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HEALTH: Fight flu with punch-packing essential oils
Monday, 24 August 2009
by Ellen Cox

There’s a lot of it about…

Flu — it’s the plague of our times, constantly mutating to pose new threats and cause widespread panic. When it comes to staying flu-free, aromatherapy is a powerful weapon in your arsenal.

I was definitely surprised while reading Tim Severin’s ‘In Search of Genghis Khan’ (1989) to learn that the bubonic plague was still around. More recently there have been reports similar to this one: “On September 19, 2004, a woman from Ilbenkh in Mongolia was infected after skinning a marmot. The Mongolian government has declared a state of emergency in these, and surrounding areas. The State Disaster Protection Agency warns people not to hunt or eat marmots.” I must cancel the marmot hunt this weekend!

Age-old wisdom

Seriously though, throughout the ages virulent plagues have wreaked havoc and terror on the people and places they spread. Closer to home, the plague haunted Europe in the 14th and 15th centuries. It was a time of great superstition, and many considered that foul odours were responsible for the disease. Strong aromatic herbs and oils were used to mask the odours. It was also noted that comparatively few of those working in perfume houses in France became ill, which led on to early research regarding the anti-viral and anti-microbial actions of aromatic oils.

An infamous band of thieves were arrested in Marseille in 1413 and charged with robbing the dead and dying plague victims. None of the thieves contracted the highly contagious disease, and in a bid to secure leniency for their crimes they revealed their secret weapon to be a blend of cinnamon, clove, rosemary and eucalyptus, which they applied to their hands, ears and temples before ‘work’.

Modern scourge

Influenza appears to leap into our laps as soon as winter arrives, but it doesn’t suddenly hop off a plane to holiday here for the winter months. Our lifestyles alter during the colder months – we are in closer proximity to people indoors, with the central heating on, less activity and less fresh air. There is no medical evidence to suggest that our ability to ward of disease in the winter is diminished. However, with so many more bugs about, it is certain that our immune systems are putting in some overtime.

So, precautions are advisable, sensible and effective to inhibit the spread of infections. Bodies like the World Health Organisation issue standard precautionary information (for example, covering your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing, throwing used hankies into the bin, washing your hands thoroughly, avoiding touching your eyes, mouth and nose).

Hard-hitting oils

Aromatherapy oils have proven to be highly effective with regard to killing airborne bacteria and viruses. Burning or diffusing anti-bacterial and anti-viral aromatherapy oils is a positive step in the line of defense particularly for people working with the public, regularly flying, working in air-conditioned buildings and/or living in densely populated places.

The following oils have been researched for the above properties:

Hard Hitters

  • Cinnamon
  • Clove
  • Eucalyptus
  • Lemon
  • Lemongrass
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme

Applying a combination of these oils (try blending three at a time) will offer further protection. However, caution is required, as they could be potentially irritant to sensitive skin. I would therefore recommend applying these oils diluted in aloe vera gel to the feet (tougher skin than the body and very effective absorption). For an adult mix a total of ten drops of essential oil into 5ml (a teaspoon) of aloe vera gel and apply to both feet morning and evening. Larger quantities can be made for convenience — for example, add a total of 150 drops of essential oil to 100ml aloe vera gel (ten tablespoons).

Supporting immunity

Using essential oils regularly will help to support the immune system. The following oils are popular choices and potentially less irritant to the skin than the above-mentioned ‘big guns’.

Immune Boosters

  • German camomile
  • Geranium
  • Lavender
  • Tea tree
  • Ravensara

Dilute and add to the bath or apply to the feet.

The importance of using genuine, high-quality essential oils is paramount to efficacy and safety. It isn’t necessary to run out and buy all of the oils mentioned here, check what you already have and perhaps add one or two new ones.

Get Daisy’s Own Bandit's Blend, an adaptation from the Marseille thieves blend here.
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