I have to admit that I have been pretty paralyzed by fear and anxiety these past few weeks as COVID-19 very rapidly makes its way in my general direction. My overall production levels have decreased at an equally alarming rate as I obsess over the news and go over worst-case scenarios in my head. My hands are raw and I have developed contact dermatitis from spraying them with 99% isopropyl alcohol for days on end, for lack of any available hand sanitizers. Although, this is how I have always sanitized my hands in the lab during production….so why the hell am I having a problem with it now after over 23 years? Hmm…maybe its stress…maybe my immune system is taking a time out.
Being in the field of Aromatherapy for over 23 years and being a “go to” for many for aromatic advice, I often forget to take a spoonful of my own medicine:
Step one: Take any and all steps necessary to reduce stress
Step two: Support the immune system
Allow me to break down how our immune system works.
Our immune system is what protects us from the host of germs that we encounter every single day. When our immune system is strong and healthy, we are also strong and healthy. However, when our immune system is weakened, we end up sick. Everyone knows this. It’s not rocket science.
Our bodies host two main types of immunity, our innate immune system and our acquired or adaptive immune system.
Our innate immune system is our first line of defense against pathogenic invaders. Our innate immunity comes from different cells in our body including white blood cells, neutrophils and natural killer cells. It also encompasses our skin, respiratory tract, genitourinary tract and gastrointestinal tract.
Our skin has a natural acid mantle that consists of a thin layer of oil and sweat. It functions to decrease the pH of our skin, which protects it and makes it inhospitable to many pathogens. Keeping our skin healthy and hydrated is the first step to keeping our immune system strong. Obsessively spraying your hands with 99% isopropyl alcohol to the point of making your hands break out in a rash is obviously something to avoid. I think I’ve learned my lesson. I wish my past self would have listened to my future self on this one.
The digestive, respiratory, and genitourinary tracts all have mucous membranes within them. These membranes trap pathogens before they can enter areas of the body where they can cause infection. The variety of cells that are part of the innate immune system function by releasing chemicals that kill bacteria, engulfing pathogens to keep them from invading other body cells, detoxing foreign substances out of the body and destroying invading pathogens. They are also responsible for inflammation and fevers, as these are the body’s natural defense mechanisms against illness.
Unfortunately, infection is sometimes able to outrun our innate immune systems despite its best efforts. Lack of sleep or exercise, and poor diet can all contribute to weakening our immune systems, thus allowing infection to invade and ultimately, make us sick.
Luckily, we have a secondary defense, which is known as our adaptive immunity. In adaptive immunity, cells from the lymphatic system will organize themselves against the invader and defeat the pathogen. At the same time, they also prepare themselves in case the pathogen would try to invade the body again. Our acquired, or adaptive immune system has memory cells that remember the pathogen and will respond quickly if the pathogen were to try invading the body again. I love this about our bodies. It’s like we have our own protective super powers.
If our adaptive immune system is the hero, then stress is most certainly the villain. Stress plays an enormous role in our immunity. If we’re under too much stress, the life span of our immunity cells become severely shortened and they are not made as quickly, communication between the cells is disrupted. When this happens, our immune systems end up being negatively affected and are unable to fight off pathogens as quickly or as effectively as they should.
A field called psychoneuroimmunology studies the relationships between our emotions, nervous systems, endocrine systems and immune systems and has found a very strong link between stress and disease. I think I can safely say that we are collectively feeling the “stress” of the current global situation that is unfolding at an alarming rate.
Essential oils can be extremely valuable tools for dealing with stress in these turbulent times. They also do a great job of supporting our immunity by super charging our immune system, supporting lymphatic movement (lymph helps remove pathogens from the body), eliminating pathogens from the air, and by generally enhancing our vitality. For those of you who are still on the aroma fence and not quite sure if essential oils are the right tools for you, here is something of value to note:
Unlike antibiotics, our bodies do not get used to essential oils. Essential oils are biotic; they sustain and restore the body’s natural balance. The plant materials that are used to obtain the oils are always a little bit different, so we don’t run into tolerance issues if we do get sick. Also, essential oil molecules are small enough to enter virus cells, so instead of just having to wait a virus out, we can do something about it.
Let me be perfectly clear here…COVID-19 is a beast of a virus and by no means am I saying that using essential oils is going to stop it in its tracks. There has not been sufficient time to study how or if essential oils can combat COVID-19. I am talking about taking preventative and precautionary steps to give our selves a fighting chance.
There are quite a large variety of oils for us to choose from.
Oils to help decrease stress:
Basil, Bergamot, Chamomile, Cedarwood, Clary Sage, Frankincense, Geranium, Jasmine, Lavender, Lemon, Marjoram, Melissa, Neroli, Orange, Petitgrain, Rose, Rosemary, Rosewood, Sandalwood, Tangerine, Vetiver and Ylang Ylang.
Essential Oils that Support Immune Function:
Cardamom, Eucalyptus, Fir, Frankincense, Grapefruit, Juniper Berry Laurel, Lavender, Lemon, Lemongrass, Pine Scots, Ravintsara, Ravensara, Rosalina, Spruce, and Peppermint.
Essential Oils that promote lymph movement:
Juniper, Grapefruit, Cypress, and Lemon
Cypress, Grapefruit, Fennel, Geranium, Juniper, Lemon (will help eliminate excess waste), and Rosemary.
Strong Antiseptic/Antibacterial oils:
Bergamot, Citronella, Eucalyptus, Juniper, Lavender, Lemon, Lemongrass, Orange, Peppermint, Petitgrain, Pine, Rosemary, Sandalwood, and Tea Tree.
Strong Air Purifiers: Lemon, Lime, Orange, Tea tree, Thyme, Niaouli, Grapefruit, Eucalyptus.
Methods of Application:
You can combine 3 or 4 of these oils and add to a nebulizer and diffuse at 20-30 minute intervals through out the day, or add 10-15 drops to a tablespoon (15 ml) of carrier oil and use as your morning and nighttime body moisturizer.
Here are some suggestions to ease stress and support your body through these uneasy times.
Body Oil for Lymphatic Movement & Stress
15 ml of Organic Jojoba
3 drops Juniper, 3 drops Grapefruit, 5 drops Cypress and 4 drops Lemon
Apply this morning and night.
Antibacterial & Stress Blend for the diffuser
7 drops Bergamot, 4 drops Eucalyptus, 4 drops Lavender
Try diffusing this 3 or 4 times throughout the day for about 20 minutes at a time.
Feeling paralyzed by fear has not been helpful. Obsessively reading everything and anything about COVID-19 has not been helpful either. I’m so done with that. Instead, I’m going to use this time to care for myself and my family. I’m going to spend my time finishing the plethora of courses that I’ve stared, but most importantly, I’m going to gently remind myself when I start to go into a full-blown panic attack that I have my essential oil allies to turn to. They will help. They always do.
*I would be remiss if I didn't mention that it is always a good idea to read about the oils that you are choosing and make certain you are informed about any safety precautions that may apply to you or someone in your family. Stay safe out there.
Yours in love and aromatics
Leah Morgan CCAP
Serafino, Annalucia, et al. Stimulatory Effect of Eucalyptus Essential Oil on Innate Cell-Mediated Immune
Response. 18 Apr. 2008, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2374764/.
Serafino, Annalucia, et al. “Stimulatory Effect of Eucalyptus Essential Oil on Innate Cell-Mediated
Immune Response.” BMC Immunology, BioMed Central, 18 Apr. 2008,