The Anti-Viral Actions of Essential Oils

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Antiviral Activity of Essential Oils and Their Application
(also see 'Essential Oils: Nature's Strongest Antivirals' on our weblog)

Essential oils from many plant families have demonstrated antiviral properties in laboratory and real-world settings. Interestingly, different plant families exhibit varying degrees of effectiveness depending on the virus strain. This is due to the particular molecular structures found in each type of oil, which penetrate physical entities to varying degrees (different tissues, cell walls, mucous membranes, etc). The effect on each virus strain depends also on the virus structure (enveloped, non-enveloped, molecular symmetry, etc).
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With this in mind, we've developed the Super Immune blend, specifically created as a potent, broad-spectrum antiviral formula.
This, or any essential oils on this page can be therapeutically utilized with a Nebulizing Diffuser (to release the oils into your surrounding air), applied topically to lymph nodes (on the sternum, groin, neck and armpits) or massaged into the lymph/respiratory meridians on the feet: the top and bottom of foot at the base of the toes (balls of the toes, and the tops of the feet in the same region).

Many of the abstracts on Pub Med, the database of the National Institute of Health for peer-reviewed journal articles, describe essential oils' activity as an excellent preventative measure (see
Use before exposure can lessen the potential of infection. This is the case for any type of virus, be it our 'regular' flu season in the U.S., or where one might be exposed to an uncommonly high infected population. In this case, some advanced practitioners would apply small amounts of oil several times a day to the neck and sternum, and may even ingest one or two drops of an anti-viral oil blend.

Enveloped viruses
are most sensitive to essential oils with a high amount of monoterpene alcohols
(e.g. Linalool, present in Lavender, Coriander, Petitgrain and Thyme c.t. Linalool. Citronellol present in Geranium and Rose Otto; Geraniol present in Palmarosa; alpha-terpinol found in Eucalyptus Radiata, Niaouli and Ravensara; Terpinol-4 present in Tea Tree, Hyssop and Marjoram; and Menthol, found in Peppermint and Spearmint) and monoterpine phenols (e.g. Carvacrol in Oregano, and Thymol in both Thyme and Oregano). Influenza (Flu) viruses are Enveloped viruses.

Non-enveloped, or 'naked' viruses
are more sensitive to essential oils with a high content of terpenoid ketones
(eg. Pinocamphone in Hyssop; Verbenone in Rosemary c.t. verbenone, Pinocarvone in Eucalyptus Globulus, and Thuja in Sage). (Note: Other oils and components have also demonstrated anti-viral effects; more constituents are described later in this article.)

Certainly, one of the reasons for oils' effectiveness en vivo is their lipophillic character - essential oils are easily absorbed into mammalian tissues, where they may produce the greatest results. In fact, when studying the anti-viral effects of essential oils, researchers found that normal cells seemed to acquire a special resistance to viral penetration, though the mechanism for this effect is not yet known.

Essential Oils and Flu or Influenza Viruses

It has been suggested by respected medical aromatherapists that essential oils have a powerful effect on the immune system, and can drastically alter our immune defenses to protect against the Influenza virus.
The pH and electrical resistance in the 'host' (infected) cells and tissues can be altered in such a way as to be unfavorable to virus replication. Further, research has shown that many of these oils raise chemical markers in the body which indicate positive stimulation of the immune system. Essential oils may provide a dual-protective effect: by increasing the strength and efficiency of our immune response AND by limiting the ability of viruses to replicate.

Topical application of essential oils is highly recommended for this application.
The oils are rapidly absorbed in the bloodstream, and can be found throughout the body in less than 20 minutes. An example may be the use of undiluted Niaouli, 20 drops or so, massaged into the sternum, or a 5% concentration of Thyme or Hyssop massaged onto the feet.

Because of the great variety of viruses and types of infection,
the lay-practitioner is challenged by discerning the type of virus being addressed. One can either create a blend of anti-viral oils to 'cover all the bases', or instead use oils known for their immunostimulant action. Oils that are considered immunostimulants: Frankincense, Bergamot, Rosemary Cineol, Eucalyptus Radiata ~ in addition, it is known that immune system cells have receptors for neurotransmitters. The implication is that a positive mental state will result in a stronger immune system, so any aromatherapy that is uplifting to the individual is recommended.

Melissa and the Herpes Virus

One of the Lamiaceae plants studied, Melissa (Melissa officinalis - also known as Lemon Balm), was shown particularly efficacious against the herpes virus (HSV). Doctor Dietrich Wabner, a professor at the Technical University of Munich, has even reported that application of Melissa oil led to a complete remission of HSV lesions. A cream medication for Herpes outbreaks, who's active ingredient is an extract of Melissa, is now sold in Germany under the name Lomaherpan. Use of Melissa essential oil itself may be just as effective - the oil can be applied directly to the lesions (or diluted to 10% in carrier if sensitivity is noted) to speed healing. Further occurrences can be prevented by applying oil to the area when sensations signal an eminent outbreak - repeating this protocol 3 or 4 times may cause total remission.

