Essential oils, just like the other natural and comparative safe medications, have always been in the news for their therapeutic properties. Now that the entire world is battling against a deadly virus, it becomes quite imperative for us to know if essential oils can save the day or not! Especially since the ministry of AYUSH in India issued some immunity-boosting measures which included steam inhalation with mint leaves and other traditional practices, we ought to know if it is of any help in respiratory problems! It is not every day that the very Prime Minister of India motivates people to incorporate these practices into their lifestyle.
What are Essential oils?
To begin with, essential oils are also natural derivative from plants. But their extraction method gives them a unique position compared to other methods (e.g. herbal) is a concentration of an active compound, and thus their application selecttion.
The potent power of Eucalyptus and Menthol combine
Eucalyptus & Menthol oil have proven to be two very potent agents for getting relief in several respiratory problems. The healing properties of the Eucalyptus essential oil correspond to its active chemical called Eucalyptol. This chemical displays several pharmacological activities including potent antiviral and antibacterial in nature. In case the respiratory problems are caused by microbes, the essential oil has shown a potent antiviral and antibacterial property. There are strong scientific data to back these claims. Many researchers have tried to explore their actions through exhaustive trial designs, involving human or animal viruses and how they are affected by blends of essential oils.
Kumosani and others demonstrated anti-aerosolized H2N2 Avian influenza virus (human flu) activity by vapours of a chemically characterized Essential oil blend (Eucalyptus+menthol). They saw a reduction of 84.6% in viral titre compared to control with a contact time of 1.5 minutes. They recommended future investigation related to the application of safe essential oil in the reduction of air-suspended influenza virus in closed system harbouring domestic animals and human population.
Journal of Prevention & Infection Control
1 J. of Prevention & Infection Control, ISSN 2471-9668SSN 2471-9668/ Vol.3 No.1:6 (2017) www.imedpub.com
Studies also demonstrated high antiviral efficiency of natural disinfectants, i.e. tea tree oil (TTO) and eucalyptus oil (EUO) on the filter surface. The study to investigate the antiviral activity of TTO and EUO aerosols in range of concentrations against Influenza A virus and E. coli phage M13 showed strong antiviral action and inactivation of model viruses with an efficiency of more than 95% within 5–15 min of exposure. The investigator opined that the use of natural disinfectants like TTO and EUO in aerosol form as well as in vapour phase looks very promising for further development of virus inactivating procedures and technologies.
Antiviral activity of tea tree and eucalyptus oil aerosol and vapour, J. of animal sciences, Volume 59, May 2013, Pages 22-30
So is the EO of Eucalyptus and Menthol also helpful in Novel Coronavirus prevention?
To understand that aspect, lets’ take a look at nature of coronavirus propagates. The SARS-CoV-2 is a respiratory virus that gets transmitted mainly through direct contact with an infected human. This transmission takes place through respiratory droplets which are generated because of sneezing or coughing and even through droplets of saliva while people talk.
But the person who gets infected with the virus doesn’t show symptoms immediately. The Novel Coronavirus has a long incubation period and, as such, the symptoms are displayed quite late. According to researchers, the nasal cavity is the major site of entry for the Novel Coronavirus. We have to understand that the disease intensity depends upon the viral load. Viral load is a measure of the number of viral particles present in an individual. Therefore, higher SARS-COV-2 viral load will correspond to worse outcomes as far as the severity of the disease is concerned.
So, it is this stage wherein the virus is yet to establish and a view which is emerging is, a possibility to render this virus ineffective or reduce its load so that severity of infection can be reduced. The Portland Clinic of Holistic Health, in their possible prevention strategies, has also recommended nasal irrigation: to wash virus before it nests in the nasal passage and the use of essential oil in steam due to their antiviral property against envelop viruses and COVID 19 is an envelop virus.
Portland Clinic of Holistic Health
(Updated summary 03/02/20 EB Patient Handouts> Corona Virus Detailed Response 03012020)
In a review article titled in Journal of pharmacology and toxicology, review article. (2020) 8 (1)/1138, authors opined that Oxegenated monoterpene & sesquiterpenes present in EO (essential oil) contribute to their antiviral effect. COVID 19 is still a new virus and studies are being done. However, it is plausible to assume that some of the EOS and related terpenes are likely to offer measurable deference in the same way as they provide it for other viruses
Effective antiviral activity of essential oil and their characteristic terpenes against coronavirus: An update, Sci medical central Journal of pharmacology and toxicology, review article. (2020) 8 (1)/1138
The facts mentioned above clearly explain the fact that eucalyptus, menthol and other essential oils are underrated tools when it comes to their use in respiratory problems specially of viral nature.