10 Best Essential Oils for Colds: Fight the Coughs and Colds

Today's blog post looks at the best essential oils for colds. I’m not even sure that many of us even think about colds these days, do we? We're all too busy worrying about the Germ We Shall Not Name. Of course, the symptoms are very similar and terrifyingly, we never really know what hideous bug we have contracted, so in this article, we’ll break it down into different symptoms and diseases for you. 

Let’s begin by thinking about: 

What Essential Oils Are Good For Colds?

These are easy. 

Rather than being the prettily fragranced flowers, for the most part, these are herbs and leaves. They have clinical, antimicrobial aromas. There are no surprises here. Most of us have had at least some experience of oils that unblock the nose, having been added to vapor rubs or to sweets, for example. Our list mainly contains essential oils for cold symptoms that will also support the immune system too. It’s not exhaustive and it’s often good to make essential oil blends for colds, rather than just concentrating on single oils, so I shall mention others as we go. 

10 Best Essential Oils for Colds

1. Tea Tree Essential Oil 

Tea tree is at the top of the list of the best essential oils for colds because it can always be trusted, as long as you treat it with care and dilute it. It has antimicrobial, antiviral, antifungal, and antiseptic properties so, for the most part, you don’t even need to know what’s wrong with you for it to be helpful. We whack on a drop of tea tree as soon as we feel under the weather. 

First, and most importantly,  when we are thinking about the best essential oils for colds, is to consider how best to support the immune system. When the body identifies something it considers to be a threat, it instructs the system to send white blood cells to defend the system. A variety of white blood cells are recruited. Macrophages, in particular, surround the pathogen to overpower it. 

Essential oils are made up of many different chemical constituents which support body systems including the lymphatic system and immunity. There is some evidence emerging now, that germs may even be evolving to become resistant to the antibiotic properties of some essential oils, or at least that their effects may not be as effective long term. So, it’s a good idea to think about all the different ways you use tea tree in your day-to-day life, and perhaps try to change it up a bit, so you always have this superstar working at full capacity when you need it. 

Apart from being top of the list of the best essential oils for colds, it is, of course, great for coughs, and one of the best essential oils for fever blisters and cold sores. We’ll address fevers separately. See below. 

Ways to Use Tea Tree for Colds

It is the best of the best essential oils for cold and flu. Use it for everything when you are ill, but very little when you are not.

Put it in the bath and soak for twenty minutes so its molecules can get good access to the whole bloodstream quickly. 

Inhale it: by that I mean either place a couple of drops in some hot water to steam your head, with a towel over or simply inhale the molecules from the bottle. As predicted, tea tree unblocks your nose, but the molecules will actively climb up into the mucus membranes to start to do battle on the front line. 

Suck the fumes: Open your mouth wide. Hold the bottle right at the front to four mouths so you can gasp the molecules. Take a long, slow deep breath in, making sure the vapors go as far down into the lungs as you can get them.  Again, this way it is fabulous for sore throats. Repeat, maybe ten gasps. Drink the fumes, not the oil. Don’t even get it on your lips, because it tastes heinous!

Gargle it: This is a bit naughty because, strictly speaking, this is an internal usage. Add a drop of tea tree oil to a small amount of water, gargle but then spit it out. 

Diffuse it to clean the air of germs and use it on a damp cloth to disinfect light switches, toilet flushes, banisters, and high traffic areas. 

2. Clove Essential Oil

Now, clove comes second on the list of essential oils for colds because it is high in a serious biological weapon called eugenol. It can kick most germs’ butts with one hand tied behind its back. BUT, it is a skin irritant. We would only really want to use a dilution of 0.5% in a massage oil, this is most certainly not one of the essential oils for colds and coughs we would want to put in the bath. 

Ways to Use Clove Essential Oil for Cold Symptoms 

Diffuse it (especially with lemon or orange essential oils) to clean the air. Use it on a damp cloth to disinfect. 

See tea tree for details of how to gasp the fumes for sore throats, colds, and chest infections. 

Inhale the fumes from the bottle, but do not use as a hot water steam. The fumes are too irritating to the eyes. 

3. Cinnamon Essential Oil 

Very similar to clove, really. Consider how it is a winter smell and is traditionally used on holiday wreaths, which would naturally have been used to try to ward off germs in the festive environments. 

