Boosting the immune system is a key aspect in the quest to stay healthy. In addition to a wholesome diet supplemented with herbs, nature offers another powerful way to strengthen the body and keep viruses at bay: essential oils.
Essential oils are the most potent form of plant medicine. Their active constituents regenerate both the plant that contains them and the people who use them. These volatile oils are able to pass not only through cell membranes but also through the blood-brain barrier, and like the Qi energy in Traditional Chinese Medicine they connect and heal body, mind, and spirit. Plant essences have been used medicinally for centuries through inhalation, diffusion, topical application, added to body care, beauty, and cleaning products, in cooking, and combined with other wellness practices like acupuncture and massage for nearly endless healing possibilities.
Perhaps one of the most important and powerful aspects of essential oils is their ability to support the immune system. In fact, essential oils ARE the immune system of the plants! Bacteria and viruses can develop immunity to antibiotics within 20 minutes, but are unable to create resistance to essential oils or mutate in their presence.(1) Essential oils also purify the atmosphere by adding ozone, oxygen, and negative ions, and can increase cellular oxygen by up to 21%.(2) Using essential oils thus has similar benefits to living near the ocean or in the mountains where the air is especially pure and vital because of the abundance of negative ions.
Cinnamon Bark (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) Essential Oil
Let’s take a closer look at one especially powerful immune-booster: cinnamon bark oil. Prized since ancient times for its ability to kill viruses and infectious diseases, cinnamon bark is anti-infectious, anti-fungal, antiviral, antibacterial, antidiarrheal, antispasmodic, anti-parasitic, astringent, and a digestive and immune stimulant.(3) It strengthens the respiratory and immune systems, and research has shown that it is able to completely destroy viruses, bacteria, and fungi.(4)
Cinnamon bark oil in TCM
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), cinnamon bark essential oil is pungent, astringent, sweet, hot, and dry. It increases Guardian or Defensive Qi, our first line of defense against the invasion of external pathogens like colds and flu. It fights infection, dispels cold and damp, promotes sweat, relieves fatigue, and calms aches and pains associated with illness. Cinnamon’s sweet, pungent flavor carries Yang fire deep into the body, warming the internal organs and dispelling cold and damp. On an emotional level, it restores the will to live and gives courage to the fearful and depressed.(5)
One of the strongest natural antibiotics, cinnamon bark is a key ingredient in the popular blend know as Thieves Oil, a recreation of a historic potion that protected its users from the Bubonic Plague.(6)
In TCM, the Bladder Channel runs up the back of the spine and is a major location of Defensive Qi. It is interesting that cold in the lower back often indicates weak Qi and impending illness. Cinnamon bark has a natural affinity for this channel, as my husband experienced first-hand. Feeling a cold coming on, he added one drop of C. zeylonicum bark oil to his bath water. The oil was instantly drawn to his lower back so that he could feel an intense warming sensation. Upon exiting the bath, his chills were gone and he didn’t become ill.*
Cinnamon may be inhaled, diffused, or added to a room spray to quickly purify the air and boost immunity. Here is a simple recipe to get you started!
DIY Antiviral Blend (Adapted from Valerie Anne Worwood’s The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy)
Clove (Syzygium aromaticum) 5 drops
Cinnamon bark (Cinnamomum zeylonicum) 5 drops
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) 7 drops
Blend in an amber glass bottle and use as needed. (Not recommended for bath or topical application).
Inhalation: 1 drop on a tissue.
Diffuser: 5 drops.
Room spray: In a clean spray bottle, add 20 drops to 1 teaspoon of alcohol, then add 4 tablespoons of purified or distilled water and shake well. Mist high in the air, avoiding valuable or delicate furnishings.
*Important Safety Information: Use extreme caution when adding essential oils to a bath, as water can increase potential sensitivity and cause severe irritation or burns. Cinnamon is contraindicated during pregnancy and nursing, and is hepatotoxic in high doses. It is potentially allergenic and may cause sensitization. Be careful around pets and children. Always dilute properly before use and consult a qualified practitioner if you have a health condition.*
(4). Stiles, K.G. (2017). The Essential Oils Complete Reference Guide. Salem, MA: Page Street Publishing Co.
(1), (2), (3), (5), (6). Willmont, D. (2008). Aromatherapy with Chinese Medicine (3rd ed.). Marshfield, MA: Willmountain Press.
Worwood, V. (2016). The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy (2nd ed.). Novato, CA: New World Library.