On 7 March 2020 the World Health Organisation (WHO) issued a statement announcing that the global number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus – officially named COVID-19 – has surpassed 100,000.
The statement states that “We must stop, contain, control, delay and reduce the impact of this virus at every opportunity. Every person has the capacity to contribute, to protect themselves, to protect others, whether in the home, the community, the healthcare system, the workplace or the transport system.”
This is a new strain of coronavirus that had not previously been known or identified in humans prior to the outbreak reported in Wuhan, China in December 2019. Because it’s a variation of the common cold or flu virus, symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to these illnesses.
What are coronaviruses?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses found in both humans and animals. In humans, many of these viruses are known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). COVID-19 is caused by the most recently discovered of the coronaviruses.
The current coronavirus: COVID-19
The NHS lists the symptoms of coronavirus as:
- a cough
- a high temperature
- shortness of breath
They say that these symptoms do not necessarily mean you have the illness and that the symptoms are similar to other more common illnesses such as cold and flu.
How does coronavirus spread?
According to the World Health Organisation, this disease can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when an infected individual sneezes, coughs or exhales. These airborn droplets are easily inhaled, especially in enclosed, warm and dry environments. Also they land on the objects and surfaces around the individual. Other people can catch COVID-19 by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. People can also catch COVID-19 if they breathe in droplets from a person with COVID-19 who exhales or coughs out droplets. This is why it is incredibly important that everyone practices good respiratory hygiene.
Covering your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing prevents the spread of germs and viruses. When you sneeze or cough, always use a tissue and discard it immediately into a closed bin or flush it down the lavatory. If you are caught off-guard, sneeze or cough into your flexed elbow. If you sneeze or cough into your hands, you may contaminate other people and objects that you touch. Viruses can survive on our hands for several hours, so at times like this, general hygiene is extremely important. Washing your hands frequently is the first line of defence when it comes to warding off the spread of infection. Also office desks, keyboards, mice and other shared assets need to be kept scrupulously clean. This is true too of kitchen benches, table surfaces, bathroom units, light switches and door handles in your home.
Antiviral and immune-boosting essential oils
With cases of COVID-19 in the UK on the increase and our supermarket shelves consequently being emptied of hand sanitiser, anti-bacterial wipes and cold and flu medicines, we thought it would be good to offer some tips on how essential oils that have been clinically proven to have antiviral and/or immune stimulant properties can be used to maintain good hand hygiene, boost immunity and support your respiratory system.
What are essential oils?
For those who are first time visitors to our website or who aren’t familiar with aromatherapy, essential oils are fragrant, highly concentrated natural components that are found in plants. They are what give the plant its characteristic scent and contain the healing power of the plant from which it was extracted. These 100% natural essences are derived from different plant parts: flowers, leaves, twigs, fruits and berries. Used correctly, these potent and complex substances bring a wide range of therapeutic benefits, and unlike modern drugs, they have no side-effects.
Essential oils help prevent the spread of infection and strengthen and support our immune response by
directly opposing viruses, bacteria and fungi and by increasing the activity of the organ systems and cells that fight them.
The oils that will potentially be most useful with the current coronavirus will be those with antiviral properties. Although no definitive research has been carried out on essential oils for this strain of the coronavirus, several of the oils listed below have been clinically proven to be effective against other similar viruses, including influenza types A and B, parainfluenza strains 1,2 and 3, vaccinia and herpes simplex. While these essential oils may not all offer the same level of defence, we can reasonably expect that they will offer some defence against COVID-19.
The key is to boost your immune system and fight infection. We have included some citrus oils too because of their clinically proven antiseptic properties and the fact that their aromas are so cheery and uplifting.
