Coronavirus (COVID-19) – What can you do? Part 5 (Essential Oils)
What about essential oils?
Is there any evidence to support the use of Essential Oils against coronavirus?
Since you asked...yes their is!
In a 2010 article published in the journal Viral Research Jackwood et al., evaluated the effect of a mixture of essential oils on an avian coronavirus known as Infectious Bronchitis Virus (IBV). Because IBV is virus with an envelope around its important bits virus it is particularly vulnerable to the lipophilic nature of essential oils.
In fact Kovac et al., evaluated the effectiveness of the essential oils of hyssop and marjoram against non-enveloped viruses and found there to be no significant virocidal affect.
The highly resistant nature of viruses makes the study of antiviral compounds problematic.
The researchers evaluated the effect of this synergistic essential oil compound at various times before and during viral challenge. The most significant response was observed when birds were treated with nasal spray and mass spray two hours prior to being challenged with the virus.
The theory is that, since essential oils are lipophilic, they are able to disrupt the viral membrane or "interfere with viral envelope proteins involved in host cell attachment."
The birds were then evaluated five days after the viral challenge. There was no difference in the viral load between treated and untreated birds. The researchers propose; "it is also possible that fewer or no clinical signs would be observed in those birds beyond five days post challenge, since a delay in clinical signs may represent additional time for the birds to mount a protective immune response to the challenge virus."
It was also observed that those birds that were treated and then exposed to the virus had fewer viral genome copies than the untreated group.
Interestingly the researchers concluded that protecting the birds from severe upper respiratory disease with the essential oil mixture at the same time as allowing them to be exposed to the virus possibly resulted as an inducement to the immune response and "… may provide a mechanism to specifically protect chickens from resident field viruses regardless of the virus type."
A very hopeful conclusion...
This study indicates that essential oils "...ought to be effective against IBV regardless of serotype. The effect appears to be more pronounced on cell free virus indicating that the activity is likely virucidal, which is important because it may also be effective against other enveloped respiratory viruses like avian influenza virus and Newcastle disease virus in commercial poultry, as well as other coronaviruses in animals and humans. In addition, since virucidal compounds work by inactivating viruses, rather than targeting specific virus genes or proteins, it reduces the llikelihood that resistance will develop from mutations during virus replication."
A study on ginger essential oil...
Camero et al., evaluated the effect of ginger essential oil on herpes simplex virus, specifically caprine alphaherpesvirus 1, which is an enveloped virus that induces genital lesions. Ginger essential oil resulted in 100% inactivation of this particular enveloped virus prior to viral entry into the cell.
As in the other studies, ginger was proposed to inactivate the virus by disruption of the cell membrane. Since it was not able to decrease infectability of intact virus it is proposed as a topical for both cutaneous and mucosal surfaces.
Are all species of eucalyptus equal with regards to anti-viral activity?
Believe it or not they each have their own profile.
Elaissi et. al., evaluated the effect of the essential oils from eight eucalyptus species on specific bacteria, fungus, and viruses.
There are ~900 species of eucalyptus but only eight specific species were included in this study because they were evaluated to have the highest concentrations of the most active components.
Using chromatographic analysis researchers identified 144 compounds that make up most of the essential oil in the plants. Of these 144 compounds 25 were identified as the main players based on their concentration. Each species has it’s own concentration of each of the compounds. Some of these compounds are more active against bacteria, some against fungi and some against virus.
Eucalyptus odorata was found to have the highest antibacterial and antifungal activity but not the highest antiviral activity.
Eucalyptus globulus (subspecies bicostata) demonstrated the highest antiviral activity. The second most antiviral were two species of eucalyptus, one a subspecies of E. globulus (E. cinerea) and the other E. maidennii.
According to another study E. globulus demonstrated the highest antibacterial activity.
How to use essential oils (hyrdrosols)...
A hydrosol is something you might want to use frequently throughout the day. Close your eyes and spritz a little on your face and taking in a deep breath in order to transport as much of the plant compounds as deep into your lungs as possible.
A hydrosol is the water residue created during the steam distillation of plant material. They are essentially a much more diluted form of an essential oil.
Of course, you can purchase hydrosol from a reputable essential oil company or, you can make your own. Check out the following YouTube link, which provides very easy to follow instructions.
Instead of using a hydrosol you could simply put 5-10 drops of essential oil into a 2 ounce spray bottle. Shake well prior to using. Keep in mind that the concentration of the essential plant components will be much more concentrated when using an essential oil.
Make sure you don't get it in your eyes.
And still, another way you can utilize the medicinal qualities of essential oils is to put a few drops in an inhaler. My personal favorite is the Vick inhaler.
It comes with a little preloaded pad. Simply remove that, add a few drops of essential oil after the water is steaming and take a nice deep breath. Every 5-10 seconds or so add another drop of essential oil.
Jackwood, M.W., et al., Avian coronavirus infectious bronchitis virus susceptibility to botanical oleoresins and essential oils in vitro and in vivo. Virus Res, 2010. 149(1): p. 86-94.
Kovac, K., et al., Natural plant essential oils do not inactivate non-enveloped enteric viruses. Food Environ Virol, 2012. 4(4): p. 209-12.
Camero, M., et al., Virucidal activity of ginger essential oil against caprine alphaherpesvirus-1. Vet Microbiol, 2019. 230: p. 150-155.
Elaissi, A., et al., Chemical composition of 8 eucalyptus species' essential oils and the evaluation of their antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral activities. BMC Complement Altern Med, 2012. 12: p. 81.