How to Use Essential Oils for Sore Throats and Colds

Oct 2020

6 mins read

Isn’t nature wonderful? A phrase I have heard my whole life. Plants, herbs and succulents grow in abundance all over the world, and the use of plant powers for medicinal benefits stems back to the early stages of civilisation. Back in the day, do you think it was as easy to get a quick doctor’s appointment as it is today?

The term aromatherapy was not used until the 20th century, by the discovery of the medicinal properties of essential oils by the French chemist Rene Maurice Gattefosse. To this day, essential oils are used for the treatment of ailments, and aromatherapy is practised all over the world. More and more people are practising alternative healing and disease prevention by including these miracle workers in their daily lives.

How to use essential oils?

1. Topically

Essential oils in their pure form are fat- or oil-soluble. That means when they are applied to the skin or body, they are easily absorbed into the bloodstream. Essential oils should never be applied directly to the skin and always mixed into a carrier, like a cream, oil, or gel before application. Along with never being used directly on the body, essential oils should never be ingested.

2. Diffusing

Aromatherapy diffusers are ideal for cleansing and purifying the air. When the correct essential oil or blend of oils are used, they help to kill bacteria in an area, and act as a natural freshener. Aromatherapy diffusers disperse essential oils into the room with a water vapour, which is an effective way to impact a respiratory condition and allow for easier breathing.

3. Inhalation

The easiest way to use an essential oil is to simply open and inhale from the bottle. Not only can this be done straight from the bottle, essential oil can also be placed onto the hands, rubbed together, cupped around the nose, and deeply inhaled, although make sure not to touch the face when doing this.

4. Bath

Essential oils can be added directly to the bath, which will function both as an a-topical and inhalation method. When feeling a cold coming along, grab some fresh Eucalyptus, and tie it around your shower head. During the shower, the steam from the hot water releases vapour through the plant and is a great immune booster that will soothe the symptoms of the oncoming infection.

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5. Damp compress

A compress is a clean, damp, folded cloth that has been infused with essential oils and is then applied to the body. A warmer compress will help to open the chest, and the heat will soothe any pain or discomfort being experienced. The heat also allows for better penetration of the essential oils, and the warmth will also bring increased blood supply to an area, allowing the therapeutic benefits of the oil to be experienced a lot faster.

How to treat a sore throat with essential oils?

Essential oils can be thought of as the liquid version of a plant. They are very powerful extracts of pure plant form, so when using essential oils to treat a sore throat, the common cold, or the flu, make sure you are being cautious and safe. When applying essential oils topically, a person’s health, age and size are important considerations. It is always best to start with smaller amounts of essential oils more often than a greater amount less often. A topical dose of essential oil can be repeated every 20 minutes in an acute case, or every 2-6 hours when needed.

Here are the recommended dilutions:

  • Babies: 0.3% dilution (1 drop of essential oil to 1 tablespoon carrier oil)
  • Children: 1.0% dilution (1 drop essential oil to 1 teaspoon carrier oil)
  • Adults: 2.0-4.10% dilution (3-6 drops essential oil to 1 teaspoon carrier oil)

Best essential oils for cold and flu


Eucalyptus, which is a fresh and clearing oil, is commonly used to treat the symptoms of colds and flu; it can be used on its own or blended with rosemary and peppermint. It is used for its antiviral, antibacterial and expectorant properties.

  • Congestion, cough, bronchitis, pneumonia: Apply topically to the chest area or diffuse into the surrounding area.
  • Sinusitis: Place into the palms of the hands and inhale or apply to the chest and feet and cover to keep warm.
  • Fever: Combine with peppermint and apply topically down the spine to reduce fevers.
  • Muscle fatigue and pain that might be experienced in the chest due to coughing: Dilute and gently massage over the area to ease overused muscles.


Lemon, which is a refreshing oil used for its antiseptic and antibacterial properties, can be blended with rosemary and peppermint to treat a sore throat or a cold.


Ginger is a warming oil that blends well with frankincense when treating the body for a cold or congestion. Warming oils also help to ease the pain in the throat. Ginger is a great anti-inflammatory and decongestant.


Thyme essential oil, which has a very similar composition and can be used interchangeably with tea-tree essential oil, is an expelling oil, that can also blend well with rosemary when treating a sore throat and is used for its antiviral and expectorant properties.

  • Congestion and mucous: Apply topically over the chest or diffuse to relieve the congestion.
  • Runny nose and allergies: Inhale or apply topically over the bridge of the nose to slow a runny nose.
  • Congestion and sinusitis: Apply topically and rub over the chest area and to the throat, or diffuse to relieve congestion.
  • Cold, flu and sore throat: Apply topically to the base of the feet to strengthen immunity.
  • Colds and flu: Diffuse into the air to support the immune system.
  • Chest pain and sore muscles: Combine with wintergreen and diffuse to sore muscles.


Frankincense, which has a woody smell to it, is another warming oil that can be blended when creating a remedy for your cold or congestion. Frankincense is an immunostimulant as well as an anti-inflammatory.

  • Congestion and cough: For gentle relief, inhale or apply topically with peppermint and rosemary to the chest area to open the respiratory passages.

All of these essential oils can be blended together, or a few more that can be added to your blends for their antibacterial, antiviral properties, immune support, decongestant, and expectorant properties are:

  • Tea-tree
  • Cinnamon
  • Rosemary
  • Peppermint
  • Cedarwood
  • Orange

So, to answer the question, yes, nature is wonderful. It provides us with all the plants that we can use the leaves, roots, flowers and stems, and create these amazing healers. Essential oils can be used to kill germs, reduce inflammation, and speed up healing. Although natural, essential oils if used incorrectly, can be dangerous, so if in doubt, always do a little bit of research.

If your sore throat, cold, chest infection or congestion persists for longer periods of time, it is always best to consult with a qualified medical practitioner.

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    Kerry Van Schoor

    I have a firm belief in the ever changing world of health and skin care, and always say I cannot stagnate in this field, I will always be far to young for that! Technological changes are constantly being discovered, studies on the skin as well as ingredients are continually being researched, and it is my vow to myself not to fall behind in this regard.