The most powerful of these antiviral and / or immune system boosting essential oils include:
- Black spruce (Picea Mariana)
- Cinnamon leaf (Cinnamomum zeylanicum)
- Clove Bud (Eugenia caryophyllata)
- Eucalyptus, Narrow leaf (Eucalyptus radiata)
- Eucalyptus, Lemon (Eucalptus citriadora)
- Manuka (Leptospermum scoparium)
- Monarda (Monarda fistulosa)
- Myrtle (Myrtus communis cineoliferum)
- Niaouli (Melaleuca quinquenervia viridiflora)
- Palmarosa (Cymbopogon martini)
- Patchouli (Pogostemom cablin)
- Peppermint (Mentha x piperita)
- Ravensara (Ravensara aromatica)
- Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
- Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia)
- Sweet Thyme (Thymus vulgaris ct linalool)
- Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanoides)
These oils offer antisptic, antibacterial and/or antimicrobial support:
- Bay laurel (Laurus nobilis)
- Bergamot (Citrus bergamia)
- Eucalyptus 1.8 cineole CT (Eucalyptus globulus)
- Frangonia™ (Agonis fragrans)
- Grapefruit (Citrus paradisii)
- Lemon (Citrus limonum)
- Lemon Myrtle (Backhousia citriodora)
- Mandarin (Citrus reticulata)
- Lavender (Lavandula augustifolia)
- Pine (Pinus sylvestris)
- Spike Lavender (Lavandula latifoila)
- Sweet Marjoram (Origanum marjorana)
All of the above essential oils can be used in a bath, diffuser, massage oil blend, or even simply inhaled directly from a tissue. Add a combination or 2 or 3 oils to your diffuser and vaporise them around the home or office to kill airborne bacteria and microbes. Add 2 to 4 drops to liquid soaps too to help keep your hands clean and protected.
The Eucalyptus family of oils are renowned for their antiviral, antibacterial, immuno-stimulant and decongestant properties and are also helpful for clearing muzzy heads and relieving tiredness. Mandarin and Grapefruit help stimulate the lymphatic system which plays a key role in fighting infection. This lovely upliftng pair will give your energy levels a boost and cheer you up when you’re feeling tired and low. Niaouli has antiviral properties and is helpful for relieving respiratory congestion.
Adding Ravensara, Tea tree or Niaouli essential oils to a liquid soap to make an antiviral hand-wash can really help with neutralising the viruses that contaminate hands when you’ve been out in public areas. Normal antibacterial soaps don’t always offer sufficient protection from viruses, and these three essential oils have powerful antiviral properties and make a highly effective cleansing blend. NHS guidelines state that washing your hands frequently with soap and water is the most effective way to protect against the coronavirus, advising that you need to wash them hands for at least 20 seconds each time. Having a hand sanitiser as a back-up is useful, especially if soap and water aren’t readily available.
You could also add Sweet Thyme essential oil to your hand sanitiser, thereby increasing its spectrum of antiviral activity even more. The amount of essential oils that you add depends on the size of your hand sanitiser container. A guideline is 3 drops maximum of essential oil per 5ml or 1 teaspoon of base. Ensure that you mix the oils in really well.
Make use of your diffuser in your home or office to help cleanse the air of airborne infection. Add 5 to 15 drops depending on the size of the room. Diffuse for one hour with the door(s) closed then air the space thoroughly. If using around children, use 10 drops maximum of essential oils.
For your diffuser
2 drops Tea tree
2 drops Ravensara
4 drops Bergamot
1 drop of Peppermint
Antiviral hand wash
In to 100ml organic Castile soap add the following:
16 drops of Tea tree
16 drops of Bergamot
12 drops of Sweet Thyme
10 drops of Monarda
16 drops of Ravensara
Mix thoroughly. This is a dilution of 2.5%. For children aged 3 months to 24 months, in 100ml of base or carrier use between 6 and 12 drops of essential oils in total. Do not use on babies under 3 months of age.
Antiviral bath oil blend
5ml / 1 teaspoon Jojoba or Sweet Almond oil
2 drops of Tea tree
1 drop of Eucalyptus Lemon
2 drops of Lavender
1 drop of Ravensara
Combine the above in a small glass bowl. Mix well and add to the bath once it ready and at right temperature for you. Be sure to agitate the water well to disperse the oils. Relax in the bath for about 20 minutes. And breathe …
Antiviral massage blend
20 ml Jojoba oil
2 drops of Lavender
2 drops of Eucalyptus Narrow Leaf
2 drops of Frangonia
3 drops of Tea tree
2 drops of Lemon Myrtle
1 drop of Patchouli
DIY hand sanitiser – 100ml
95ml Aloe vera gel
5ml Jojoba base oil
6 drops of Patchouli
6 drops of Myrtle
16 drops of Tea tree
16 drops of Ravensara
18 drops of Lemon
Add the essential oils to the Jojoba oil and mix well. Then add this combination to the Aloe vera gel. Ensure that you mix it thoroughly. This is an alcohol-free sanitiser, using the antiviral and antiseptic properties of the essential oils to cleanse and protect along with the healing, antibacterial and antiviral properties of Aloe Vera.
This a dilution of 2%. If using on children aged 2 to 6 years of age, halve the quantity of essential oils. For children aged 3 months to 24 months, in 100ml of base or carrier use a maximum of 10 drops of essential oils. Do not use on babies under 3 months of age.
