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Essential Oils for Colds: Can they Help?

  • 18 min read

When the first signs of a cold appear, many of us turn to over-the-counter medicines to find relief. But have you ever considered turning to nature’s own pharmacy? Essential oils, derived from plants, have been used for centuries to alleviate symptoms of common ailments, including essential oils colds. But how do they work? 

In a Nutshell

  • Essential oils such as eucalyptus, peppermint, tea tree, and lavender oil are highlighted for their antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and soothing properties, which can alleviate cold symptoms and potentially reduce the duration of a cold.
  • It’s important to dilute essential oils with carrier oils prior to topical application to prevent skin irritation, and to use methods such as diffusers and steam inhalation for relieving cold symptoms, while observing proper safety precautions and dosages.
  • Blends of essential oils can be more effective for treating cold symptoms by combining their therapeutic properties, though users should still exercise caution regarding possible side effects and consult medical professionals for severe or persistent symptoms.

Top Essential Oils for Cold Relief

Aromatic essential oils and carrier oils in glass bottles with jojoba oil

When it comes to battling the common cold, many essential oils come to the forefront with their unique healing properties. The following essential oils are renowned for their antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, which not only alleviate symptoms but also potentially shorten the duration of a cold:

  • Eucalyptus oil
  • Peppermint oil
  • Tea tree oil
  • Lemon oil
  • Lavender oil

Among the best essential oils for cold relief are:

  • Eucalyptus oil:  Celebrated for its antimicrobial and antiviral properties, which can help combat respiratory tract diseases, including the common cold.
  • Peppermint oil: Has a cooling effect and can help relieve congestion and clear the airways.
  • Tea tree oil: Has antimicrobial properties and can help fight off infections.
  • Lavender oil: Has soothing properties and can help promote relaxation and sleep.

Each of these essential oils has unique therapeutic properties that make them excellent allies during the cold season.

Peppermint essential oil, on the other hand, is famous for its cooling effect and the ability to relieve congestion, making it a popular choice for those suffering from cold symptoms. Similarly, tea tree oil, with its potent antiviral effects, can help fight against the viruses causing upper respiratory tract infections, offering relief from sore throat, cough, and congestion.

Lastly, we have lavender essential oil, derived from one of the most aromatic herbs. This essential oil not only helps relieve congestion due to its antifungal properties but also promotes relaxation and sleep, which are crucial for recovery during a cold.

Eucalyptus Oil

Eucalyptus oil is a powerful weapon in the arsenal of flu essential oils. It has the following benefits:

  • Antibacterial properties that help prevent the spread of germs
  • Aroma that is beneficial in clearing nasal passages
  • Proficiency in reducing inflammation, pain, and muscle tension associated with colds and flu

One popular way to use eucalyptus oil for cold relief is in chest rubs. When applied topically, it can alleviate symptoms by reducing inflammation and easing muscle tension. Nonetheless, it is of utmost importance to dilute essential oils with carrier oils before applying them to the skin to prevent irritation.

Another effective method to leverage eucalyptus oil’s benefits is through inhalation. By adding a few drops to a diffuser or a bowl of hot water, you can inhale the steam, which can help alleviate congestion and other cold symptoms.

Nonetheless, while eucalyptus oil can be a potent ally against cold symptoms, we must not forget that undiluted essential oils can cause skin irritation. Therefore, always make sure to properly dilute the oil before topical application.

Peppermint Oil

Peppermint oil is another essential oil that can prove to be beneficial when battling a cold. It offers relief by:

  • Relaxing bronchial muscles, thereby facilitating easier breathing and alleviating congestion
  • Reducing inflammation in the sinuses
  • Aiding in loosening mucus

To alleviate congestion, one way to use peppermint oil is to add it to a cotton handkerchief and inhale it. This direct inhalation allows the essential oil to target the affected area directly. It’s worth noting that thyme essential oil, known for its antimicrobial properties, can be used in a similar manner to help alleviate cold symptoms.

However, peppermint oil may not be suitable for everyone without taking precautions. It should be used with caution for children under 8 and for individuals who are pregnant, as it may not be safe for these groups.

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Moreover, peppermint oil has been found to have antiviral properties against the herpes simplex virus, making it a versatile essential oil for various health concerns. Therefore, despite its benefits in managing flu symptoms, it’s always necessary to use this potent essential oil judiciously.

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil, derived from the leaves of the tea tree native to Australia, is another essential oil known for its medicinal properties. Its antibacterial properties can be utilized for fighting respiratory infections and easing coughs when inhaled.

Tea Tree oil has several benefits, including:

  • Combating bacteria, fungi, and viruses that may contribute to illness
  • Promoting a sense of calm and relaxation with its pleasing scent
  • Supporting the immune system and alleviating cold and flu symptoms

It is considered one of the best essential oils for flu.

