As we in New Zealand, like the rest of the world, come to realise that COVID-19 and the long covid effects are going to be around for a while yet, it is only natural that people are looking for solutions to help. You may wonder what qualifications do I have to comment- firstly I am a registered nurse with past experience in critical care, I am also trained in clinical aromatherapy for over 25 years, have studied, researched and taught it. My doctorate degree explored the use of essential oils in the side effects of cancer treatment. I maintain my currency by reading scientific journals and attending scientific conferences. I don't listen to marketing. I have recently completed a review of some 250 clinical studies on aromatherapy.
First up I am going to be very frank and that vaccination is the first and most important tool in our toolbox. Without this the virus will continue to mutate and seek out the most vulnerable. This is already happening in the countries of Africa, where there are low vaccination numbers and other strains emerging. Barely a year ago the global community could only hope a vaccine could be developed, and now there are several available. this blog post is not about the merits of one type of vaccine against another. Science and history tells us vaccines save lives, and for COVID-19 if we are unlucky enough to catch it even though vaccinated, it significantly reduces the severity of our symptoms and reduces the chances of us needing hospital care.
Let me also be very clear, COVID-19 is not 'just a flu' (remember influenza is also a potentially fatal infection and not something to be brushed off). Just a few short years ago we had the Swine flu in NZ and healthy young people died.
For detailed information on the current COVID situation produced by the Ministry of Health visit here.
There is great global interest in whether essential oils and other aromatic plant extracts are effective in killing the SARS-CoC-2 virus and some of this is detailed in the blog by Robert Tissersand SARS-CoV-2, Essential Oils and In Silico Studies - Tisserand Institute. No doubt in time science will find a range of essential oils which will help. We are not there yet.
COVID -19 is a serious and potentially life limiting respiratory illness that has a systemic effect on many organs. In New Zealand there are now hundreds of people in the community with active COVID-19 and many more affected by the condition known as Long COVID.
I have seen a list of recommendations circulating, put together by people who have had COVID and are isolating at home. On the whole this is a helpful list for people to think of however I would like to add some professional advice to this. The list refers to "Eucalyptus Oil' with no further information. This is potentially dangerous advice.
Firstly 'eucalyptus oil' could mean virtually any type of oil derived from one of the hundreds of eucalyptus trees. there are around 15 or 20 though which are produced on a commercial scale. the most common of these (and cheapest) is Eucalyptus globulus, which is widely available, and often rectified to conform to the British pharmacopeia standard. It is high in 1,8 cineol, also called eucalyptol, which is an expectorant. Expectorants are helpful when someone has a cough but can't cough up their secretions. This means it promotes coughing. Absolutely the opposite of what someone with COVID-19 or long COVID needs. The World Health Organisation has a discussion piece of long covid here.
From an aromatherapist perspective oils are selected based on the symptoms of the person and any other health conditions or cautions they may have (e.g. are they pregnant, on medication, have allergies for example). Rarely will a trained aromatherapist use an 'off the shelf blend' in a clinical situation.
The careful use of diffused essential oils into a room could have a number of benefits such as soothing the airways, freshening the air, creating a nice ambient environment, reduce the number airborne pollen for example. Some are indeed antifungal, antiviral and antibacterial. To reiterate though the science doesn't yet support essential oils being a TREATMENT TO REPLACE MEDICAL CARE IN COVID
Whilst many of us grew up with facial steaming (head over a bowl of boiling water with a blob of Vicks in), this is now not recommended- there are risks of burning, and with COVID 19 affecting skin chemistry, there is a greater risk of facial burns from the steam and the essential oil. Much better to use a vaporiser or a diffuser where it isn't boiling water. If you don't have a diffuser- a bowl of warm water away from children or using a warm compress to the chest is just as effective. Or adding 1-2 drops of essential oil to a cotton pad and pinning to your collar.
This is a list of commonly available and safe essential oils to help someone isolating at home with COVID-19.
1. Lavender -Lavandula angustifolia is a sedating and calming oil- 1-2 drops on the pillow at night to help sleep or in the bath. Add to an ultrasonic diffuser to create an ambient environment
2. Lemon peel essential oil- Citrus limon-refreshing, antiviral - add to a diffuser . Do not use in the bath or in a facial steamer (will burn the skin)
3. Mānuka or Kānuka- Leptospermum scoparium and Kunzea ericoides- soothing, anti inflammatory- add 2-3 drops to warm water for a gargle to ease sore throat- SPIT OUT do not swallow. Can also be added to a diffuser
4. Eucalyptus smithii or Eucalyptus radiata- antiviral, cough suppressant (e.g. dry hacking non productive cough)
DISCLAIMER: THIS ADVICE IS NOT TO REPLACE MEDICAL ADVICE. AROMATHERAPY IS CONSIDERED A SUPPORTIVE THERAPY FOR PEOPLE WITH COVID OR LONG COVID. PLEASE ONLY USE PURE ESSENTIAL OILS, WITH A KNOWN BOTANICAL NAME, COUNTRY OF ORIGIN AND BATCH NUMBER. BUY FROM A REPUTABLE COMPANY. WENDY DOES NOT ENDORSE ANY BRAND OR IS ASSOCIATED WITH ANY ESSENTIAL OIL COMPANY.