9 Essential Oils for Treating Sore Throats

Medically reviewed by Debra Rose Wilson, PhD, MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT on October 10, 2017Written by Annette McDermott

 

Essential oils come from the leaves, bark, stems, and flowers of plants through steam or water distillation. They help to protect plants from predators, fungi, and bacteria. They also attract insects for pollination. In humans, essential oils may help kill germs, reduce inflammation, and speed up healing.

A sore throat is a painful condition that often makes it hard to swallow. It’s usually caused by either a viral infection, such as a cold or the flu, or a bacterial infection, such as strep throat.

There’s not a lot of research about the medical uses of essential oils. However, the studies that have been done suggest that essential oils may help with a sore throat.

It’s important to remember that essential oils are to be inhaled or diluted in oil and applied to the skin. When diluted in oil, essential oils can also be added to a bath. Ingestion of essential oils is not recommended, as some are toxic.

1. Thyme essential oil

According to a 2011 study, thyme essential oil has powerful antibacterial abilities against common antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. Thyme also reduces muscle spasms, so it may prevent coughing, which sometimes causes a sore throat.

2. Lavender

Lavender is known for its relaxing effect. A 2005 study found that lavender essential oil may also have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. These results are promising, but more studies are needed to confirm them.

3. Tea tree essential oil

According to a 2013 study, tea tree oil has powerful antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects against germs. It’s often used as an antiseptic for gum infections and other oral problems.

4. Cinnamon, wild carrot, eucalyptus, and rosemary essential oil blend

Sometimes an essential oil blend is more effective than a single oil. According to a 2017 study, a blend of cinnamon, wild carrot, eucalyptus, and rosemary essential oils has both antibacterial and antiviral properties. Researchers believe this blend could be a powerful treatment for both the flu and bacterial pneumonia, a common result of the flu.

5. Eucalyptus essential oil

Eucalyptus is often used as an antiseptic to treat colds, sore throats, and coughs. A 2011 study compared the antibacterial properties of different types of eucalyptus oil. Oils made from different parts of the plant had different chemical makeups.

Researchers found that all eucalyptus essential oils were antibacterial to some degree. Oil from eucalyptus fruit had the most antibacterial activity, even against some drug-resistant bacteria.

6. Lemon essential oil

A 2017 study found that lemon essential oil had strong antibacterial effects against the bacteria that cause listeria. This means it may also be effective against other types of bacteria that cause sore throats, but more research is needed to confirm this.

7. Peppermint essential oil

Peppermint contains menthol, the main ingredient used in many throat lozenges and cough drops used to treat sore throats. A 2015 study found that peppermint essential oil had antibacterial properties similar to those of the antibiotic gentamicin (Garamycin). Peppermint oil may also help reduce inflammation and relive pain.

8. Ginger essential oil

Ginger is best known for its soothing effect on the stomach, but it’s also a natural remedy for the common cold. According to Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects 2nd Edition, ginger has anti-inflammatory abilities that may help relieve throat pain.

9. Garlic essential oil

Garlic oil contains allicin, a compound with antiviral and antifungal properties. It may be especially helpful in treating sore throats caused by a virus. According to a 2014 study, garlic has antibacterial abilities against many types of bacteria.

How to use essential oils

The first step in using essential oils is choosing the right oil. Essential oils aren’t regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, making it hard to know what’s actually in them. When choosing essential oils, look for organic oils made by a company that’s part of the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy. The label should include the botanical information, country of origin, and distillation and expiration dates.

Once you’ve chosen an essential oil, there are several ways to use it for a sore throat:

  • Steam inhalation: Add up to 7 drops of essential oil to 2 cups of boiling water; cover your head with a towel, and inhale the steam through your nose. Keep your eyes closed to prevent eye irritation.
  • Direct inhalation: Add 2 or 3 drops of essential oil to a cotton ball; breathe deeply. You can also place the cotton ball next to your pillow as you sleep.
  • Diffusion: Add several drops of essential oil to a room diffuser. The diffused oil will help disinfect the air.
  • Topical application: Add up to 10 drops of essential oil to 2 tablespoons carrier oil, such as coconut or jojoba oil; apply it to the skin of your throat.

Do not ingest essential oils. Do not put them on your skin without diluting them first.

Warnings

Essential oils are natural, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be dangerous. Ingesting even a small amount of eucalyptus oil, for example, may cause seizures, according to The National Capital Poison Center.

Essential oils may also cause an allergic reaction. Get immediate medical help if you experience any of the following while using essential oils:

  • trouble breathing
  • itching
  • rash
  • rapid heart rate

Essential oils are more carefully considered if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, since not enough research has been done to determine if they’re safe. Some are known to cause problems.

Before using essential oils on babies and children, make sure you talk to a doctor or certified aromatherapist first. Many essential oils aren’t safe for children. A 2007 study, for example, showed that peppermint oil may cause breathing problems in children and jaundice in babies.

The bottom line

Essential oils are an alternative remedy for sore throat. Studies have shown that many essential oils have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral properties. Still, more research is needed to determine how effective they are. In the meantime, drinking a cup of warm peppermint or ginger tea with lemon and honey may be a safer way to enjoy the benefits of these plants.

Most sore throats will go away on their own, but som

Essential oils come from the leaves, bark, stems, and flowers of plants through steam or water distillation. They help to protect plants from predators, fungi, and bacteria. They also attract insects for pollination. In humans, essential oils may help kill germs, reduce inflammation, and speed up healing.

A sore throat is a painful condition that often makes it hard to swallow. It’s usually caused by either a viral infection, such as a cold or the flu, or a bacterial infection, such as strep throat.

There’s not a lot of research about the medical uses of essential oils. However, the studies that have been done suggest that essential oils may help with a sore throat.

It’s important to remember that essential oils are to be inhaled or diluted in oil and applied to the skin. When diluted in oil, essential oils can also be added to a bath. Ingestion of essential oils is not recommended, as some are toxic.

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