Other essential oils found effective against the Herpes virus include hyssop, bergamot, eucalyptus, lemongrass and tea tree. There are more than one variant of each Herpes Simplex virus, and the condition of each individual's immune system varies greatly. If one oil does not seem to be effective, another may be called for, or a blend can be made.

Additional Antiviral Components of Oils

The list of essential oils exhibiting antiviral effects is extensive:
Melissa (as above), tea tree, juniper, eucalyptus, thyme, palmarosa, lavender, rosemary, clove, laurel, cinnamon bark, anise, rose, lemongrass, geranium, neroli, bergamot, clary sage, and dill. The antiviral effect of an essential oil is due to particular components of the oil - some oils will work just as effectively on a particular infection as another, because they contain similar amounts of a certain component. The components of essential oils showing antiviral activity, and the oils in which they can be found, are as follows (from K. Schnaubelt, Ph.D. - Advanced Aromatherapy, p. 36):

Anethol - found in Anise
Alpha-Sabines - found in Tea Tree, Laurel, and other oils
Beta-Caryophyllene - found in Lavender, Rosemary, Thyme Linalool, and other oils
Carvone - found in Dill
Cinnamic aldehyde - found in Cinnamon Bark
Citral - found in Melissa, Lemongrass and other oils
Eugenol - found in Clove
Gamma-Terpinene - Found in Juniper, Eucalyptus, Niaouli, Tea Tree and other oils
Linalyl acetate - found in Clary Sage, Lavender, Bergamot and other oils

Limited In-Vivo Data

Good studies of application of these essential oils in cases of illness are difficult to come by, as infecting people with viruses in the laboratory to subsequently be treated with aromatics would be a difficult process at best. The oils and components above have mostly shown effectivenessin-vitro, though tests also indicate that the anti-viral effect should occur in-vivo as well. As with Melissa, it has been HSV that has been most thoroughly examined, because of the relative simplicity of doing so. But there is nothing particularly special about the herpes virus, and proper oil/pathogen paring should prove as effective.

There are some noted case studies by professional aromatherapists. Of importance in these studies is the oil/symptom relationship. Essential oils from plants of the Myrtaceae family - notably Eucalyptus Radiata and Tea Tree - and Ravensara (also high in Eucalyptol) seem to have helped in cases with respiratory symptoms. For the lower respiratory tract, Hyssop decumbens (from the same plant family as Melissa) has been of interest. Essential oils for such cases may be used either in a diffuser, being taken at regular intervals, or through massage, diluted in a carrier oil.


Because of the difficulty in many cases of illness in determining the exact virus type involved, more specific application cannot be given. Certainly, in cases of HSV, Melissa has been shown effective in a number of studies. For respiratory infections, Flu (Influenza), Eucalyptus and Ravensara have been used with success, and can be safely used as an adjunct to regular medical care. Hyssop is considered the single most broad-spectrum antiviral. All oils may support one's recovery on a physiologic level - essential oils also play a part in uplifting emotions, which may also speed healing, or at least improve mental outlook during the healing process. For such instances, one may simply find the essential oil or combination that one finds pleasant, calming, and/or uplifting. PLEASE NOTE: In no cases, however, should self-treatment with essential oils be used in place of professional medical care where signs/symptoms of infectious illness are present.

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*The FDA has not evaluated the statements on this website. No claims are made as to any medicinal value of this oil. The information presented here is for educational purposes of traditional uses and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases.
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Essential oils considered to have potent antiviral action:

• Extensively researched as an HSV-1 and HSV-2 treatment. Some therapists suggest direct application; should be diluted if skin irritation occurs. May also be a potent
• Also studied for HSV-1, blended 50:50 with Tamanu for topical application. Also highly recommended for respiratory ailments.
Bay Laurel
• Found specifically to be active against the virus causing SARS.
Tea Tree
• A very well-researched oil for antiviral effects. Typically used for topical application, found effective against HSV.
• Considered by some aromatherapists to be the strongest immunostimulant essential oil.
Eucalyptus Radiata
• Results of studies show it can enhance the activity of the white blood cells - also an excellent anti-viral choice for the respiratory system.
• A very chemically complex oil with anti-viral action. Also traditionally used for respiratory ailments.
• A very wonderful all-purpose typically used as an anti-stress agent. Anti-viral properties; a good choice for all blends to improve their synergy (the ability of the oils in the blend to work together).

Antiviral essential oils from Ananda Apothecary

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