom I use lavender in my bathroom I use lemon and my living room I use cinnamon also for energy in the morning I use orange lemon grapefruit essential oils since I’ve been using the oils I have been telling my family and friends about the amazing essential oils because essential oils all natural and it goes back to the Bible also I am using internal and external oil as well because you can use the internal or in your food and drinks text Ernie using outside the body and inside your home or whatever I put a couple drops of lemon in my trash can also I put 7 drops of lemon and grapefruit juice any spray bottle and spray it around my home I will continue to use now essential oil also I used to carry on as well when blending oils together

    • Hi Gregory,

      You’re an essential oil expert! I’ll definitely be getting some lemon oil to add to my diffuser at home, thanks for the tip. We’re so glad to hear that you’ve gotten so many benefits. Feel free to use code BLOG15 for $15 off of your first order, so you can stock up on some of your favorites! 🌿✨

  • How could you leave out oregano oil? For shame for shame… No list can be complete without it. Both anti-bacterial and anti-viral is makes an great addition to your oil arsenal against infections. Peace 😉

    • Ooh, thanks so much for letting us know! We hadn’t heard of oregano oil before, and I’ll be sure to look into it’s benefits so we can include it next time around.

      We appreciate your feedback! If you haven’t had the chance to try out our goods, feel free to use BLOG15 for $15 off of your first purchase. 🌱😊

  • I used my 5 essential oils last year for a cold i had for 2 days using diffuser like a nebulizer breathing in till sinuses ran woke in morning all cold symptoms gone no sneezing ,coughing ect. Felt good

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