Again, it’s not great in the bath, and we would only want to use it in very small amounts in massage oils and creams, but diffuse it to clean the air. Cinnamon is one of the best essential oils for colds circulating in the air.  Don’t forget that whilst the molecules are diffusing, that’s also the air that you will breathe in. This is a much safer way to get cinnamon essential oil into your lungs and bloodstream than if you were applying it to the skin, and colds are respiratory diseases anyway. 

Ways to use Cinnamon Essential Oil for Cold Symptoms

Diffuser.

Inhale from the bottle, although be careful of it being so close to your eyes. 

Wipe down surfaces.

4. Eucalyptus Essential Oil 

Fabulously decongestant, eucalyptus is absolutely blissful if you can’t breathe. It is one of the best essential oils for congestion. Not only does it have antiviral and antibiotic properties, but it is also useful if you have a fever. This is one of the best essential oils for colds that have the extra gift of chesty coughs or chest infections.

Eucalyptus is one of the best essential oils for colds in adults, but please take care when using it on children. Eucalyptus is high in a constituent called 1,8 cineole which slows respiration, so if we were to use it on children, we would only use it in a dilution of around 0.25% and only use it on their backs. (0.25 works out as being less than one drop of essential oil in a teaspoon, so a good guide is to use a tablespoon of a carrier, and you’ll be safe.).

Ways to use Eucalyptus Essential Oil for Cold Symptoms

Safe for adults in the bath, or in creams and lotions. Likewise, diffusers are great, and of course a drop on the pillow to help you breathe at night 

Please remember that eucalyptus is not one of the best essential oils in children. Try to replace with frankincense essential oil

5. Frankincense Essential Oil

The gentlest but the most soothing. Frankincense essential oil decongests while slowing the breathing (in a good way). It is pacifying, so it’s wonderful for upset children, especially when combined with myrtle essential oil. 

Ways to use Frankincense Essential Oil for Cold Symptoms

The best essential oils for colds tip we can offer you is that kids adore their soft toys smelling of frankincense when they feel ill. This is one of the best essential oils for a head cold. Test it on their number two favorite first. The last thing you want is for them to turn on their most dependable comforter when they already feel ill, but one drop on the top of Teddy's head is usually rough to unblock their nose and have them drifting off to sleep. 

By all means inhale and gasp the fumes, as well as used in the bath. 

Please don’t use frankincense essential oil to clean light switches. It is too precious. If we continue to harvest frankincense at the rate we are, scientists predict there will be none left in 50 years. The spices and tea tree are much more reliable for cleaning and far more sustainable choices. 

6. Hyssop Essential Oil

Hyssop essential oil is considered a difficult oil to use because it is high in a chemical group called ketones. People tend to think of ketones as bad guys because they can be neurotoxic (which I’ll explain in a moment) but they are also tremendous for breaking down phlegm. If you have a cold with a persistent or unproductive cough, then hyssop is going to be your best friend, as long as you don’t have epilepsy or suffer from any delusory illness like schizophrenia or psychosis (that’s the neurotoxic bit). 

A bit of an interesting fact for you: Hyssop essential oil is only rich in ketones if it has been distilled from plants that have not bloomed yet. Some artisan distillers produce oils that are taken after the flowers die off, which creates a much softer essential oil, with fewer ketone-related problems, but also not as good for fighting phlegm.

Hyssop is also brilliant for sore throats. 

Ways to use Hyssop Essential Oil for Cold Symptoms

Easy to use as long as you do not suffer psychosis, epilepsy or schizophrenia.

Add to massage oils, creams, and lotions and hyssop is lovely in the bath. 

It has a beautiful, slightly aniseedy fragrance that works well in diffusers, and is great for gargling in some water if you have a sore throat. 

7. Ravensara Essential Oil

A powerhouse against symptoms of cold and flu, but should only be used on the skin to a maximum dilution of 1% in adults and is probably best avoided on children.

Ways to Use Ravensara Essential Oil for Cold Symptoms

It's a lovely one to put in the bath or in massage oils, creams, and lotions, as long as it is diluted. Remember, particularly for an oil like ravensara,  that oils and water don’t mix. So, just because you are adding it to the bath doesn’t mean it’s diluted. You need to add 1 drop to a teaspoon of carrier before you put it in the bath 

It smells nice enough for Teddy’s head and is great in diffusers to clean the atmosphere. 

We love ravensara for inhalants, either directly from the bottle and gasping the fumes, or even better, put it into hot water with a towel over your head. 

8. Ginger Essential Oil

If you have chills, and just can’t get warm, ginger essential oil is fantastic. Again, so easy to use. 

