Essential Oils, Coronavirus / COVID19

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, many people have been faced with severe challenges both physical and emotional, which may have had a profound impact on their life and their state of mind. The IFA, as a complementary health organization, wishes to extend its heartfelt sympathy to all those affected and its sincere thanks to all those who are putting the safety and welfare of others before their own.  

How Can Essential Oils Help During this Serious Health Crisis?

Essential oils or their constituents are widely used in pharmaceutical preparations, in cosmetics and skin-care products, in traditional and complementary medicine, in aromatherapy and in the spa industry. Essential oils are very popular with the public too, not only because their fragrant odours are pleasant and invigorating but also because they offer so many health benefits and are considered safe to use in the home when used within safety guidelines (see end of doc for link).  Also, the simple action of smelling an essential oil can have a number of measurable physiological effects on the body such as change in heart rate or blood pressure, change in brainwaves activity, change in eye movement, etc. In fact, a number of studies have shown that the fragrant odours of essential oils have psycho-physiological effects and proved that they can bring fast relief from stress and ease emotional difficulties.

Antimicrobial and Antiviral Activities of Essential Oils

The immune system is a highly complex system that contributes both to the maintenance of a healthy body and defence against harmful pathogens. Certain existing health factors and mental states can make it difficult for the immune system to be fully effective.  Natural remedies such as essential oils can support the body’s immune response and, more generally, can offer support to the ‘whole person’ as well.

Essential oils have a long list of therapeutic properties, but not all essential oils act in the same way. For example, some essential oils work in a wide-ranging way, while others work on more specific areas. Some essential oils can produce a quick response, while others may have a much slower cumulative action. These differences are determined by the constituents present in an essential oil, the dosage used and the method of application. Many essential oils can work in synergy with each other and can address more than one aspect of health at the same time. During a serious infection such as Covid19, to obtain maximum benefits from essential oils, it is important to choose a small number of essential oils that offer both holistic benefits and physiological benefits, in order to increase physical and mental wellbeing which in turn may stimulate immunological stamina. 

The contribution of essential oils as natural antivirals is promising, as some essential oil constituents have been found to inhibit virus replication in clinical studies, but the mechanisms by which essential oils can undermine viruses is still not clear. In contrast, there are a number of verified antimicrobial and antibacterial essential oils to choose from. So far, most essential oils tested for antiviral properties have mainly been tested against herpes viruses, so it cannot be assumed that those essential oils labelled as antivirals will automatically help in the fight against Covid19, but they can offer some indirect support to the immune system.  Other essential oils with therapeutic properties that can ease different symptoms and potentially help during a Covid19 infection should also be considered: respiratory antiseptics, anti-inflammatories, mucolytics, febrifuges, antitussives, expectorants, decongestants, cytophylactics, antioxidants and prophylactics. All essential oils with these properties can help make the ‘terrain’ in the body less welcoming to infectious organisms and can decrease the acuteness of symptoms.

For example, respiratory oils like Peppermint, Eucalyptus, Pine needle and Juniper berry can help keep respiratory passages open and improve breathing capacity but they can also work as mucous expectorants, as antivirals and antimicrobials, and help ‘sanitize’ the ambient air in confined spaces, thus offering general support to the body or to any other treatments in a number of ways. While it certainly cannot be claimed that essential oils are a cure for this current serious illness, nonetheless, they can be useful for people who have milder symptoms of Covid19 and who have not needed to be hospitalized.

Finally, one more good reason for using essential oils in the fight against pathogens is that pathogens are adversely affected by aromatic molecules. Also, viruses have been observed to only be able to resist one type of aromatic molecule at a time, and essential oils offer such an array of aromatic molecules that can damage viruses. So again, although, essential oils are not a cure, certain essential oils can interfere with the cycle of infection/replication of pathogens. After all, plants produce essential oils as part of their arsenal of defensive weapons against the myriads of microorganisms and parasites that inhabit the environment. Is not Nature amazing?! 

