Essential oils do so much more than cover up a funky smell. 

They are known to have a calming effect on the body and mind, promoting better sleep hygiene and lower levels of stress and anxiety.

A number of studies have been done that prove the efficacy of essential oils and their use in aromatherapy to promote a strong immune system, although studies done on humans are still limited.

Here’s what we know so far.

What are essential oils?

According to a study by the National Library of Medicine (NLM), essential oils are highly concentrated, aromatic volatile oils of plant origin with numerous chemical constituents that are extracted by steam distillation, hydro-diffusion, or pressure.

Essential oils are complex substances and a single essential can contain up to 400 different compounds.

For this reason, it’s important to consult with your doctor before using them for health purposes, particularly if you are currently on any medication, if you have a pre-existing condition, or if you are pregnant.

What is aromatherapy?

According to the same study, aromatherapy is a field of complementary medicine that uses essential oils to treat and prevent diseases through several methods of administration: Usually topical, massage, inhalation, or oral. 



Benefits of essential oils


How do essential oils affect your immune system?

Essential oils have the power to adjust the behaviour of the immune system, through the process of immunomodulation. 

The process of immunomodulation can stimulate certain parts of the immune system, increase the activity of certain immune cells and it can disturb pathways connected to inflammation.

The top 4 essential oils to promote a strong immune system

1. Eucalyptus

Eucalyptus has been used to treat colds and cases of flu for generations. Eucalyptus is particularly useful for coughs and ailments linked to respiratory infections. 

A study that dates back to 2008 shows how eucalyptus essential oils enhance the process of phagocytosis, which is the process whereby the immune cells devour germs.

2. Cloves

Cloves are known for their anti-inflammatory properties, but they also contain antioxidants and can be used to ease pain and heal wounds too. 

Cloves have the ability to lower levels of inflammation in the body and can increase proteins and antibodies in the immune system.

A recent study on mice that dates back to 2021, showed how cloves essential oil lowered levels of bacteria and healthier small and large intestines, overall.

3. Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is predominantly used for skin ailments and respiratory issues. 

Concentrated tea tree oil in aromatherapy practices has been proven to reduce the levels of inflammation in the body.

4. Lavender

Lavender is mostly known by the insomniac community for its ability to help one get good, quality rest. It is also anti-inflammatory, and anti-microbial, and helps to reduce stress.

In 2017, a study was conducted on 52 pregnant women, whereby one was a control group and another had aromatherapy massages using lavender essential oil. The group using lavender essential oil had higher levels of IgA, which is a marker of immune function – the higher the levels of IgA, the healthier the immune system. 


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Featured image: Unsplash

Originally written for Woman&Home Magazine.