August 6, 2011
The Research on Antiviral Essential Oils - Plus: How We Use Them
Did you know there are hundreds of scientific studies demonstrating the anti-viral actions of essential oils? And that using these oils in support of your own health is really simple to do?* Here's a quick review of the research, and how we use essential oils to keep us healthy throughout the year...Yes, we'll get into a little bit of chemistry, but we'll keep it brief!
One of the great features of using essential oils therapeutically is the ease with which they get into our cells and our bloodstream. Because of their lipophillic ('fat-friendly') nature, essential oils pass through cell membranes, and make their way throughout our bodies when inhaled or used topically.
When you put essential oils on your throat, they pass through your skin to the lymph nodes in your neck. When inhaled, diffused essential oils penetrate the cells of your respiratory system - in the nose, sinuses, throat, bronchial tubes and lungs.
A search of pubmed.gov returns pages and pages of peer-reviewed studies, demonstrating the efficacy of essential oils as antiviral agents. A number of essential oils have been shown to have anti-viral activity, and these essential oils are rich in a class of molecules called 'monoterpines'. Linalool, the 'sweet' note in Lavender and a great many other oils is a monoterpine, which is effective in inactivating enveloped viruses (the virus which causes the flu each year is an enveloped virus).
Researchers have found that essential oils 'inactivate' viruses in one of two ways: by inhibiting their ability to replicate and/or inhibiting viruses' ability to fuse to cell walls and infect a host cell. What's important to us here is that the oils act directly on the viruses themselves. Many oils have also been shown to positively support our own immune system, enhancing its ability to ward off infecting microbes - essential oils thus provide two independent means of warding off illness from viral infection.
Another important discovery is that whole, natural essential oils are 10-times more effective in inactivating viruses than individual, isolated compounds from these oils. That is to say, Tea Tree essential oil is approximately 10 times more effective than terpinen-4-ol alone (the compound in Tea Tree thought to be the most active antiviral constituent). This has been the case for each oil studied, and has been shown to be true when essential oils have been researched for their antibacterial properties as well.
To keep well during the cooler months, when a cold or flu may be going around, we'll diffuse and topically apply our Super Immune blend. This is our combination of oils (all rich in monoterpines) that have demonstrated antiviral activity (the recipe includes Melissa, Bay Laurel, 'Benchmark' Thyme+, Hyssop, Ravensara, Pinus sylvestris, Lavender Tea Tree and Lavender). As there is no single essential oil that is most effective against all viruses, blending several highly-active antiviral essential oils together can provide us with the most effective 'broad-spectrum' formula.
(By the way, we're now offering a free 5ml bottle of Super Immune with the purchase of a nebulizing diffuser...check them out here.)
By inhaling these essential oils from a diffuser, we can get an active amount of these essential oils throughout our respiratory system, and even in our bloodstream. The effect we've noticed is that Ananda staff which regularly 'partakes' in use of the Super Immune blend rarely catch colds when they are going around our community. When diffusing isn't convenient, we'll also dab several drops of the oil on each wrist, and rub these on the neck, under the chin, for absorption by our lymph nodes. Being asked "who smells so good?!?" is an added bonus!
References: Schnitzler P, Schuhmacher A, et al. (2008) Melissa officinalis oil affects infectivity of enveloped herpesviruses. Phytomedicine. Sep;15(9):734-40.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18693101  Astani A, Reichling J, Schnitzler P. (2010). Comparative study on the antiviral activity of selected monoterpenes derived from essential oils. Phytotherapy Research.2010 May;24(5):673-9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19653195  Garozzo A, Timpanaro R, et. al. (2011). Activity of Melaleuca alternifolia oil on Influenza virus A/PR/8: study on the mechanism of action. Antiviral Research. Jan;89(1):83-8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21095205  Li X, Duan S, et al. (2013). Melaleuca alternifolia concentrate inhibits in vitro entry of influenza virus into host cells. Molecules. Aug 9;18(8):9550-66.
+ 'Benchmark' Thyme essential oil is a blend of pure essential oils distilled from 4 strains of Thymus zygis. Its chemical profile is similar to that of a blend of Tea Tree and Thyme essential oils, though much higher in terpinen-4-ol than Tea Tree alone.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to treat, cure, or prevent any disease.