For thousands of years, Chinese medicine has warned people to take precautionary measures around the change of seasons because the fluctuations in temperature and the various energies (called qi in Chinese) in the environment can negatively impact the body if the outside temperature changes too drastically, or if the change of season arrives too “early” or “late,” according to the calendar. In order to best protect the body from what the ancient Chinese referred to as “external invasions,” preventative measures such as wearing long sleeves, pants, scarves and hats are a good idea in the fall and winter since they provide a physical barrier to prevent invasions associated with what the Chinese called “wind” (the Western, scientific correlation today would be bacteria, fungus and virus). Additionally, acupuncture and Chinese herbs are used to keep the immune system strong to try and ward off cold and flu causing pathogens. The ancient Chinese preventative measures are still as valid today as they were back then.
In modern times, preventative measures often include frequent hand washing, disinfecting things we touch or use frequently, taking multivitamins, exercising and eating healthy. All of these are great steps to take in order to build the body up and lessen the chances of becoming sick. While both the ancient Chinese and the commonly used modern methods for warding off pathogens are both effective, one exciting, newer method that is used for both preventing and treating the flu and common cold is aromatherapy.
Research studies conducted over the last few decades have shown impressive results when comparing essential oils to pharmaceuticals for their ability to deter and kill various bacteria, viruses and fungi. The viruses responsible for causing the flu and the common cold are no exception. Certain essential oils not only match pharmaceutical effectiveness for cold and flu symptoms, but studies exist that actually show essential oils being even MORE effective than pharmaceutical drugs.
Essential oils that are suitable for preventing and treating colds include Eucalyptus globus, Eucalyptus radiata, Mentha piperita (peppermint), Pinus sylvestris (pine), Cinnamomum camphora (ravintsara), and Thymus vulgaris (thyme), to name just a few. The fact is that most essential oils contain phytochemicals that are antimicrobial since one of the main purposes of essential oils in nature is to act as a defense system for the plant. The volatile scent they give off in nature is meant to attract beneficial pollinators and to repel insects and animals that pose a danger to the plant. When diffused in the air, applied topically, or even taken internally, (if under direct supervision of a professional aromatherapist or physician) essential oils can boost immunity while also ridding the air, inanimate objects we contact, and the human body from these harmful, foreign invaders, just like they do for plants.