Essential Oils For Colds [Top 22] & How To Use

woman with a cold

It’s about that time of year when those pesky cold symptoms start to show themselves… oh what’s that you say? It happens all year round?

It’s true – colds can be caught just about anytime, and the runny noses, sneezing, sore throats, lung congestion, aches, pains, and exhaustion can be overwhelming. There are many traditional and pharmaceutical remedies out there for cold relief, but what really shines at prevention, symptom management, and stress relief, are essential oils.

 Using Essential Oils For Colds

While it can sometimes work to take over the counter medicine, there is something lackluster about the process of popping a couple pills to suppress symptoms.

Lavishing oneself with essential oil treatment not only provides fast symptom
relief but adds an element of sweet self care that nourishes a weary, cold-ridden soul. And you certainly deserve some real TLC!

22 Best Essential Oils For Colds

1. Frankincense (Boswellia caterii)

Frankincense is great for respiratory issues, including persistent coughs. Frankincense essential oil has remarkable rejuvenating and healing properties and has a naturally calming scent that helps the nervous system to relax.

It is antiseptic, astringent, anti-inflammatory and expectorant, which makes it an ideal essential oil for treating a cold or the flu. Frankincense is also useful for reducing anxiety which can help with the stress, worry and sleeplessness that can accompany a cold.

 2. Basil (Sweet) (Ocimum basilicum)

Sweet basil reduces stress and anxiety, making it a great ally for when you’re down and out with a cold, and worried about how you’re going to catch up on all that missed time. As far as cold symptoms, basil is best used to address severe bronchial coughs and congestion.

Topical application of basil essential oil is great for fatigued or sore muscles and joints and is especially helpful for fighting fatigue when applied to the soles of the feet or diffused into your home.

Its anti-inflammatory properties help to relieve swelling and pain. Inhalation or diffusion of basil essential oil helps to promote clear breathing and reduce congestion.

3. Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea)

Clary sage is a potent oil with a wide variety of healing properties that can help with the common cold. Clary sage is antidepressant, anticonvulsive, antispasmodic, antiseptic, astringent, antibacterial carminative, digestive, emmenagogue, hypotensive, nervine, sedative and stomachic.

When the exhaustion of fighting a cold gets you worn down, clary sage is amazing for its rejuvenating qualities. Confusion, fatigue, and grogginess will be quickly eased with a simple diffusion or topical application of this essential oil.

Note: It is a strong sedative! Use caution and do not mix with alcohol.

4. Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus)

Eucalyptus is a powerful ally to combat congestion and respiratory issues, making it a helpful remedy to ease chesty coughs and sneezing, and to facilitate deeper breathing. Diffusing this oil with a simple vapor diffuser or taking a eucalyptus herbal bath will clear up your airways and free up your breath in a flash.

This essential oil is made up of about 72% eucalyptol – otherwise known as 1,8 cineole – a powerful anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and analgesic (pain-relieving) plant constituent.

Eucalyptus is also an amazing essential oil to boost concentration and focus, which can be a huge relief after days on end of tired, foggy head. When you’ve been sick for a week and need support to get at least a few small things done, or to focus enough to distract yourself with a good book, eucalyptus is a great choice.

5. Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens)

Cypress essential oil is naturally antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory. It’s a tried and true remedy, as these trees belong to one of the oldest plant families on the earth ─ the Cupressaceae, which is some 17 million years old.

Due to its antispasmodic qualities, cypress is useful to soothe irritating coughs and minor chest discomfort.

Cypress is an excellent essential oil for colds and flu relief because of its anti-toxic, anti-infectious effect, which helps to kill off harmful bacteria that contribute to colds.

6. Cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum)

Cinnamon essential oil shines at remedying a sore throat. Cinnamon essential oil has anesthetic, antiseptic, antimicrobial and antioxidant properties making it an ideal essential oil for colds and flu relief.

It has also been used for centuries to help digestive, circulatory and immune-deficiency problems. So, if you want to prevent a cold in the first place, load up on cinnamon. Once you’ve been hit with the cold, rely on cinnamon to relieve pain and inflamed tissues, especially those in the throat.

