Essential Oils for Immune Support
Essential oil usage can be a dynamic healing modality that works at a cellular and molecular level as well as on an emotional and psychological level. Physically, it can be used as an immune stimulant to prevent infection and to mitigate symptoms of infectious disease. Essential oils are simple to apply and offer consistent benefits. Many lifestyle factors can weaken our immune system. Managing these areas and adopting practices that actively support the immune system is an excellent way to maintain health throughout the year.
One source of foundational health that can have a big effect on the immune system and overall health and well-being is stress management. Stress increases levels of the hormone, cortisol. It helps the body deal with stress but also depresses the function of the immune system. While all essential oils have an element of providing emotional balance, oils such as Arborvitae, Geranium, Roman Chamomile, Frankincense, Patchouli, Lavender, Sandalwood, and Vetiver are useful oils to use for grounding emotions. These oils can help reduce feelings of stress, which can help keep cortisol at a healthy level, thus supporting healthy immune function. For stress, rub 1-3 drops of oils into the palms of your hands and take at least three long, deep slow breaths. You can also rub these oils into temples and base of neck. If you have sensitive skin, or are applying to young children, dilute essential oils with a carrier oil such as coconut oil. The bottoms of the feet are a safe, effective place to apply the diluted oils. Consider your triggers for stress, plan ahead, and diffuse or apply essential oils before stressful events occur to help manage reaction.
Another way to maintain a healthy immune system is sleep. Research has shown that inadequate sleep increases levels of cortisol in the body just like stress. Developing good sleep habits can be difficult. Incorporating essential oils such as Clary Sage, Dill, Lavender, Sandalwood, Cedarwood, and Vetiver can help promote feelings of calmness. Diffuse oils before bedtime and throughout the night or make a bedtime massage blend to rub on chest, neck, and/or bottoms of feet.
Minimizing toxic load is one of the most overlooked aspects of overall well-being. The average household contains over 60 toxic chemicals, according to environmental experts. We are regularly exposed to them from the phthalates in synthetic fragrances to the noxious fumes in oven cleaners. Ingredients in common household products have been linked to asthma, cancer, reproductive disorders, hormone disruption and neurotoxicity. Manufacturers argue that in small amounts these toxic ingredients aren’t likely to be a problem, but when we’re exposed to them routinely, and in combinations that haven’t been studied, it’s impossible to accurately assess the risks. While a few products cause immediate reactions from acute exposure (headaches from fumes, skin burns from accidental contact), different problems arise with repeated contact. Chronic exposure adds to the body’s “toxic burden,” which is the amount of chemicals stored in bodily tissues at a given time. Children are often more vulnerable to chemical exposure during developmental stages, and certain chemicals may interfere with the development of their neurological, endocrine, and immune systems. One of the biggest sources of toxic chemicals in a home is household cleaners. The very products that are meant to protect us from illness may actually be making us ill. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the air inside a typical home is 200–500 percent more polluted than the air outside, mainly due to toxic household cleaning products.
While no one can avoid toxic chemicals altogether, it is possible to reduce our exposure to them significantly. Research demonstrates that diffusion of essential oils can purify and cleanse the air and surfaces, providing added protection from illness. Essential oils like Lemon, Grapefruit, Cinnamon, Melaleuca, Wild Orange, and Cilantro have antibacterial, antiviral, antiseptic, antiparasitic and/or antifungal properties. The cleaners made with essential oils are safe AND effective. These cleaners use common, easily accessible ingredients that you probably already have in your home.
No matter how committed we are to a healthy lifestyle, sometimes we do get ill. In this case, there are a number of essential oils that can be used to support a compromised immune system. During this time, internal usage of essential oils is a powerful and effective route of application. Because of the way our bodies metabolize the compounds found in essential oils, it is safer and more effective to use smaller amounts of essential oil spread over consistent time intervals, rather than a single large application. For example, rather than taking six drops of an oil in a single application, it is safer and more effective to divide those 6 drops across two or three applications, separated by several hours. As a general rule, adults metabolize most oils in 3-4 hours, and children in 2-3 hours. It is important to remember to exercise caution and safety when the immune system is fighting off an invasion of any sort. Some essential oils that support the health of our immune system are Cassia, Lime, Cinnamon, Marjoram, Melaleuca, Oregano, Roman Chamomile, Tangerine, Thyme, Vetiver, and Wild Orange. Taking them is simple, just add a couple of drops to a glass of water or other beverages or place a few drops in an empty veggie capsule.
Our immunity is limited to its own ability to function properly. It is important to both minimize exposure to elements that may harm our immune system and to take proactive, consistent measures to enhance the body’s ability to protect itself.
Important to note: not all essential oils are created equal. Because there is no regulation of essential oils, many companies can falsely advertise that they’re pure, 100% all natural. If taking internally, ensure the oils are from a trusted source and are indeed pure and tested as such.
Katie Madill is founder of The Wellness Roots established in 2016 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Her passion for inspiring people to seek natural solutions through the use of essential oils began after she joined doTERRA, a world leader in therapeutic essential oils, in 2015. She now lives in Wichita with her husband and two children. Contact Katie at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on how essential oils can help you. You can also join Katie for an essential oils class series at the Riordan Clinic starting in January. Visit www.riordanclinic.com/events for more information.