Fighting Off Colds & the Flu With Essential Oils

By Nyssa Hanger , MA, LMT, RYT

Fighting Off Colds & the Flu With Essential Oils

By Nyssa Hanger , MA, LMT, RYT

We can't prevent colds and the flu from happening around us, but we can prevent them from spreading. Between clients who don't quite know they're coming down with something or co-workers with kids who are sick, we'll inevitably encounter an opportunity to come down with something this winter. Though our job requires us to be in close contact with other people, there are many things we can do to prevent the spread of colds and the flu.

Let's start with what we have in our massage oils, creams, or lotions. Adding essential oils to these can be beneficial to our sessions in so many ways (see my previous article, "It's Okay to Be Selfish ... With Aromatherapy"). In this case, we can use anti-infectious essential oils to help keep germs at bay. Many of our great anti-infectious oils can be on the irritant side, so we'll focus on ones that are effective yet still safe to use on the skin. Luckily, there are many oils we can choose from. Here are my top three for when there seems to be something going around: Eucalyptus, Bergamot and Lavender.


The most commonly used species of Eucalyptus is Eucalyptus globulous. This is a tree native to Australia that's known for its cough-medicine-like scent. It's a wonderful tonic for the respiratory system, as it can both heal thin mucous and expel it from the lungs. It might help with clogged sinuses as well. Eucalyptus is also anti-infectious, so it can help prevent the development of respiratory or other cold/flu symptoms.


Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) is a citrus oil from the peel of the Bergamot fruit. You might recognize its aroma from Earl Grey Tea. In addition to offering anti-infectious qualities and an affinity for the respiratory system, this oil also balances the emotions. It's been helpful in cases of depression and anxiety, and its uplifting nature is undoubtedly part of that. Be aware, however, that Bergamot is phototoxic. Use with caution when applying to skin that will see the light of day (or a tanning bed) within 12 hours. Some Bergamot has had the phototoxic components removed (labeled as bergapten-free or FCF); I'd recommend seeking these out for skin applications.


There are several species of Lavender, but the most popular is Lavandula angustifolia. Lavender is one of the most beloved essential oils because it's so universally healing. It's a wonderful companion to massage because it has many properties that assist this modality. It helps relieve pain and inflammation, while it also eases the mind and decreases stress. What's more, it can help fight colds and the flu. Even if you're not a big fan of Lavender (see my previous article, "Beyond Lavender"), adding a touch to your blend can help keep you and your clients healthy.

Make a massage blend with any one or more of these oils. Use 15 drops total per ounce of unscented oil, cream, or lotion of your choosing. You can also make a blend of these oils to use, or try them together in a diffuser. Here's a suggested recipe (use in 1 oz. of carrier oil or in a diffuser):

  • 2 drops of Eucalyptus
  • 3 drops of Lavender
  • 5 drops of Bergamot

Feel free to vary this recipe according to your liking.

If you feel like you need to take a little more preventative action, try making yourself a blend to use on your chest and throat. After applying this blend (in a carrier), rub your hands together and take some deep breaths. You can use this at the end of your work day as well as before bedtime. Combine this with the other practices you have for preventing colds, and you should be on a healthy path this winter—so you can keep serving the clients you love to serve.