7. Clove (Syzygium aromaticum)

Clove essential oil is antimicrobial, antifungal, antiseptic, antiviral, and stimulating. Clove has been historically used as an analgesic – with a history of easing toothache by simply chewing on the cloves.

It remains a powerful pain-relieving remedy today. Clove oil is used for treating a variety of cold symptoms including coughs, headache, aching muscles, stress, blood impurities and asthma.

8. Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia)

Tea tree essential oil is, first and foremost, stimulating for the immune system, which is so necessary when fending off and/or healing from a cold. It is strongly antiseptic, antiviral, and antimicrobial. Tea tree is useful for soothing cold sores, and is also great for diminishing coughs, bronchial congestion and sore throats.

Tea tree essential oil is also a powerful natural disinfectant, so you can use it to kill germs on surfaces and in the air as a way of preventing colds or cleansing a space after your household has been sick.

9. Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

Thyme is antiviral, decongestant, energizing and antidepressant which makes it a perfect, well-rounded essential oil for fighting colds. It’s great at addressing upper respiratory issues like congestion, coughs, and sneezing.

Thyme is also useful at fighting fatigue and is a natural stress reliever, so when you’ve been feeling run down by your sickness, use a little bit of thyme to get you going again.

10. Sweet Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)

Sweet fennel is anti-inflammatory, purifying, analgesic (especially when treating abdominal pain), and good at clearing respiratory congestion. It’s especially good at easing bronchitis-like symptoms of cold and flu.

If you’re experiencing intestinal issues during your cold, sweet fennel promotes gastrointestinal mobility. If in your pursuit of cold relief, you’ve found that over-the-counter pain relievers wreak havoc on your stomach, sweet fennel is a good antidote to those symptoms.

11. Ginger (Zingiber officinale)

Ginger is antiviral, anti inflammatory, stimulating, analgesic, and antibacterial, which makes it useful at killing infections. Ginger is helpful in reducing aches and pains, and for easing a stomach upset that may accompany your cold.

Fresh ginger is very warming and helps so fight viral infections by slightly raising the body temperature which makes it harder for viruses to survive. This quality makes it useful in helping to break a fever.

As an expectorant, ginger is also useful for clearing mucus from there throat and lungs and is used to soothe symptoms of bronchitis and asthma, as well as colds.

Most significantly though, this essential oil is great at fighting fatigue, energizing the system, and helping you get out of bed when you’ve hit the point of being so over the phase of sickness that has you in bed all day.

12. Grapefruit (Citrus paradise)

Grapefruit essential oil is diuretic, disinfectant, stimulant, antidepressant, antiseptic and lymphatic. It helps stimulate the movement of fluids in the body, which supports healing during a cold. Its antiseptic, disinfectant qualities also help root out the bacteria that feeds the cold in the first place.

Additionally, grapefruit can detoxify, clarify, and ease nervous exhaustion affiliated with a cold. This is another great oil to add to your regime to both soothe stress and lift your spirits when you’re feeling down in the dumps.

13. Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)

Lavender is anti-inflammatory, anti anxiety, nervine, analgesic, slightly sedative, and anti depressant. It is a powerful ally to relax both the respiratory and nervous systems. It relaxes your muscles, helps with headaches, and can help relieve the overall bodily aches and pains associated with a common cold.

Lavender oil is particularly useful for respiratory ailments and symptoms such as chest and sinus congestion, coughs and the breathing problems that arise when phlegm is trapped within the lungs and sinuses.

Additionally, it’s nervine, stress-reducing characteristics make it a top choice to create a sense of soothing calm in the midst of uncomfortable sickness.

14. Lemon (Citrus limonum)

Lemon essential oil is antibacterial, antioxidant, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory, so it’s a great oil to help fight viruses, and reduce cold and flu symptoms like coughing, congestion, swollen glands and bodily aches and pains.

Lemon oil is an amazing decongestant and is effective at clearing the nasal passages, as well as purifying the air in your space so that you can breathe easier. It’s fresh, invigorating scent  helps to energize your body, fight fatigue and lift your spirits even when you’re feeling down and out in the midst of a cold.