Whilst essential oils don’t have side effects, they do have many main effects. Everything ramps up when you use ginger oil. You will get hotter, your thoughts will be more energetic, but importantly if you already have loose bowels, use a light touch with the ginger or you may run the risk of diarrhea.

Ways to Use Ginger Essential Oil for Cold Symptoms

If you are cold, add it to any massage oils and creams, and lotions. It’s a bit fierce to add to baths. Add it to cinnamon and clove for amazing smelling diffusers that should help to stop the germ from spreading.

9. Black Pepper Essential Oil

Black pepper is rich in a constituent called beta-caryophyllene which we definitely want on our side when we have a cold. It has a weak binding affinity to the CB2 receptor that modulates inflammation, immunity, and pain. (You can learn more about that on our copaiba listing because copaiba is also rich in beta-caryophyllene). Black pepper has antiviral properties and is invigorating and warming.

Ways to Use Black Pepper Essential Oil for Cold Symptoms

We only want one drop of this at the most. It is not quite as hot as clove or cinnamon essential oils but we should be cautious. 

Use in massage oils, creams, and lotions, but perhaps not in the bath. 

Add it to diffusers. 

DO NOT USE AS AN INHALANT - Even though Black pepper is one of the best essential oils for colds, it is also an irritant to the mucus membranes. (Think of what happens if you sniff ground pepper). 

This is probably too strong an oil for use on children.

10. Myrtle Essential Oil

The Romans used to place wreaths of myrtle onto the heads of their warriors when they returned home from battle. There is a definite sense of Brave Little Soldier to it. It has an antitussive action, which means it helps to stop you coughing, in particular spluttery coughs.

Myrtle is wonderful for coughs and colds anyway but has a wonderful healing effect on upset children and people who are distressed. 

Ways to Use Myrtle Essential Oil for Cold Symptoms

Add it to everything! 

Safe in the bath, for adults, although I wouldn’t want it in the water for really littlies, perhaps add to the top of Teddy’s head and to massage oils instead. 

Essential Oils for Fevers

This is a bit of a bone of contention because really, it’s not very safe to use essential oils for fevers. We often associate seizures with fever spikes, but in reality, the problem arises because of the rapid change in temperature. So, whilst we might think we are helping to reduce the fever, we might also accidentally cause harm. 

That said the best essential oils would be peppermint and spearmint, but use with care. Dilute to just 1%, and perhaps 0.25% for children (so one drop of oil in one tablespoon of carrier serves here). Soak a face cloth in cool, but not cold water, then put a small amount of your essential oils for fevers mix on to that. 

To stress, for the most part, if you can avoid it, it is better not to use essential oils for fevers. 

DIY RECIPES: Essential Oil Blends for Colds

Ok, so let’s see how we can put these best essential oils for colds together to make some great remedies. 

Essential Oils for Colds and Sore Throat

Gargle for Sad Throats

Safety: In cases of epilepsy, schizophrenia, or delusory illnesses, omit the hyssop. This one can be used during pregnancy, however in all cases, please gargle and spit!

Massage Oil with the Best Essential Oils for Colds and Sore Throat 

Method of use: Rub onto the front of the throat and upper chest as often as required

Safety: Not suitable for use during the first 16 weeks of pregnancy. This blend can be adapted for use on children by increasing the amount of carrier oil to one tablespoon. 

Essential Oils for Head Colds 

  • 1 tsp Grapeseed carrier oil (Vitis vinifera)
  • 10 drops Tamanu carrier oil (Calophyllum inophyllum)
  • 3 drops Tea tree essential oil (Melaleuca alternifolia) 
  • 1 drop Sweet Basil essential oil (Ocimum basilicum)
  • 1 drop Eucalyptus essential oil (Eucalyptus globulus)

Method of use: Rub on the forehead, shoulders, and the back of the neck as often as required

Safety: For a child, replace the eucalyptus with frankincense. Not suitable for use during the first 16 weeks of pregnancy. 

Conclusion

Just as the last note, it is very understandable that we all want to protect ourselves from germs right now, but this will inevitably mean we end up having no immunity against common coughs and colds we would have fought off quickly and easily in the past. These notes are the best essential oils for colds, so please don’t render them weaker by using them as everyday preventatives for things. Use them sparingly and sensibly when you are well and you’ll have an army of warriors to help your family to fight their symptoms much more efficiently.

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