Essential Oils for Colds, Coughs and Flu

Essential oils can help prevent colds, coughs and viruses and speed up recovery. They can stimulate the production of white blood cells, support the immune system, inhibit the multiplication of viral pathogens, help prevent the spread of infection, and kill off bacteria which can lead to secondary infections such as sinusitis, ear infections and bronchitis. 

There are many essential oils which can help, but this is my top ten: 

Cinnamon Leaf

Cinnamomum verum/Cinnamomum zeylanicum

This powerful essential oil is antibacterial, antiviral and stimulates the immune system, helping the body fight off viral infections and contagious diseases. It can be used in a diffuser or vaporiser to protect against the spread of airborne bacteria and viruses. Used very sparingly in a massage blend it can help to boost the immune system.

Precautions:  It can cause skin irritation and should not be used during pregnancy. 

Clove Bud

Eugenia caryophyllata/Syzygium aromaticum

Clove Bud essential oil is a powerful antiseptic and antibacterial oil which can ease the symptoms of respiratory illness and help prevent the spread of disease and infections.

Precautions:  Avoid using in massage blends or in the bath as this powerful oil can cause skin irritation. 


Eucalyptus radiata/Eucalyptus globulus/Eucalyptus smithii/Eucalyptus citriodora

All species of Eucalyptus have antiseptic, anti-viral, anti-bacterial and immunity-stimulating properties. They also have a powerful decongestant actions, helping to loosen mucus and unblock sinuses when used in a steam inhalation. When used in this way, Eucalyptus radiata is less likely to stimulate the cough reflex that Eucalyptus globulus and also less likely to cause skin irritation.

Precautions:  Avoid using during pregnancy, if you suffer from epilepsy or have high blood pressure. This powerful oil may also counteract homeopathic medicine. 

German Chamomile

Matricaria recutita

German Chamomile essential oil has powerful anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It also stimulates the production of white blood cells, helping the body fight of repeated infections.

Precautions:  Avoid use during pregnancy 


Lavandula angustifolia/Lavandula vera/Lavandula officinalis

Most often used for its calming properties to aid restful sleep, Lavender also has antiseptic, anti-bacterial and decongestant properties, is a natural analgesic and stimulates the immune system. Used in a steam inhalation, its soothing action relieves congestion and helps kill bacteria which can cause secondary infections.

Precautions:  Avoid during pregnancy or if you have very low blood pressure 


Citrus limonum

Who could fail to enjoy the uplifting and refreshing fragrance of lemon oil on a cold and dreary day? Lemon essential oil has antiseptic and anti-bacterial properties and helps to boost the immune system.

Precautions:  Like many citrus oils, lemon is a mild photo-sensitiser and should not be used on the skin prior to exposure to direct sunlight 


Cinnamomum camphora

With powerful antibacterial and anti-viral properties, Ravintsara essential oil can be used to prevent infection. Used in a steam inhalation, it clears blocked sinuses, loosens mucus and may help to soothe coughs. It may also help boost immunity.

Precautions:  Not suitable during pregnancy, for use on young children, or on those who suffer from epilepsy or asthma 


Rosmarinus officinalis

A powerful antiseptic, Rosemary essential oil has stimulating and anti-depressant properties. It's pain-relieving properties can be used to ease muscular aches and pains and headaches caused by stuffy head colds. Used in a steam inhalation, it can help clear mucus and ease sinusitis. It has a tonic effect on the respiratory system and can also boost the immune system.

Precautions:  Not suitable for use during pregnancy or for those who suffer from epilepsy or high blood pressure. This powerful oil may also counteract homeopathic remedies. 

Tea Tree

Melaleuca alternifolia

This versatile essential oil has antiseptic, anti-viral, anti-bacterial and even anti-fungal properties, making it one of our most important oils for fighting off infectious pathogens. It also stimulates the immune system.

Precautions:  It may cause irritation on sensitive skin 

Thyme Sweet

Thymus vulgaris ct Linalool 

Sweet Thyme is less aggressive in action and less likely to cause skin irritation than White Thyme or Red Thyme, but still has strong antibacterial, antiseptic and antimicrobial properties. It is beneficial for respiratory and throat infections and its antispasmodic properties help to calm irritating coughs. It also stimulates the immune system.

Precautions:  Not to be used during pregnancy or by anyone with high blood pressure 


Simple ways to use essential oils


  • Place one or two drops on a tissue and inhale during the day
  • Use in a diffuser or room spray to protect against airborne bacteria and viruses
  • Use in a steam inhalation to kill bacteria in the nasal passages and unblock sinuses
  • Add to a bath in very small amounts (after checking contraindications) to support the immune system


Don't overdo it!


  • Remember less is more - don't overuse essential oils
  • Essential oils are powerful - check the precautions before use
  • When using them in a diffuser, be aware that children and pets can react badly to some oils - allow plenty of ventilation in the room
  • Don't take essential oils orally or use undiluted on the skin and always use good quality oils