The Neuro-Psycho-Immune Connection

As already mentioned, good immunity is directly related to mental wellbeing because any negative psychological state or emotional upset can impact the immune system’s ability to detect pathogens. Stress levels are also a factor in efficient immune response, as changes in stress hormone levels can also lower immunity. Therefore, improving mental wellbeing can help our chances of fighting infections and diseases and help optimise biological function. Regularly smelling those essential oils that are uplifting, mood enhancing, calming, relaxing, anti-depressive, stimulating and tonic, can give body and mind a boost and can indirectly contribute to the fight against Covid19. 

For example, Rosemary essential oil can counter mental apathy and improve both the immune response and respiration; Lavender (Alpine and English) can lower anxiety, regulate stress hormone levels and help various respiratory complaints; Lemon is an antioxidant, can sharpen the senses and mental functions, and regulate cardiac and respiratory rhythm: and Rose Geranium is an adaptogen, an antiinflammatory, cicatrisant, and it can modulate stress hormones. Essential oils can also help the family and helpers’ mental and emotional health around frail and sick people. Examples of beneficial essential oils for the mind and emotions are Cardamom, Basil, Champaca, Clary Sage, Grapefruit, Jasmine, Mandarin, May Chang Patchouli, Petitgrain, Rose, Spikenard, Tuberose, Vetivert, Ylang-Ylang.

Synergetic Activities of Essential Oils

Synergy means working together. Synergy occurs naturally between the different constituents of an essential oil and gives the oil unique therapeutic benefits. The concentration of each constituent in an essential oil also affects its therapeutic value. Essential oils with similar constituents and properties can be added together to make more potent aromatherapeutic remedies. The only draw-back with such synergetic blends is that some constituents may have adverse effects, so checking suitability of recipient and potential toxicity of the essential oils or constituents is important. Please visit my Safety and Toxicology page for more information.

Which Methods of application:

Before using essential oils, for oneself or others, be aware that certain essential oils have particularly strong, penetrating, pungent and tenacious odours and are not necessarily suited for children, pregnant women (whose sense of smell is often heightened) or frail people. 

  1. Direct inhalation using a smelling strip or nasal inhaler can improve breathing or help maintain a clear mind. This method can help ease upper respiratory symptoms such as a blocked nose, sneezing, coughing, a sore throat, or mild respiratory difficulty caused by sinusitis, hay fever or a cold. Useful essential oils include Lavender, Eucalyptus, Peppermint, Pine Needle and Tea-tree. Essential oils that have been proven efficient for reducing stress, anxiety, irritability, mental dullness, tiredness, or for use for general relaxation include Geranium, Lavender, Mandarin,  Orange,  Rose and Vetivert. 
  2. Diffusers and sprays are most suitable not only for maintaining a pleasant environment but also as an air cleanser, as many essential oils have antiseptic and antimicrobial properties, e.g. Cinnamon Leaf, Eucalyptus, Peppermint, Tea-Tree. Essential oils that increase mental alertness, improve memory and increase autonomic functions are Bergamot, Lemon, Peppermint and Rosemary. 
  3. Topical applications to boost the body system and organs through transdermal absorption of essential oils. (See at the end for useful recipes). 

Which Essential Oils?

Air cleansers against airborne microbes – used in a diffuser, an aroma stone or a glass spray bottle

When an airborne infection is around, it is important to keep the ambient air around as clear as possible from infectious organisms. Spraying the air with essential oils to maintain air quality helps keep the environment healthy for all. Also, air diffusion of essential oils can stimulate the immune system. Some useful air cleanser essential oils:

Name of Essential Oil


Citrus bergamia Risso & Poit.

antiinfectious, antiviral, deodorant

Cinnamon leaf
Cinnamomum zeylanicum Nees

a powerful antimicrobial and air disinfectant.

Eucalyptus (all)
Eucalyptus globulus labill.
Eucalyptus radiata Seiber ex DC
Eucalyptus smithii RT Baker

antimicrobial can help prevent further infections, antiviral, immunostimulant

(Spike) Lavender

antiinfectious, immunostimulant, mucolytic

May Chang 
CT Citral – Litsea cubeba

antimicrobial and refreshes the air

Mintha piperata

antimicrobial, antiviral, purifies the air.

