Heather Dawn: Godfrey. P.G.C.E., B.Sc. (Joint Hon)
Essential oils are natural volatile extracts from plants (leaves, flowers, fruits, woods, and roots). Our bodies are biologically programmed to naturally react to essential oil constituents (Tisserand 2020); essential oil molecules interact with a variety of receptor sites, neuro chemicals and enzymes within the body. Indeed, the therapeutic action of essential oils is well evidenced in relation to microbial balance and pathogenic staving, wound healing and skin care, pain management, also anxiety, depression, agitation, insomnia, alertness and memory, thus, they may offer significant complementary support to health, wellness and wellbeing. To support the information below, and for deeper detail about how essential oils work with the body, please refer to my books Healing with Essential Oils, Essential Oils for the Whole Body and Essential Oils for Mindfulness and Meditation (each book complements the others). Meanwhile, the following information provides an overview of the role of essential oils play within the context of other supportive measures to prevent infection and ease the symptoms of corona-viruses, particularly covid-19 and it viral mutations.
COVID 19 is apparently a novel, easily transmittable, coronavirus. Symptoms of infection range from non-detectible (asymptomatic), mild, to severe, and include, among other ‘flu-like symptoms, a high temperature, persistent dry cough, and difficulty breathing.
Most people infected with Covid-19 are asymptomatic, some people exhibit mild symptoms; in either case infection does not last long – five to seven days from the onset of symptoms. However, people with underlying serious and chronic health conditions, weak and suppressed immune function, and who develop a ‘high viral load’ (unchecked proliferation of replicating viral particles) may experience serious, even life-threatening, symptoms, especially infection progresses from the upper respiratory tract to the lungs. Virus particles are assumed to highjack alveoli cells, which burst and are destroyed as the virus replicates. Fluid builds up in the lungs (pneumonia), and gaseous exchange (oxygen and CO2) is dangerously inhibited, which in turn adversely affects cellular respiration. The immune system goes into overdrive activating a pathogenic autoimmune response; at this stage, the whole immune system is involved (antigens, antigen-presenting cells, T and B lymphocytes, messenger molecules, cytokines, chemokines and their receptors, and signalling and co-stimulatory molecules) and there is a high risk that the immune system will begin to attack the body’s own tissue and organ cells. To clarify, there are three phases of infection:
Phase 1 – early infection, where mild symptoms may occur that are similar to colds and ‘flu.
Phase 2 – pulmonary infection, which produces respiratory symptoms, such as persistent cough, shortness of breath and low oxygen levels; blood clots may be produce at this phase.
Phase 3 – hyper-inflammation stage, which occurs when hyperactivity of the immune system is sustained – at this stage the immune system may begin to attack and injure other vital organs, such as the heart and kidneys, and the body’s own tissues (a cytokine storm).
Prevention and treatment.
A healthy immune system is vital to resilience. It makes sense, therefore, to continuously support and boost the immune system (healthy diet, exercise, fresh air and so on, additional minerals and vitamins, such as, zinc, vitamins D and C, among others, to support healthy systemic function of the body) in every day life.
Once infected and to combat and manage COVID 19, Shi et al (2020) suggest the immune system should be deliberately boosted during the first and during the initial onset of the second stage of infection, when there is better chance the infection can more easily be contained and reversed, but suppressed during the inflammatory phase; at this stage oxygen uptake and gaseous exchange and the lungs ability to remove waste and mucous is critically compromised.
NB: Essential oils should NOT be applied during the inflammatory third stage of infection, that is, when infection spreads to the lungs (the compromised function of the alveoli and inhibition of gaseous exchange means that essential oil molecules are not absorbed or excreted efficiently and may be irritant and/or exacerbate symptoms).