Add this drop of sunny oil to your diffuser while you’re feeling sick, and notice an immediate boost of well-being that will help get you through the stress of sickness.

15. Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus)

Lemongrass essential oil has analgesic, antimicrobial, antiseptic, astringent, bactericidal, deodorant, diuretic, fungicidal, and sedative properties which make it a perfect essential oil for fighting off the symptoms and root cause of colds.

It has been traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine to help to lower fevers and calm the nervous system. Traditional Chinese Medicine also recommends lemongrass to relieve headaches, muscle and stomach pains, and colds.

16. Cedarwood (Cedrus atlantica)

Cedarwood is a great expectorant that helps ease coughs, reduce phlegm and runny noses, and loosen up congested airways. It can also help with watery eyes. This oil has sedative qualities that help you sleep in the moments of tossing and turning with cold symptoms.

Cedarwood is also a diuretic, so will help to purify the system by clearing toxins through urination. Additionally, this essential oil has a calming effect on the mind and nervous system. Breathe in the neutral, earthy, woodsy scent of cedar wood, and find yourself calm in the midst of the storm.

17. Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

Rosemary essential oil is antimicrobial, antibacterial, expectorant, analgesic, and antiseptic. It’s good for relieving cold and flu symptoms, as well as for speeding up the killing off of bacteria and virus, and stimulating the immune system back to health post sickness. It is a warming oil that reduces aches and pains and aids in circulation, which will off relief on the most sore of days.

Rosemary is great at breaking up lung and chest congestion and is a good choice to mix with a carrier oil and massage on your chest, cheeks and nose to ease breathing. It is also one of the oils that helps with your mental health while sick, so taking an inhale of this oil will bring more focus and alertness into even the foggiest brain.

Avoid during pregnancy, if epileptic, have high blood pressure or suffer from issues of psychosis.

18. Peppermint (Mentha piperita)

Peppermint essential oil has a high concentration of cooling menthol, which makes it great for cold relief symptoms, especially of the respiratory system. It relieves congestion and stuffed up noses and airways. A simple inhale from the bottle does wonders to ease and open the breath.

This oil also restores energy to a tired body, enhances positivity and aids stress reduction. It helps improve concentration and focus as well.

If you’re feeling achy, peppermint essential oil has a mild warming effect that can feel great on sore muscles. Simply add to a carrier oil and massage where there is pain.

19. German Chamomile (Matricaria recutica/chamomilla)

German Chamomile is a gentle and soothing essential oil for colds and flu, which makes it a great option for children and pregnant women (not during the first 16 weeks of pregnancy). This oil will help reduce tension and pain from headaches and other body pains. A simple massage, warm compress, oil-infused bath, or diffusion can bring the relaxing effects fast.

20. Oregano (Origanum vulgare)

Oregano essential oil is antiviral, antibacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-parasitic. It is powerfully healing, and some studies have shown it to be as effective as antibiotics.

This oil is excellent for sore throats, and dramatically reduces symptoms of upper respiratory ailments including coughs and congestion.

21. Sandalwood (Santalum album)

Sandalwood is astringent, antiviral, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory. This grounding and earthy essential oil is a natural expectorant that waters down the mucus, making it easier to flush it from the system. A diffusion, steam inhalation or vapor rub with sandalwood essential oil is a great way to benefit from its expectorant properties.

Sandalwood essential oil is a natural, mild sedative and nervine, which makes it great for easing mental stress and burnout.

22. Thieves

(a powerful combination of several of the above essential oils: Clove, Lemon, Cinnamon, Eucalyptus, and Rosemary.)

Anti-bacterial, anti-infectious, anti-viral and antiseptic properties and is known to aid in eliminating symptoms from colds and flu quickly. It works wonders in combating chest congestion, stuffy noses, sore throats, and reducing fever.

Essential Oil Recipes For Colds

Recipe Suggestion For Respiratory Issues

  • 1 drop peppermint
  • 1 drop eucalyptus
  • a cotton pad

Place the oils  onto a cotton pad and keep near you (in your pocket, under your pillow, in the car), to alleviate congestion and open your airways.

