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Influenza is a contagious respiratory disease that affects the nose, throat, and lungs. In some cases, it can be life threatening.

Flu viruses are constantly changing, which can make them hard to treat. Medications can help relieve symptoms, and some people also try alternative therapies, such as essential oils.

However, there is no evidence to suggest that essential oils can treat or cure flu symptoms or those of other viruses, including coronaviruses. They also will not prevent a virus from becoming more severe.

That said, some people with mild symptoms may find that essential oils help them feel better.

In this article, learn more about how to use essential oils, their potential benefits for flu, and some risks associated with them.

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Some researchers have looked at how the ingredients in essential oils might impact different kinds of flu virus.

An article in the American Journal of Essential Oils and Natural Products suggests that some essential oils may help fight flu viruses, though more research is necessary.

According to the study authors, ingredients in the following essential oils have shown some antiviral activity:

  • bergamot oil
  • eucalyptus oil
  • red thyme
  • cinnamon leaf

Tea tree oil may also have antiviral properties if a person incorporates it into air filtering systems, some scientists suggest.

Also, lemon balm may contain ingredients that could help prevent one type of bird flu virus from reproducing, according to one laboratory study.

The results of another laboratory study suggest that a commercial blend of essential oils might help reduce the activity of one type of flu virus.

This product, sold as doTERRA On Guard, contains the essential oils of wild orange peel, clove bud, cinnamon leaf, cinnamon bark, eucalyptus leaves, and rosemary.

However, these findings do not confirm that any essential oil can cure or treat flu or any other type of virus.

Flu resources

For more information and resources to help keep you and your loved ones healthy this flu season, visit our dedicated hub.

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do not regulate essential oils or their use. For this reason, people should always buy them from reputable sources and use them with caution.

There are two basic methods for using essential oils: application to the skin and inhalation.

When applying an essential oil to the skin, always mix it with a carrier oil beforehand. Some examples of carrier oils include jojoba oil, olive oil, and nut oil. After diluting an essential oil, a person can apply it to the skin or add it to lotions and bath products.

For inhalation therapy, float the essential oils in hot water and inhale the vapors, or use a room diffuser. Inhaling eucalyptus may help ease congestion.

It is never safe to consume essential oils, and children should not use them in any way.

It is best to ask a doctor before using essential oils for any medical purpose.

Just because essential oils are natural products, it does not mean that they are harmless. Like medication, they can cause severe side effects if a person uses them improperly or in excessive amounts.

Some potential hazards associated with essential oils include:

  • Irritation of the skin or mucous membrane: Infants, young children, older adults, and people with sensitive skin may be more likely to experience skin problems as a result of using essential oils.
  • Poisoning: Never swallow an essential oil, as it may be toxic.
  • Drug and supplement interactions: Essential oils can interact with prescription medications and supplements, so it is always a good idea to talk to a doctor before using them.
  • Photosensitivity: Some essential oils, such as bergamot, make the skin more sensitive to sunlight. This could lead to severe sunburn if a person has exposure to sunlight or a tanning booth within 24 hours of treatment.

Essential oils may not be safe to use during pregnancy. For example, there may be a risk that the active ingredients will cross the placenta and affect the fetus.

Anyone with potential allergies should also be cautious when using essential oils, as they can cause serious reactions.

Always keep essential oils away from the eyes and any open flames. Store them out of the reach of children and pets. Many essential oils are dangerous for pets, so people should research which oils are safe for animals before using them at home.

Some research suggests that the ingredients in essential oils may help fight the flu virus. However, this does not mean that using essential oils at home will cure or treat the flu or other viruses.

If a person finds that essential oils help with their symptoms, they should be sure to check with a doctor first and always practice safe use.

Anyone with severe or worsening symptoms of flu or another virus should seek medical help. For more information about COVID-19, click here.

Although research suggests essential oils may have some health benefits, it is important to remember that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not monitor or regulate the purity or quality of these oils. A person should talk with a healthcare professional before using essential oils and research the quality of a particular brand’s products. It is also important to always do a patch test before trying a new essential oil.