A sore throat will usually go away without treatment. However, over-the-counter medications are not always effective at treating sore throats, and it can take several days for a sore throat to get better. Essential oils are an alternative approach that may provide relief for a sore throat.
Essential oils are made from the leaves, flowers, or roots of specific plants. Through a process known as distillation, essential oils are extracted as a highly concentrated form of the plant. They contain many of the plants' original medicinal properties.
Essential oils have a long history of being used in alternative medicine to treat conditions as diverse as skin conditions to depression. This article will examine 10 essential oils that could be helpful in treating a sore throat.
The following essential oils may help with a sore throat:
Peppermint is among the most popular essential oils for treating a sore throat. A 2013 study found peppermint oil to have antimicrobial properties against pathogens that enter the body through the mouth.
A more recent study suggested that peppermint oil also acts as an antibacterial agent, meaning it may help fight off bacteria. Peppermint also contains menthol, which is the base ingredient of many sore throat medications, such as lozenges.
A review in 2005 suggested that lavender has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. These properties could support lavender as a treatment for a sore throat.
A 2007 review argued that parts of the Echinacea plant may help to treat cold symptoms. The essential oil is derived from the Echinacea plant and could have similar benefits.
Eucalyptus has been widely used in cosmetics, cleaning, and alternative medicine. Studies have shown that the oil from eucalyptus leaves is antibacterial. Some studies have even suggested its use as a natural antibiotic to treat infections.
Ginger is a common ingredient in many different cuisines. It has also been used widely in alternative medicine, particularly for treating gastrointestinal problems, such as nausea and vomiting.
Research suggests that ginger has anti-inflammatory properties, which could also be helpful in treating a sore throat.
Many throat medicines, including sore throat lozenges, are flavored with lemon. A 2017 study found that lemon essential oils have antimicrobial and antioxidant properties, which may help treat a sore throat and prevent infection.
Studies from 2008 and 2014 found that thyme essential oils have strong antimicrobial properties, which may help fight off harmful pathogens. Thyme could be useful in treating sore throats caused by bacterial infections.
8. Bitter orange
Bitter orange has previously been used as a dietary supplement to aid weight-loss. One study suggested that it may also have antimicrobial and antioxidant properties, which could help to relieve a sore throat.
9. Tea tree
Tea tree oil is most commonly used in skin products but could also be useful for treating a sore throat. A 2013 study found tea tree oils to have antimicrobial properties that protect against the pathogens that enter the body through the mouth.
Essential oils can be used aromatically by diffusing them into the air or diluted in a carrier oil and applied topically, but they should never be ingested.
Essential oils may be used aromatically, which means a person inhales them. This can be done in several different ways, including:
- Using a room diffuser to spread the essential oil into the surrounding air.
- Putting up to 7 drops of essential oil per 2 cups of boiling water into a bowl, placing a towel over the head and inhaling the steam.
- Adding up to 3 drops of essential oil to a cotton ball or cloth and inhaling the fumes.
- Adding essential oils to household surface cleaners or a load of laundry.
People should be very cautious about using essential oils around children and pets. Many essential oils are toxic or deadly for pets, especially cats.
Mix a few drops of essential oil with a carrier oil, such as warmed coconut or sweet almond oil, and apply directly to the outside of the throat. Gently massaging the area will help absorption.
It is recommended to start with 1 or 2 drops before increasing the dose. This will help to prevent adverse skin reactions, such as rashes or itching.
It is important to note that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do not monitor or regulate the quality of essential oils. This means that it is not always possible to know exactly what ingredients the manufacturers have used. For this reason, people should be sure to buy oils from a reputable source.
People should always do a test patch before using oils on their body, as they may have an allergic reaction. To do a test patch, put a dime-size spot of the diluted oil on the inner arm. If there is no reaction after 24 hours, the oil is safe to use.
Essential oils are highly concentrated and should only be used in small quantities. Even in small doses, they are not entirely safe and can cause adverse side effects, including:
- allergic reactions
- skin irritation (when applied topically)
- sun sensitivity
- increased heart rate
- shortness of breath
If anyone experiences any adverse side effects, they should stop using essential oils and speak to a doctor. Anyone who is taking medications should also talk to a doctor to check whether the essential oils will react with the medicines.
It is unclear whether many essential oils are safe for pregnant women or children.
Essential oils are a promising alternative to over-the-counter medications for treating sore throats. However, more high-quality evidence is needed to support the use and effectiveness of essential oils.
Essential oils are often mistaken for being a risk-free form of therapy. It is important to remember that they are highly concentrated substances and can have adverse side effects.