Improving Immune Function By Inhaling Essential Oils

Posted on Sunday 12 September 2010

Research into the medicinal actions of essential oils has consistently emphasized a few particular benefits. Some of the most important, and most clearly effective, are the uses for oils to prevent and treat infectious illness. No need to wait and catch a cold to see if aromatherapy will work for you! Using a few oils consistently throughout the cooler months can keep you and your family healthy throughout the season.

Very simply, regular inhalation of essential oils can have measurable, positive effects on our immune function. Inhalation serves two purposes: oils come in contact with the mucous membranes of our respiratory system (where viruses and bacteria enter our bodies), and oils also get into our bloodstream this way.

Research indicates that essential oils can prevent or limit viral replication via “pretreatment”. In other words, cells that have come in contact with antiviral essential oils first are not as easily infected by viruses. (This particular effect was shown with melissa essential oil and the herpes virus, and should prove true with other correctly paired oil/virus combinations). This is important specifically for the first line of defense, the cells of the respiratory system lining.

After essential oils are inhaled, they enter our bloodstream in small but measurable amounts. Research has shown inhalation of eucalyptus to cause cells of our immune system to work harder at attacking and eliminating foreign invaders. Concurrently, the oil reduces inflammation in our respiratory system, an effect that directly counters the result of viral infection.

Beyond the stimulation of the immune system and prevention of infection, oils have been shown to directly inactivate viruses and bacteria. Research involving vapors of lemongrass and geranium showed these vapors could destroy pathogens on surrounding surfaces as well as in the air — a process occurs in the body as well. This is helpful because it’s not exposure to one single virus or bacterial that can make us sick. It’s a combination of factors, one of which is the overall microbial load; how many active viruses or bacteria our body has to deal with. As vaporized oils inactivate microbes both inside and outside the body, the benefit is obvious.

The means of inhaling essential oils for immune support can range from the extremely simple to the relatively complex. On the simple end, one can insert a cotton ball into a small glass vial, saturate that cotton ball with eucalyptus essential oil, and inhale from this for a couple minutes several times per day. Increase the efficacy by using a stronger antiviral essential oils such as bay laurel, or a blend of oils such as equal parts eucalyptus radiata, bay laurel, and tea tree.

To protect your family, household or workplace, consider using a cold-air nebulizing diffuser to make a mist of essential oils which evaporate into your environment. You can combine a timer with the diffuser to conserve your oils, and run the diffuser for no more than 10 minutes every hour (it’s generally true that one needs less oil than they think to get the results they want — they are very potent medicines). You can run this throughout the hours people are in the environment. Exposure for just a few hours per day, on a daily basis, should be enough for continual immune support for most people. (Consider longer times if the users are immunocompromised).

Topical application, or use of the oils in baths are also excellent therapeutic means. Many users find these oils can be used “neat”, but certainly dilute in a carrier if there’s any chance of skin sensitivity (or if using with children). Massage small amounts daily into the chest bone, under the chin and on the sides of throat, and all around the ends of your feet. A few drops into a drawn bath allows for both absorption through the skin as well as inhalation.

Many users of essential oils have reported that while everyone around them got sick, they were the only ones who stayed well. You can offer this wonderful health benefit to your family and friends in these upcoming Fall and Winter months — these techniques and oils can really make a difference in being well.

More information is available online about lemon essential oil and other natural aromatherapy products.

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