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Thanksgiving and the holidays are almost here, but with it comes the aches and pains of a less-than-welcome event: flu season. But before you reach for the drugstore solutions, consider what could be sitting in your medicine cabinet at home—essential oils. The powerful sensory oils are often associated with calming stress and anxiety, but some consider these ancient healers just as potent when it comes to stuffy noses, nausea, and a congested chest. Makes sense, since many essential oils are naturally anti-inflammatory, immune-stimulating, and antibacterial.

“Essential oils are a holistic way of treating our l body. [They do this] by entering into our bloodstream and filtering throughout all of our tissues and cells,” says Aromatherapy Associates Educator Kerri Nau. “As we inhale essential oil, we are awakening areas of our brain that govern our endocrine system, nervous system, and our emotional control center.”

That being said, not all essential oils are created equal. “All essential oils are to some degree antiviral and antibacterial, but depending on the makeup of compounds in the essential oil, some are better at preventing sickness and supporting recovery than others,” says True Botanicals founder and CEO Hillary Peterson. Ahead, we asked a handful of sensory experts what oils and blends to reach for if the un-celebratory sick season sneaks up on you this holiday.


If you’re feeling achy…

Reach for herbaceous, bold oils like peppermint and tea tree. Tea tree can actually be great for warding off flu virus, says Nau. (It is nature’s antibacterial, after all.) If you aren’t game to mix your own remedy, True Botanicals made a potent blend just for this occasion. It’s called Immune Boost ($38) and it’s a combination of ravintsara, bay laurel, and balsam fir to boost and support the immune system. Roll it on your chest, throat, and lymph areas below each ear, then take a warm bath or shower so the oils can penetrate better.

If you’re feeling nauseous…

To add insult to injury, a runny nose and upset stomach can be partners in crime. It makes sense—all that excess mucus in your stomach is a common way to feel nauseous come cold and flu season. Ease your upset stomach with ginger or peppermint, says Sara Panton, co-founder of Vitruvi. Simply put a drop of either essential oil under your nose and on the back of your neck and take deep breaths, Try out Vitruvi’s potent Peppermint Oil ($15).

If you’ve got a stuffy nose and/or cough…

Before you reach for that Vicks VapoRub, try the natural, OG, good-for-you version. Look for pine, peppermint, and eucalyptus to open up airways and breath better. Panton suggests DIYing your own congested chest rub by adding three drops of eucalyptus and two drops of peppermint to one tablespoon of coconut oil, and bam, you’ve got a non-toxic, completely natural rub. Massage a small amount on your chest and the back of your neck before bed for a restful, easy-breathing sleep.


If you can’t get to sleep…

There is hardly a better remedy for sickness than solid sleep, yet it’s more difficult than ever when you can’t breathe well—a real Catch-22. Give sleep a jump start with essential oils that soothe your nervous system. “Lavender is obviously great for its soothing properties and has the same antibacterial and antimicrobial properties of tea tree, but helps also put you to sleep,” says Panton. She suggests adding a few drops of the oil under your nose or behind your ears before bed, and/or a few drops in a diffuser as you fall asleep. Vetiver, chamomile, and sandalwood also have potent natural sedative qualities, says Nau. Try rolling on Aromatherapy Associates Deep Relax ($29), which is a blend of chamomile, vetiver, and patchouli.

No matter what sickness has got you feeling down, try out an essential oil for an added dose of relief, but partner these suggestions with your doctor’s recommendations, too.