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Can You Prevent Swine Flu With Essential Oils? One Therapist’s Opinion, The Science and The Practice
With news of influenza everywhere, more and more people are looking for all the means available to support their immune system and potentially prevent infection from any serious viral infections – especially the “swine flu” these days. There may be more in our future. Historically, essential oils have been used to prevent infections in major disasters. Pictures can be found in naturopathy textbooks of practitioners wearing facemasks filled with cinnamon, cloves, sage and other herbs to ward off disease. Today’s leading professional aromatherapists also suggest that the most important use of essential oils for humanity is in the treatment and prevention of such infectious diseases. Are essential oils a viable option as an alternative treatment for home use? See scientific research here, as well as recipes and practices for using aromatic herbs.
Supporting data: Antiviral actions of essential oils
Over the last decade, laboratory researchers around the world have discovered that many essential oils are able to directly eradicate viruses. Furthermore, they can also block viruses from moving between cells within the body and limiting the spread of infection. This is not an overly optimistic interpretation of the data by essential oil proponents, but the actual findings of controlled research studies. Abstracts of all research cited here can be found through pubmed.gov, a database maintained by the National Institutes of Health and the US National Library of Medicine. If you wish, you can browse these results by entering search terms such as “essential oil virus”, “antiviral essential oil”, and especially “laurus nobilis SARS” (Laurus nobilis is bay laurel essential oil, and SARS is a highly contagious yes.viral respiratory disease). While there is no evidence that essential oils have been specifically tested against swine flu and avian flu, we will see that there is every reason to believe that the oils will also be effective against these virus strains.
What does data mean?
More than a hundred research papers have been published on this topic, summaries are in order. What scientists have discovered is that many essential oils in common use today have antiviral properties. Whether an oil is effective against a particular virus depends on the natural chemical makeup of the oil and the structure of the virus being studied. The data, of course, is very encouraging. A study conducted this year in Germany concluded with the note that tea tree was able to “reduce viral infections by more than 96 percent.” One study revealed that whole natural oils were ten times more effective as an antiviral agent than any single synthetically extracted chemical. The exact reason for this is not known – it is clear that some very chemically complex oils exhibit the greatest antiviral effects, and perhaps this mixture of nature’s chemicals attacks viruses and supports immune function in several ways at once.
A pandemic virus and laurel leaf oil
Many studies use the herpes simplex virus as a “test subject”, due to the wide spread of the infection, with the relative ease of testing. However, if one digs into the data, many papers present relevant information on influenza pandemics. SARS ‘Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome’ is caused by the highly contagious SARS-CoV virus which made global news in 2003. A March 2008 study in the Journal of Chemical Biodiversity noted that bay laurel essential oil has significant antiviral activity against this virus. They also noted the natural components of this oil, which are also found in many other essential oils. This is why you will see many essential oils as antivirals – because many oils share similar natural chemical components. So this other oil is not readily available, the data is very interesting. In 2005, Chinese researchers evaluated the anti-influenza potential of an essential oil from a root used in Chinese medicine, concluding: “In vivo…it inhibited influenza virus-induced death in a dose-dependent manner”. And the list of oil/virus combinations goes on and on. But this begs the question: How do we come up with a formula for swine flu prevention?
Moving down the list: highly regarded anti-viral oils
It’s this combination of natural compounds that supports the literature’s assertion that there are many oils in use today that are antiviral—one reason you’ll typically see multiple oils in an antiviral formula, rather than just one. But which oil to use for your needs? This is where the long-term historical practice of aromatherapy helps us make choices. Antiviral and immune-supporting essential oils are categorized by the symptoms the infection produces. Oils containing cineole, such as eucalyptus and revensara, are chosen where the bronchial system is affected. Melissa and tea tree are often used for viruses that infect the skin – although their antiviral action in other parts of the body should not be overlooked, because their synergistic effect with other oils creates a formula with a complex mixture of natural chemicals — similar. Regarding the balance found in the single oil Bay Laurel. Other oils are highly regarded for their positive effects on the immune system as a whole: Frankincense is considered by some to be the most powerful immunostimulant, and Melissa also has this property.