The effectiveness of tea tree oil in treating respiratory infections is due to its antimicrobial properties, particularly its capability to combat bacteria, viruses, and fungi. It contains compounds like terpinen-4-ol, which has demonstrated antibacterial and antiviral effects. Furthermore, tea tree oil possesses anti-inflammatory properties that can aid in reducing inflammation in the respiratory tract. Some benefits of tea tree oil for respiratory health include:

  • Fighting off respiratory infections
  • Relieving congestion and coughing
  • Soothing sore throat
  • Reducing inflammation in the respiratory tract

However, it’s crucial to bear in mind that essential oils should be diluted with carrier oils prior to topical application to ensure safe usage. Undiluted essential oils can cause irritation and other adverse reactions, so always dilute them before use.

Lavender Oil

Lavender oil is well-known for its soothing properties and is greatly beneficial during cold recovery. It promotes relaxation and improves sleep quality, both of which are crucial when your body is fighting off a cold.

This essential oil contains active compounds like linalool, terpinen-4-ol, and α-terpineol that contribute to its therapeutic effects. These compounds enhance its ability to promote relaxation and improve sleep quality, which can be advantageous during the process of cold recovery.

To leverage the benefits of lavender oil, you can add a few drops to a diffuser or a bowl of hot water and breathe in the steam. This method can help alleviate congestion and other cold symptoms, promoting a restful night’s sleep.

However, just like all essential oils, it’s essential to remember to dilute lavender oil with a carrier oil before direct skin application. This precaution ensures safe usage and minimizes the risk of skin irritation.

Cold and Immune Relief Essential Oil Blend Recipe


  • Peppermint Oil
  • Eucalyptus Oil
  • Tea Tree Oil
  • Lavender Oil


  • Small glass bottle or blend container (10-15 ml size)
  • Dropper (if not included with your oil bottles)


  1. Peppermint Oil for Respiratory Relief: Start with 5 drops of peppermint oil. Peppermint is beneficial for respiratory health and can help clear nasal passages.
  2. Eucalyptus Oil for Decongestion: Add 10 drops of eucalyptus oil. Eucalyptus is excellent for decongestion and can help ease breathing when dealing with a cold.
  3. Tea Tree Oil for Immune Support: Include 10 drops of tea tree oil. Known for its immune-boosting properties, tea tree oil is a great addition to help fight off colds.
  4. Lavender Oil for Comfort: Put in 5 drops of lavender oil. Lavender helps in reducing stress and promoting restful sleep, which is crucial when your body is fighting a cold.
  5. Mix the Oils Together: Close the bottle and gently roll between your hands to blend the oils thoroughly.
  6. Label Your Blend: Make sure to label your blend with the date and contents.

Usage Tips:

  • Diffuser: Use this blend in a diffuser, especially in the bedroom at night, to aid in breathing and to promote a restful sleep.
  • Steam Inhalation: Add a few drops to a bowl of hot water for steam inhalation, which can help with nasal and sinus congestion.
  • Topical Application: For topical use, dilute with a carrier oil and apply to the chest and back. This can help ease respiratory discomfort. Remember, the dilution should be 2-3% of the total blend for safe topical application.


  • Perform a patch test for sensitivity before topical application.
  • Avoid sensitive areas such as the eyes and inner ears.
  • Consult a healthcare provider if you are pregnant, nursing, or under a doctor’s care.

This blend, with its combination of Peppermint, Eucalyptus, Tea Tree, and Lavender oils, is designed to provide relief from cold symptoms while supporting the immune system. Its use in a diffuser can create an environment conducive to recovery, while topical application can directly aid in alleviating symptoms of a cold.

How to Use Essential Oils Safely for Cold Relief

essential oils, aromatherapy, spa

Using essential oils for cold relief can be highly effective. However, it’s crucial to use them safely to avoid any adverse reactions. To ensure safe usage, essential oils should always be diluted with carrier oils before being applied topically. This process reduces their strength, ensuring they’re safe for skin application, and minimizes the risk of adverse reactions.

Examples of carrier oils that can be used with essential oils include coconut, jojoba, and argan oil. When diluted properly, these oils facilitate the safe delivery of essential oils to the skin.

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Essential oils can be administered through various methods to alleviate cold symptoms. These methods include:

  • Diffusers
  • Steam inhalation
  • Hot compresses
  • Mixing with carrier oils for topical use

For instance, to inhale essential oils, you can add a few drops to a diffuser or a bowl of hot water and breathe in the steam, which can help alleviate congestion and other cold symptoms.

However, while essential oils can offer significant relief from cold symptoms, it’s crucial to adopt certain precautions. These include:

  • Selecting reputable brands
  • Using the proper quantities
  • Keeping them out of reach of young children
  • Refraining from internal consumption.