Existing drugs and protocols, for example, small amounts of hydroxychloroquine, zinc and vitamins have successfully inhibited Coronavirus infection during early phases of infection (Cahill 2021). Vitamin C, for example, applied to COVID-19 patients in Wuhan and New York hospitals, demonstrated efficacy in staving infection (Zuo 2020, Hemila 2003); high doses of vitamin C modify susceptibility to various bacterial and virus infections. Vitamin D3 offers yet another avenue of potential support; vitamin D regenerates endothelial lining in blood vessels and is shown to minimise alveolar damage (Kakodkar et al 2020). Also, there is vitamin B3, which is highly lung protective and could be used at the onset of coughing (Shi et al 2020), and vitamin A, which helps the lungs, heart, and kidneys, and other organs, function properly (Ayyadurai 2020).
While essential oils should definitely not be applied during the third stage of Coronavirus, they may be usefully applied for their general anti-microbial properties preventatively and during early phases of infection. Specific essential oils or essential oil components have not been identified as being directly effective against Covid-19. However, essential oils are generally and variously antiviral, antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and mucolytic, among other properties. Some possess broad-spectrum bactericidal and anti-viral qualities, while others may be more specific in their action;broad-spectrum in this context does not mean a single essential oil or blend of essential oils will kill all viruses or all bacteria. The effectiveness of essential oils depends on many things; for example, accurate targeting or honing of a specific essential oil or blend of essential oils according to its chemical composition, the type of microbe or viral particle, the part of the body infected; also, the authenticity, integrity, age and storage condition of the essential oil will influence its effectiveness.
Essential oils can be applied preventatively. They do support hygiene, and support the immune system stave infection and pathogenic invasion, especially during the early stages of infection. Essential oils may also alleviate symptoms, such as headaches, nasal and sinus congestion, muscle aches, insomnia, depression and anxiety, and other cold and ‘flu-like symptoms.
Essential oils instigate psycho-emotional responses that indirectly support the immune system; for example, by instilling a sense of feeling peaceful and calm, uplifted and grounded, optimal states that enhance the immune system. In deed, feeling happy, relaxed, calm, positive and optimistic demonstrably positively influences physical function, including heart rate, blood pressure, cortisol levels, endorphin release, digestion, and so on. Thus, our state of ‘being’ is very significant in terms or our resilience too– for example ‘being in stress’ or being in equanimity’, ‘being in fear’ or ‘being in peace’. We are often reminded that unconditional love is an optimum state of ‘being’.
Some of the most potent anti-microbial essential oils include: Cinnamon bark and leaf, Clove bud and leaf, Eucalyptus globulus, Pine, Tea Tree and Thyme, among others (these oils must be applied with caution, as they are potential skin and mucous membrane irritants – it is important to check the properties and qualities of an essential oil before applying it). For more information about the properties of essential oils, please refer to Essential Oils to Aid Post-Viral Recovery of Loss of Sense of Smell and to my books Essential Oils for the Whole Body and Essential Oils for Mindfulness and Meditation, also my new book Healing with Essential Oils.
Essential oils are valued for their preventative and supportive properties (for example, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory and tissue regeneration, psycho-emotional influences, and much more), and may be useful preventatively and during early stages of an infection. Some essential oils posses broad spectrum antibiotic-like qualities and actions, while others may be more specifically targeted in terms of their actions. Good understanding of an essential oils individual anti-microbial components, also the nature and behaviour of pathogens, for example, how they infiltrate and affect the body, will enable effective and safe application.
General Guidelines for Safe Use
If symptoms are persistent, unexplained, or you feel generally unwell, you are advised to seek medical advice from a certified healthcare professional.
If essential oils are used frequently, for whatever reason (in beauty products, as perfumes, for minor conditions, for relaxation, and so on), then regularly change the oil or blend of essential oils you use (there are numerous essential oils with similar qualities, so alternatives are available) and have a break from use every so often. This will reduce the risk of sensitisation.
Add up to 15 to 20 drops of essential oil to a hand sanitizer (non-perfumed liquid soap dispenser). Do not add essential oils to an antibacterial sanitizer or pre-scented sanitizer (it is not necessary, and avoids risk of irritation). Soap, itself, is antibacterial – soap and water (careful hand washing and drying) are usually sufficiently effective.
Do not diffuse irritating essential oils in public spaces or too close to other people.
