Essential oils are much more than just pleasant scents. Their healing properties range from healing cuts and wounds, soothing headaches, treating digestive issues and boosting the immune system. The ability to keep our immune systems healthy is especially important given the current global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Eighty percent of your immune system is located within the gut, which makes gut health an important part of overall immune health. As a general rule, the immune system gains strength in adulthood as, by this time, we have been exposed to more pathogens and developed more immunity.
A healthy immune system is able detect invaders such as bacteria, parasites and viruses as soon as they enter the body. The white blood cells (leukocytes and phagocytes) are responsible for detecting invaders and raising the alarm which results in multiplication of the white blood cells. These white blood cells launch an attack on the invaders by gobbling them up and also creating antibodies. Once an antibody has been produced, a copy remains in the body so that if the same antigen appears again, it can be dealt with more quickly.
There are many ways in which essential oils can boost the immune system. Carrasco et. al (2009) showed the increase of white blood cell activity in mice using clove essential oils. Duarte et. al. showed that eucalyptus essential increases phagocytic activity. And in another study by Mikail et.al. in 2003, Frankincense essential oil proved to be an immunostimulant. Citrus oils help to restore the balance to the immune systems and rosemary reduces inflammatory markers.
There are many essential oils that are in themselves antibacterial and antivirals and have the ability to kill off bacteria and viruses. For example tea tree oil, cinnamon, thyme and lemon essential oil.
Apart from using essential oils to boost the immune system directly and as antibacterials and antivirals, essential oils can also aid on other areas that together contribute to a healthy immune system. For example, using lavender for better sleep, camomile to treat anxiety, ginger and peppermint for digestion and geranium to help balance our hormones.
Article by: Dr. Carolyn Goh
Integrated Health Consultant,
BEng., MSc., PhD (DIC)., MBBS