AAA: How Do Antiviral Essential Oils Work?
Viruses are particles of genetic material that invade living cells and replicate within them. If you’ve ever had the flu, you know firsthand how these small particles can quickly become a big problem as they proliferate throughout the body. Recent events have caused people to think a lot about these particles and their effects, including those of us at EG. But as with all of life’s big questions, our answer is this: essential oils. In this case, antiviral essential oils.
When asking an aromatherapist “which essential oils are antiviral?” you’re likely to receive a few follow up questions. Namely, “which virus are you concerned with?” Because when it comes to antiviral essential oils, they’re not one-size fits all. If an essential oil is considered antiviral, it has likely only been shown to inhibit one type of virus and not all viruses. For example, Tea Tree oil has proven to be antiviral against H1N1 but not against a variety of other viruses, including polio 1, Coxsackie B1, HSV‐1 and more.
Furthermore, there are different stages of viral infection. Antiviral essential oils oftentimes are only effective against viruses at certain stages but not all stages. We’ll use Tea Tree again as our example. Tea Tree oil was shown to be useful in preventing viral uncoating of influenza (which inhibits viral replication) and to remove airborne influenza particles altogether when diffused, but was not useful in preventing cellular attachment of the virus (early stage of viral infection) nor did it inhibit neuraminidase activity (late stage of viral infection).
It’s also important to keep in mind the conditions in which essential oils are antiviral. Did the study show an essential oil was antiviral to happen in vitro or in vivo? If in vivo, was the study on humans or animals? Does antiviral activity occur when using a safe amount of essential oil for humans or is more EO needed than is generally recommended for human use? Etc.
So for those of you wishing to research antiviral essential oils, be sure to look up the specific virus you want to address and note which stage(s) of the viral infection the EO shows antiviral activity. Creating a supportive blend of oils that are antiviral at different stages of a viral infection is the best way to go about addressing the problem.