Eucalyptus Oil for Colds

Woman blowing nose
Cold symptoms often include a stuffed or runny nose, fever and a cough. (Image: Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images)

Although the common cold often resolves without medical intervention, it can be miserable while it lasts. A cold is typically caused by one or more of a group of over 200 viruses. Essential oils, which are distilled from aromatic plants such as eucalyptus, have traditionally been used in therapy for viral infections such as colds, according to a September 2007 article in "Food and Chemical Toxicology." (ref 3, pg 2)

Eucalyptus Oil Research

Research on essential oils from different species of eucalyptus reported in the June 2012 "BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine" indicates that some species may be effective against viruses or bacteria that cause colds. E. odorata, for example, was found in lab testing to be nearly as effective against Haemophilus influenzae -- which can cause a bacterial upper respiratory infection -- as the antibiotic erythromycin (Erythrocin). E. bicostata, however, showed the best antiviral effects. (ref 3, 2nd Antiviral Activity subhead) In another study reported in the October 2005 "Clinical Microbiology and Infection," essential oil from E. globulata was found to inhibit growth of several organisms that cause respiratory tract infections such as colds. (ref 2, pg 2)

Considerations and Concerns

Although the research indicates some promising effects, it is important to recognize that the studies reported were laboratory tests only and the oils were not actually administered to patients. In addition, essential oils and other forms of complementary or alternative medications, may -- like conventional medications -- have side effects. Some oils have been found to cause cancer, for example, according to "Food and Chemical Toxicology." You should not attempt to treat yourself with eucalyptus oil, but consult your doctor regarding this and other alternative therapies for a cold. (ref 3, pg 17)

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