This is an easy, effective way to address respiratory symptoms of colds – coughs, congestion, and trouble breathing.

Inhalation is a great alternative when topical use is contraindicated, for example, during the first 16 weeks of pregnancy.

Massage For Aching Muscles

  • 2 drops basil
  • 2 drops lavender,
  • 2 drops lemongrass
  • 3 tbsp. jojoba oil

Follow massage directions above. If you can find a professional or a loved one to give you a massage while sick (after the point of being contagious has passed), please do! Touch from another can be even more healing than self massage.

Some other great essential oil choices for achy muscles are: basil, lavender, lemongrass, clove, German chamomile, peppermint, and ginger.

Soothing Inflamed Nasal Tissues And Easing Congestion

In a glass bowl, or a pot on the stove, place 2 cups of hot, steaming water. Add:

  • 4 drops cedarwood
  • 3 drops rosemary
  • 3 drops thyme
  • 2 drops eucalyptus

Place your face over the bowl/pot and put a towel over your head to trap the steam. Take care that the temperature of the steam does not burn you.

Breathe deeply over the steam for 5 minutes at a time. Repeat as often as necessary, gently blowing your nose as needed to remove loosened phlegm.

Disinfectant Spritzer

Another lovely way to diffuse oils into the atmosphere is be using a spritzer.

  • 3 oz water
  • 3 oz witch hazel
  • 2 drops rosemary
  • 2 drops lemongrass
  • 2 drops tea tree

Place everything in a spray bottle, swirl to mix and spritz away! This can be a great way to disinfect surfaces that may be contaminated when your household is sick. Shake before spraying.

Congestive Cough Calming

  • 2 drops cedar wood
  • 2 drops eucalyptus
  • 2 drops sandalwood
  • 1/4 cup Epsom salt
  • 1 cup of warm water.

In a bowl, blend the ingredients well.  Dip a cloth into the water and wring out. Place cloth around neck, on forehead, or directly on chest or upper back. Inhale as deeply as possible, periodically blowing your nose and allowing coughing to release mucus from the body.

Repeat as necessary until congestion clears, airway feel freer, and breath feels
more easeful.

Recipe Suggestion For Exhaustion And Fatigue


  • 3-4 drops ginger
  • 3 drops lemon
  • 3 drops grapefruit
  • 2 tbsp whole milk

Pour the blend into a warm or hot bath. Soak for 20 minutes.

It can also be really helpful to add a little meditation into your self care regimen.  Simply inhaling and exhaling slowly and deeply, while paying attention to the feeling of your breath, is beneficial. Slow, mindful breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system which is the aspect of the nervous system responsible for nourishing, healing, and regeneration of cells.

This bath/meditation combo is a great way to start the day when you’re over the hump of the worst of your sickness and transitioning back into having some days out of bed and in the world!

2 Power Blends For Overall Cold Symptom Relief

Here are 2 tried and true options that can can ambush that cold and have you feeling better in no time:

Cold Blend #1

  • 2 drops lemon
  • 4 drops eucalyptus
  • 5 drops rosemary
  • 4 drops peppermint
  • 3 drops cypress

Cold Blend #2

  • 5 drops rosemary
  • 4 drops frankincense
  • 4 drops cypress
  • 1 drop oregano
  • 2 drops peppermint

We recommend making a large batch of these blends (multiply number of drops by 5 or 10) so that you can then dole out a few drops at a time. Either of these blends can be used with any of the methods above, or to diffuse.

If you keep the proportions as are and want to apply the blends topically, then mix the blend with one cup of a carrier oil of your choice. If you want smaller amounts of topical oil to apply, then 1-2 drops of essential oil blend per tablespoon of carrier is enough.

When making your own blends, it is best to store them in a dark glass, tightly covered container, in a cool place.

 To Summarize

  • Essential oils are AMAZING at preventing and addressing symptoms of colds. Make sure to consult a doctor is symptoms persist for longer than 10 days, or become physically, mentally, or emotionally debilitating in any of the ways outlined in the When To See A Doctor section of the article.
  • Having essential oils on hand to take at the FIRST sign of a cold can help prevent or shorten the duration of the cold.

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