Do not apply essential oils neat; always dilute essential oils in an emollient (for example, vegetable oil, cream or lotion) when applying them to skin – add 2-3 drops to 6 ml of vegetable oil, non-perfumed lotion, cream, or ointment.
Do not take any essential oils internally.
Babies, children, people who are asthmatic or have other pre-existing respiratory conditions, or very elderly or frail, are especially vulnerable in terms of sensitisation and potential irritancy of their airways when exposed to essential oil vapours.
Meanwhile, you will find useful information about essential oils and how to apply them safely and effectively, here:
Bacterial – a substance that kills bacteria. Bactericides are disinfectants, antiseptics or antibiotics
Bacteriostatic – prevents the growth of bacteria
Anti-viral – effective against viruses, do not destroy pathogens but inhibit their growth
Virucidal – deactivates or destroys viruses
Antimicrobial – active against microbes
Microbes – a microorganism, especially a bacterium causing disease or fermentation
Germs – a microorganism, especially one that causes disease
My books (Published by Inner Traditions, Vermont USA) provide comprehensive detail about essential oils and provide very useful sources of reference for anyone wishing to use essential oils safely and effectively. You can purchase these books from most online or high street bookshops:
- Tisserand, R (2020) https://roberttisserand.com/essential-oils
- Shi, Y., Wang, Y., Shao, C. et al.COVID-19 infection: the perspectives on immune responses. Cell Death Differ(2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41418-020-0530-3 https://www.nature.com/articles/s41418-020-0530-3
- Zuo, M (2020) Vitamin C deployed in big doses to help treat coronavirus patients. Southern China Morning Post, China/Society 28th March 2020. https://www.scmp.com/news/china/society/article/3077341/vitamin-c-deployed-big-doses-help-treat-coronavirus-patients
- Hemila, H. (2003) Vitamin C and SARS coronavirus; Journal of Antimicrob Chemother, 56:6 p1049-1050. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7110025/
- Cahill, D. (2021) Professor Cahill on the dangers of vaccines and lockdowns. Bitchute. https://www.bitchute.com/video/HjUpZxubZN1V/
- Kakodkar, P., Kaka, N., Baig, M. N. (2020) A Comprehensive Literature review on the Clinical Presentation, and Management of the Pandemic Coronovirus Disease 2019 (COVI-19). 12th April, 12(4): e7560. https://www.ncbi.nlm.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7138423
- Ayyadurai, S., Dr. MIT PhD (2020) Coronavirus is the right time to discuss immune health: You Tube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lzC59WiW_Fs&feature=youtu.be
- Almeida, L.F., Paula, J.F., Almeida, R.V., Williams, D.W., Hebling, J., Cavalcanti, Y.W.; Efficacy of citronella and cinnamon essential oil on candida albicans biofilms; Acta Odontol Scand 2016 Jul: 74(5): p 393-8; PubMed
- Alves-Silva, J.M., Zuzarte, M., Goncalves, M.J., Cavaleiro, C., Cruz, M. T., Cardoso, S.M., Salqueiro, L.; New Claims for Wild Carrot (Daucus carota carota) Essential Oil; Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2016; 2016: 9045196, PubMed
- Becker, S. PhD (2018) Essential Oils to prevent the spread of flu. Tisserand Institute: https://tisserandinstitute.org/essential-oils-flu/
- Becker, S., PhD RA (2020) Essential Oils and Coronovirus. The Tisserand Institute. https://tisserandinstitute.org/essential-oils-coronavirus/
- Brower, V. (2004) When the Immune System goes on the Attack. EMBO Rep. Science and Society 5(8) p757-760. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1299128/