A short list of essential oils to support the immune system against influenza infection includes: Melissa (with significant anti-HSV activity, it is also considered a powerful immunostimulant – increasing the ability of our immune system to defend), Tea Tree (a very broad spectrum Antiviral/Antimicrobial), Roslina (also known as Lavender Tea Tree, both of these oils with a natural chemical profile as constituents), Lavender (commonly used as an anti-stress agent – which itself supports the immune system function – and also has antiviral action) ), bay laurel (laurel leaf, reported to be effective against SARS-CoV), Ravensara aromatica, Eucalyptus radiata (one of several Eucalyptus species, often referred to as “antiviral”), frankincense (considered the most effective immunostimulant oil available) , thyme, and hyssop decumbens (a highly regarded antiviral, with a highly complex natural chemical makeup).
A balanced formula to make at home
A blend can be made using the following oils (and this complete formula can then be adapted to different applications as we will see): 1 milliliter (ml) melissa, 1/2 ml thyme, 2 ml lavender (use lavender angustifolia), 1 and 1 /2 ml Ravensara aromatica, 2ml Eucalyptus Radiata, 1 and 1/2 ml Hyssop decumbens, 3 ml Maleleuca ericifolia and 3ml Laurus Nobilis (Bay Laurel). A simpler, but still effective formula of a more gentle nature — and more suitable for children: 4ml Lavender, 3ml Melaleuca ericifolia, 1ml Ravensara, 1ml Eucalyptus, and 3ml Bay Laurel. While having a medicinal purpose, these mixtures also smell truly wonderful.
Diffusion: Getting oils into the air
The best way to use these oils is through diffusion, which is essentially “rapid evaporation.” A nebulizing aromatherapy diffuser creates a fine mist of essential oil that evaporates cleanly around you. This method allows a low concentration of oil to be inhaled regularly. The effect is to actually disinfect the air in your home, as well as get small amounts of oils into the lungs and bloodstream. Characteristic of the oils’ activity is that they are reported to reduce the ability of viruses to penetrate cell walls, so the lungs and sinuses are protected only by breathing oil-laden air. Be careful not to overdo it though – the scent should never be overwhelming or irritating, and your body will tell you if you’ve had enough. The oils do their immune-supportive work in a subtle way, requiring only small amounts of oil. Even casual inhalation of oils circulates them in the bloodstream, entering all organ systems, and most importantly the lymph system – the home of our immune function. A cold air nebulizing diffuser (as opposed to ‘ultrasonic’, which dilutes the oil with water) is run for 5-10 minutes every hour for this purpose.
Lymph, arthritis and foot rubs, oh my!
In cases where diffusion is not practical, topical application of oil formula is the next best thing. This can be done in two ways: either through an aromatherapy bath, or through the ancient practice of reflexology – where oils are absorbed into the reflex points of the feet. For a bath, mix 4-6 drops of the essential oil recipe with a little carrier oil (or any over-the-shelf bath oil). Swirl this mixture into the already drawn bath and soak! For children, reduce the amount of essential oil to 2 drops (for ages 2-8) or 4 drops (9-13). Legs and areas of the body where the lymph nodes are close to the surface are also excellent places to massage in this recipe. Oils easily penetrate the skin and are absorbed quickly. For adults, make a 5% concentration of the essential oil recipe in any carrier oil (coconut, with its own antiviral activity may be best – otherwise anyone will do). A 5% concentration is just a 1 to 20 ratio — 1 part essential oil to 19 parts carrier (this same concentration is made by adding 44 drops of formula to every 1 fluid ounce of carrier oil). Dilute this concentration for babies as in an aromatherapy bath. A daily foot massage, and/or massage of the arms, neck and sternum is a great way to treat yourself and your family with these wonderful herbal remedies.
The Future of Aromatherapy: Aroma Medicine
As mentioned earlier, the world’s leading aroma-pharmacists believe the most important healing potential for essential oils is in the prevention and treatment of infectious disease. Of course, one should evaluate every available means of strengthening their immune system and their loved ones – there are many ways health professionals will recommend doing this. Considering the scientific data, essential oils are definitely a very worthy method of providing this support. Natural remedies have the long-term advantage of not being easily “adapted” by viruses, considering swine flu, avian flu, and all other infections not named. Oils are so complex, and have evolved over millions of years as a plant defense mechanism, that they can present a much greater challenge to viruses than synthetic preparations. And they’re so much fun to use — the house will smell great while you stay healthy; Most amateur healers will agree that you will find essential oils very worthwhile.
Final note: The recommendations and statements in this report have not been evaluated by the FDA. They are not intended to treat, cure, or prevent any disease, but to offer the opinions of those involved in natural health based on historical context and peer-reviewed scientific publications. As always, consult a qualified physician for any health concerns.
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