Diluting with Carrier Oils

Carrier oils play a significant role in ensuring the safe usage of essential oils. These oils, like coconut or almond oil, are used to reduce the strength of essential oils, ensuring their safe application to the skin and minimizing the risk of irritation.

The recommended method for diluting essential oils with carrier oils for topical application involves adding them at a ratio of about one drop of essential oil per one teaspoon of carrier oil, or three drops per 30ml of carrier oil.

The recommended carrier oils for diluting essential oils are:

  • Coconut oil
  • Jojoba oil
  • Sweet almond oil
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Argan oil

These oils are chosen for their nourishing properties and compatibility with essential oils.

A 1% dilution level is typically considered safe for most essential oils when applied topically. Dilution with carrier oils helps to reduce skin sensitization and irritation while maintaining the effectiveness of the essential oils. It also contributes to prolonging their presence on the skin.

Application Methods

Application methods for cold relief include:

  • Diffusers
  • Steam baths
  • Warm compresses
  • Inhalation through a handkerchief or tissue

These methods allow the therapeutic properties of essential oils to provide relief from cold symptoms.

To safely prepare an essential oil steam bath for cold relief, follow these steps:

  1. Boil a pot of water.
  2. Once it reaches a boil, remove it from the heat.
  3. Add a few drops of your chosen essential oil.
  4. While covering your head with a towel, lean over the pot to inhale the steam deeply for 10-15 minutes.

This method can help alleviate congestion and other cold symptoms. However, it’s important to be cautious of burns and seek advice from a healthcare professional if you have sensitive skin or respiratory issues.

Cold air diffusers, which utilize nebulizing technology, are considered the most effective for dispersing essential oils for cold relief. These diffusers help to disperse the therapeutic properties of essential oils into the air for inhalation.

To prepare a warm compress, follow these steps:

  1. Combine 1 teaspoon of fractionated coconut oil with approximately ¼ cup of cold or hot water.
  2. Add 1 drop of Copaiba Essential Oil and 1 drop of Relief oil.
  3. Apply this mixture to a reusable compress pad to aid in alleviating cold symptoms.

As always, it’s important to dilute essential oils with carrier oils before applying them topically to ensure safe usage.

Essential Oil Blends for Enhanced Cold Relief

Aromatic essential oil blend in a diffuser

Combining essential oils in blends can enhance their cold-relieving effects. These blends can be specifically tailored to provide immunity-boosting, congestion relief, or promote relaxation and sleep. The amalgamation of many essential oils amplifies their therapeutic properties, thereby delivering more potent relief for cold symptoms.

For instance, a combination of 9 drops of Frankincense essential oil, 8 drops of Eucalyptus essential oil, and 3 drops of Peppermint essential oil is known to be highly effective for providing relief from congestion, particularly during a cold.

In order to enhance immunity during colds, a blend may consist of essential oils like:

  • Eucalyptus
  • Lemon
  • Rosemary
  • Clove
  • Thyme essential oil
  • Oregano
  • Myrrh
  • Frankincense
  • Ginger
  • Peppermint
  • Cinnamon

Each of these oils possesses properties that can aid in supporting the body’s natural defenses.

However, it’s vital to always remember to dilute essential oil blends with a carrier oil prior to direct skin application to prevent skin irritation.

Immunity Boosting Blend

An immunity-boosting blend of essential oils can be highly beneficial during the cold season. A potent blend that supports the body’s natural defenses might include grapefruit, lemon, and ravensara essential oils.

Grapefruit essential oil, for instance, is known for its antibacterial properties, which can help reduce inflammation and support overall immune function. Lemon essential oil, on the other hand, contributes to supporting the immune system by detoxifying the body, stimulating lymph drainage, reducing stress, and boosting mood.

Ravensara essential oil is also recognized for its antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties, which are beneficial in addressing colds, flu, and supporting the immune system during seasonal illnesses.

For optimal support of the immune system, a blend of these oils can be made by combining 9 drops of grapefruit essential oil, 8 drops of lemon essential oil, and 3 drops of ravensara essential oil.

Congestion Relief Blend

A congestion relief blend of essential oils can be a lifesaver when you’re dealing with a stubborn cold. One powerful blend that can help clear nasal passages and alleviate sinus pain is the combination of eucalyptus, peppermint, and tea tree oils.

This blend works by emitting a soothing and invigorating aroma that aids in alleviating congestion. The combined properties of these three potent essential oils can provide significant relief from the discomfort of a blocked nose and sinus pain.

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To safely use this blend, you can mix 2 drops each of eucalyptus, peppermint, and tea tree oils. This mixture can then be applied topically to the chest or inhaled after diluting with a carrier oil.

However, the ratios for essential oils in a congestion relief blend can vary. For instance, another recommended blend proposes 9 drops of eucalyptus oil, 6 drops of lavender oil, and 5 drops of peppermint oil.