- Garozzo, A., Timpanaro, R., Bisignano, G., Castro, A. (2009) In vitro antiviral activity of Melaleuca alternifolia essential oil: Society for Applied Microbiology. https://sfamjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1472-765X.2009.02740.x
- Kavanaugh, N.L., Riggeck, K., Selected Antimicrobial Essential Oils Eradicate Pseudomonas spp and Staphylococcus aureus Biofilms: Applied and Environmental Microbiology 2012 78(11): p 4057-4061, American Society for Microbiology: ncbi.nim.nih.gov
- Kokodkar, P., Kaka, N., Baig, M. N. (2020) A Comprehensive Literature review on the Clinical Presentation, and Management of the Pandemic Coronovirus Disease 2019 (COVI-19). 12th April, 12(4): e7560. https://www.ncbi.nlm.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7138423
- Nunez, L., Aquino, M.D.; Microbicide activity of clove essential oil (Eugenia caryphylleta); Brazilian Journal of Microbiology 2012 Oct-Dec; 43(4): p 1255-1260
- Ooi, L.S., Li, Y., Kam, S.L., Wang, H., Wong, E.Y., Ooi, V.E.; Anti microbial activities of cinnamon oil and cinnamaldehyde from the Chinese medicinal herb Cinnamomum cassie Blume; Am J Chin Med 2006; 34(3): p 511-22. https://libpaper.jnu.edu.cn/papers/browse/browsePaInfo.action;jsessionid=C5143518B4CE3C82D0E099C3A0C653F4?id=2962
- Radha G., Chandi, C.R., Dash, S.K., Mishra, R.K.; In vitro antimicrobial potential assessment of carrot and celery seed essential oils against 21 bacteria; Journal of Essential Oil Bearing Plants, 2004, vol 7 issue 1 p 79-86
- Sharifi-Rad, J., Sureda, A., Tenore, G.C., Daglia, M., Sharifi-Rad, M., Valussi, M., Tundis, R., Sharifi-Rad, Ma., Koizzo, M.R., Ademiluyi, A.D., Sharifi-Rad, R., Ayatollahi, S.A., Iriti, M.; Biological Activities of Essential Oils: From Plant Chemoecology to Traditional Healing Systems: Molecules 2017 Jan; 22(1): 70 Published online 2017 Jan 1.doi: 10.3390/molecules22010070 PubMed
- Swamy, M.K., Akhtar, M.J., Simon, U.R.; Anti Microbial Activity of Six Essential Oils Against Human Pathogens and Their Mode of Action (an updated review); Evidenced Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2006; 2016:3012462
- Varga A., Acimo, M., Starkouic J., Cvetkovic, M.; Anti microbial properties of essential oils from wild and cultivated carrot seed; (Conference Paper) 2016: Research Gate
- Wang, H., Song., L., Ju, W., Wang, X., Dong, L., Zhang, Y., Ya, P., Yang, C., Li, F. (2017) The acute airway inflammation induced by PM2.5 exposure and the treatment of essential oils in Balb/c mice. Scientific Reports. 7:44256. https://www.ncbi.nlm.gov./pmc/articles/PMC5343586/
- Wei, L.S., Wee, W., Chemical composition and anti microbial activity of citronella essential oil against systemic bacteria of aquatic animals; Iran Journal of Microbiology 2013 Jun: 5(2): p 147-152; PubMed PMC 3696851
- Bowles, J. E. (2000) The Basic Chemistry of Aromatherapeutic Essential Oils: E. J Bowles, Sidney, Australia
- Clarke, S. (2002) Essential Chemistry for Safe Aromatherapy: Churchill Livingstone, Edinburgh
- Godfrey, H. D. (2019) Essential Oils for the Whole Body: The dynamics of topical application: Healing Arts Press, Rochester, Vermont USA
- Svoboda, K. P., Svoboda, T. G. (2000) Secretory Structures of Aromatic and Medicinal Plants: A review and atlas of micrographs: Microscopix Publications, Powys UK
- Tisserand, R., Young, R. (2014) Essential Oil Safety: A guide for Health Care Professionals 2nd ed: Churchill Livingstone, Elsevier, Edinburgh
- Valnet, Dr. J. (1980) The Practice of Aromatherapy: C.W. Daniel Co. Ltd., Saffron Walden UK
- Vasey, C. (2018) Natural Antibiotics and Antivirals: 18 Infection-Fighting Herbs and Essential Oils: Healing Arts Press, Rochester, Vermont USA
- Williams, D. G. Williams (2006) The Chemistry of Essential Oils: an introduction for aromatherapists, beauticians, retailers, and students: Micelle Press, Dorset England