Immuno-stimulants/Antimicrobials/ Antivirals

These are essential oils that can either strengthen immunity or directly fight infectious organisms:

Name of Essential Oil


Citrus bergamia Risso & Poit.

antiviral, antimicrobial

Melaleuca leucadendron

antiviral, antimicrobial, expectorant, immunostimulant

Eucalyptus (all)
Eucalyptus globulus labill.
Eucalyptus radiata Seibers ex DC
Eucalyptus smithii RT Baker

antiviral, antiinfectious, antimicrobial, febrifuge, immunostimulant, expectorant


Lavendula latifolia Medik

antiviral, antimicrobial, expectorant, antiinfectious

Cymbopogon citratus DC Stapf.

antiviral, antifungal, antiinfectious

Leptospermum scoparium Forst & Forst

antiviral, antimicrobial, immunostimulant, antitussive, expectorant

Melissa officinalis

immunostimulant, expectorant, antitussive

Niaouli CT Cineole
Melaleuca quinquinervia or Viridiflorol

antiviral, antimicrobial, expectorant, immunostimulant,

Cinnamomum camphora

antiviral, antimicrobial, antiinfectious, immunostimulant,

Rosemary CT Cineole
Rosmarinus officinalis

antimicrobial, expectorant

Melaleuca alternifolia

antiviral, antimicrobial, antiinfectious, immunostimulant

Thyme CT Thymol
Thymus vulgaris

antimicrobial, antiinfectious, immunostimulant

Adaptogens and Antioxidant Essential Oils

Adaptogens: Some essential oils are classified as adaptogens because they are known to have a ‘normalising’ effect on body processes, hormone release and stress, meaning their action can either be energising, stimulating, tonic or decreasing, calming, sedative depending on what is needed. Adaptogens essential oils can help regulate stress hormone levels, increase stamina, improve the immune response, regularise blood pressure, cardiac and respiratory rate, lower inflammation, are prophylactic and contribute to the prevention of and the recovery from illness.

Adaptogen essential oils examples: Bergamot, Frankincense, Rose Geranium, Lavender, Lemon, Melissa, Rose, Neroli, Turmeric Root, Ylang-ylang.

Antioxidants maintain balancehelp keep oxidative stress in check, help improve immunity and keep the body healthy.

Antioxidant essential oils examples: – Citrus essential oils, Black Pepper, Ginger, Oregano.

Essential Oils to Appease Spasmodic Coughs – best application methods are steam inhalation or a chest rub.

Examples of antitussive and respiratory antispasmodic essential oils are Benzoin, Cypress, Roman Chamomile, Fennel, Lavender, Myrtle (Green), Manuka, Marjoram. 

Note: Benzoin, R. Chamomile, Fragonia, Lavender, Manuka essential oils are suitable for children or vulnerable people in a diffuser or in a 0.5% to 1% diluted blend and applied to soles of feet.

Pneumonia is a serious and life-threatening infection of the lungs caused by bacteria, a virus or fungi. Pneumonia caused by bacteria and a virus is contracted from airborne droplets projected out when sneezing and coughing, and fungal pneumonia is contracted from the environment, i.e. skin contact with surfaces. 

Chest rubs and inhalation in the recovery phase can be useful up to 6 months after the illness: 
Respiratory anti-inflammatory and tissue repair: Benzoin, Cedarwood, Frankincense, Niaouli, Thyme.

Skincare options, my own products:-

Coconut Caress & Organic Hand & Surface Sanitiser offers prevention from air-borne virus’ etc.

Organic Hand & Surface Sanitiser, Healing Cream, Healing Shea Butter, Slumber Blend, Scalp Oil, Facial Cleansing Oil, Spa Mists, Soaps & Shampoo Bars & Deodorant all offer antiviral, anti-fungal, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, speed healing, prevents and reduces scarring, a natural anti-depressant, relaxant, sedative as well as having soothing/calming properties. 


Please visit my Safety and Toxicology page for more information.

Published by the International Federation of Aromatherapists


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