Relaxation and Sleep Blend

A good night’s sleep is crucial for recovery during a cold, and a relaxation and sleep blend of essential oils can help with that. This blend might feature:

  • Lavender oil, known for its calming properties
  • Chamomile oil, known for its sleep-promoting properties
  • Bergamot oil, known for its calming and uplifting properties

In this blend, the following oils are used:

  • Lavender oil: facilitates relaxation and sleep induction
  • Chamomile oil: aids in anxiety reduction
  • Bergamot oil: promotes mental calmness and stress reduction

The combined effect of these oils can enhance overall relaxation and sleep quality, which is crucial when your body is fighting off a cold.

To achieve the best results for relaxation and sleep support, it is recommended to blend 2 drops of lavender oil, 1 drop of chamomile oil, and 2 drops of bergamot oil.

Research has shown that inhaling steam with chamomile essential oil can alleviate cold symptoms, and the combined application of lavender, chamomile, and bergamot oils has been associated with decreased depression, which can promote better sleep and recovery during a cold.

Precautions and Potential Side Effects

Cautions using essential oils

While essential oils can provide relief from cold and flu symptoms, it’s crucial to acknowledge that they can also induce side effects. Therefore, essential oils should be used with caution, especially by children, pregnant individuals, and those with allergies or sensitivities.

Typical side effects of using essential oils include:

  • Skin irritation and burning upon application
  • Asthma attacks
  • Eye, nose, and throat irritation when inhaled
  • Allergic reactions such as contact dermatitis, hives, and phototoxic reactions

It is important to be aware of these potential side effects when using essential oils.

Some essential oils also come with their own specific risks. For instance, eucalyptus oil could cause severe allergic reactions, seizures, toxicity when consumed orally, and potential eye and skin irritation. And peppermint oil may cause heartburn, interact with certain medications, and should be avoided in patients with hiatal hernia or significant gastroesophageal reflux disease.

Tea tree oil, while beneficial in many ways, should never be ingested as it can be toxic and potentially fatal. When applied topically, the main side effect to be mindful of is skin irritation.

Natural Alternatives to Essential Oils for Colds

If you’re looking for natural alternatives to essential oils for cold relief, there are plenty of other options available. Herbal teas, steam inhalation with plain water, and saline nasal sprays are just a few examples of natural remedies that can provide relief from cold symptoms.

Herbal teas such as:

  • peppermint
  • chamomile
  • ginger
  • lemongrass
  • hibiscus tea

are known for their soothing properties and can help alleviate cold symptoms. Drinking these teas not only hydrates the body but also soothes a sore throat and reduces inflammation.

Steam inhalation with plain water can also be beneficial in alleviating cold symptoms. The warm steam helps loosen mucus in the nasal passages, throat, and lungs, relieving congestion and inflammation.

Saline nasal sprays are another alternative that can provide relief from congestion. These sprays work by:

  • Lubricating and flushing out the nasal passages, thus alleviating congestion caused by colds or other respiratory conditions
  • Rehydrating dry nasal passages and sinuses
  • Reducing inflammation of the mucous membranes

Circling Back Around

Essential oils provide a natural way to cope with the discomfort of colds, offering relief from symptoms and even potentially shortening the duration of the illness. While oils like eucalyptus, peppermint, tea tree, and lavender each have unique properties that can aid cold recovery, it’s important to remember to use them safely. Always dilute essential oils with a carrier oil before topical application or inhalation, and consider seeking medical advice if symptoms persist or worsen. With the right knowledge, essential oils can be a powerful tool in your cold-fighting arsenal.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which essential oil is best for colds?

The best essential oils for colds are Peppermint, Eucalyptus, Tea Tree, and Lavender, as they can help reduce cold symptoms, clear nasal passages, and boost the immune system. Using these oils can help shorten the duration of your cold.

What essential oils are good in the bath when sick?

A blend of cajuput, cloves, eucalyptus, niaouli, or pine can help relieve cold symptoms in the bath, while a mix of tea tree, lavender, and lemon oils is useful for flu relief. Try adding these essential oils to your bath to alleviate symptoms when sick.

Symptoms of common cold?

The symptoms of a common cold can include a peak within 2 to 3 days and may include… It’s important to monitor your health if you experience these symptoms.

Can essential oils really help with cold relief?

Yes, essential oils like eucalyptus, peppermint, tea tree, and lavender can alleviate cold symptoms and potentially shorten its duration due to their antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. These oils can be effective for cold relief.

Can I use essential oils if I’m pregnant or have young children?

It’s best to consult a healthcare professional before using essential oils if you’re pregnant or have young children. It’s important to ensure safety and suitability for their use.

DISCLAIMER: This article is intended for informational and/or enterainment purposes only and should not be considered as medical advice. Always consult with a qualified healthcare professional before using essential oils for any therapeutic or medical purposes.

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