DIY Aromatherapy inhaler
If you have an empty 5ml or 10 ml essential oil bottle you can make an inhaler by inserting a cotton ball or pad into the bottle and adding 2 to 3 drops of your chosen oils. To use, simply hold the bottle under your nostrils, and breathe deeply. If you’re using Sweet Thyme or Peppermint, use a maximum of 2 drops of one or the other, as these are quite strong essences.
This one of the most effective ways of getting these therapeutic essences into your body and for treating respiratory congestion and infections.
Fill a bowl with steaming hot water and add 1 drop per 500ml of water of Tea Tree or Ravensara essential oil. Sit comfortably on a chair at a table with the bowl in front of you. Lean over the bowl with a towel draped over your head and inhale for up to 10 minutes. Your face should be at least 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30 centimetres) away from the bowl. If you suffer with asthma, steam inhalations should be used with care. Start by inhaling for 30 seconds and if there are no adverse effects, gradually build up to a maximum of 5 minutes.
Other ways that you can boost your immunity
Having a strong immune system is one of the key ways of fighting off viruses. As well as using essential oils, try the following:
Increase your Vitamin C intake to help support and enhance immunity. Echinacea may help with this too.
Include more immune-boosting foods such as citrus fruits, elderberries, blueberries, acai berries, red peppers, sweet potatoes, broccoli, garlic, ginger, spinach and turmeric in your diet.
Ensure that you get sufficient sleep. Also drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Moderate exercise boosts immunity, but don’t overdo it as too much strenuous exercise can actually suppress the immune system.
Reduce your stress levels as much as possible, as the stress hormone, cortisol, suppresses our immune function. Meditation can play a key role in stress-reduction as well as restoring clarity and perspective during times of intense stress or anxiety. Physically, mindfulness meditation, sound healing and breathwork trigger our parasympathetic nervous systems. This system triggers the relaxation response, and calms the body’s fight or flight responses which are activattes in stressful situations.
Warm, stuffy atmospheres cause mucous membranes to become dry, which in turn lowers our protection against cold and flu viruses. This is true too of sudden changes in body temperature, such as going outdoors into the cold air after a period in a centrally-heated environment. Ensure that your home or work area is well ventilated. Open the window – yes, it’ll be chilly – rather than using the air onditioners, which just re-circulate stale air.
If you have one, use a humidifier to keep your mucous membranes moist. The mucus membranes trap viruses and prevent them entering the body but can’t work as effectively if they become dried out.
Cinnamon leaf essential oil
Avoid during pregnancy. Avoid on sensitive skin. Do not use in baths. This is strong oil – only use in low doses, only 1 drop per 10ml of base and only 1 drop in your diffuser blend.
Clove Bud essential oil
Avoid during pregnancy. Do not use on children under 12 years. This essential oil may cause skin irritation so do not use in baths.
Peppermint essential oil
Peppermint essential oil is contraindicated for pregnant or breast feeding mothers, and for children under 5 years of age. Avoid its use if you have epilepsy, a fever or heart disease.
Do not use Peppermint oil if you are taking homeopathic medicines as it could interfere with the remedies. Do not use at more than 1% dilution on your skin, so a maximum of 1 drop per 5ml / 1 teaspoon of lotion base, or carrier oil, and a maximum of 1 drop per 10ml of shower base or body wash. Do not use immediately before going to sleep as it might keep you awake.
Rosemary essential oil
Avoid during pregnancy and breast feeding. Don’t use on children younger than 2 years of age. Due to its highly stimulating nature, Rosemary is not suitable for individuals with epilepsy or high blood pressure.
For children under 12 we recommend using these oils in a diffuser or a hand wash only. Avoid any contact with the eyes and other mucous membranes.
Do not ingest essential oils.
For sensitive skin we recommend that you do a patch test first.
World Health Organisation website, accessed 9/03/2020, available from https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-coronaviruses
NHS website, accessed 9/03/2020, available from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19
Hemilä H. (2017). Vitamin C and Infections. Nutrients, 9(4), 339. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu9040339
Surjushe, A., Vasani, R., & Saple, D. G. (2008). Aloe vera: a short review. Indian journal of dermatology, 53(4), 163–166. https://doi.org/10.4103/0019-5154.44785
Schnaubelt K. The Healing Intelligence of Essential Oils, Healing Arts Press, Rochester 2011
Battaglia S.The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy, Vol 1 Black Pepper Creative Pty Ltd, Australia 2018