The best essential oils for sore throat
Sore throats make it difficult to swallow, hard to eat, painful to talk and often affect your sleep. The cause of a sore throat is usually a viral infection, like the flu or a cold, or a bacterial infection as in the case of strep throat. However, allergies and sinus issues can cause a sore throat too, as can environmental factors like mold exposure, the weather or even air conditioning.
If you’re suffering from a sore throat, you don’t have to rely on lozenges or sprays - you can also go the natural route. Using essential oils for sore throats has proven to be very beneficial in numerous cases, and there’s scientific research that backs up why.
In this guide, you’ll find out everything you need to know about using essential oils for sore throats. From understanding how these oils calm inflammation and reduce pain to how best to use them in the safest, most effective manner - it’s all here.
- How to use essential oils for sore throat
- In your bath
- Top essential oils for a sore throat
- Tea Tree
- Oregano and Thyme
- What the research tells us
- Lemon essential oil’s effect on pain and infections
- Lavender essential oil’s antimicrobial properties
- Thyme and oregano oil for sore throat
- Peppermint oil’s antimicrobial properties
- Efficacy of tea tree oil for respiratory tract infections
- Cinnamon oil for fungal and viral respiratory infections
- Eucalyptus essential oil’s antibacterial properties
- Gargling with essential oils
- Essential oil throat spray
- Effective blends of essential oils for sore throats
- How to use essential oils for a sore throat safely
- FAQs about using essential oils for a sore throat
- Can essential oils irritate your throat?
- What essential oils are good for a sore throat?
- What happens if you don’t dilute essential oils before use?
- Are essential oils safe to use?
- How often can I use essential oils?
- Treat your sore throat effectively
How to use essential oils for sore throat
Essential oils are produced by steam or water distillation from the bark, flowers, leaves and stems of certain plants or by cold pressing the rinds of citrus fruits. The fragrant compounds that are extracted protect plants from predators like bacteria and fungi and attract insects, which allows for pollination. When they’ve been made into essential oils, they help to kill germs, reduce inflammation and speed up the healing process in humans (and some pets!). This is why so many people rely on essential oils for sore throats.
As with most things, one size doesn’t fit all when using essential oils. That’s why we’ve outlined several ways to make the most of them. Just bear in mind that, although you can inhale undiluted essential oils, they're very potent substances and have to be diluted with a carrier oil if you’re going to apply them to your skin or add them to your bath.
For adults using essential oils for a sore throat, a 2.5% dilution is recommended, which translates into 4 drops of essential oil per 4 tablespoons (15 ml) of carrier oil.
Once you’ve diluted the oil, do a patch test to ensure you don’t have a reaction to the mix and, if not, you can start using your dilution for whatever you need.
Try the following ways of using essential oils to see what works best for you:
In your bath
Add a few drops of your essential oil/carrier oil mix to a hot bath to let it do its work of getting you healthy again. Bathing with essential oils gives you the best of its inhalation benefits as well as those that come from applying them topically. This is a very efficient way to use essential oils for a sore throat.
Create a hot or cold compress using a cotton pad or washcloth. Add a few drops of your essential oil/carrier oil mix and lay it over your throat to help relieve some of your pain.
Add a couple of drops of one of the 100% pure and organic Volant essential oils recommended in this article to your diffuser. The diffuser will disperse the oil into the air throughout your space where you’ll breathe it in. This method is a great way to use essential oils for sore throat. You can get household or work tasks done while you naturally inhale the oils.
Experimenting with oils for sore throats will help you find the ones that work best for you or help you come up with your favorite sore throat diffuser blend.
Your favorite sore throat diffuser blend is the most common method of inhalation. But there are many different ways to let essential oils do their work as you inhale them. When you’re using oils for a sore throat, you can breathe in their scent directly from the bottle, which is great when you’re out and about, at work or at school. You could also put a few drops on a towel, put some on a cotton ball or tissue, or add oil to a bowl of steaming hot water and lean over it to inhale deeply.
Just be sure to keep undiluted oil away from your skin because it can cause irritation.
Massage your diluted essential oil/carrier oil mix onto your throat, chest and back. The oils will be absorbed into your body through your skin, and you’ll also be able to inhale the aroma, giving your sore throat a one-two punch.
Top essential oils for a sore throat
The antibacterial and antiviral properties of essential oils make them a good alternative medicine for battling the infection that’s causing your sore throat. Their immunostimulatory properties will boost your overall system and they may help to stop the infection in its tracks, preventing a simple sore throat from turning into a full-blown illness.
Our list of essential oils for sore throats features several well-known oils that are all reliable and can make a difference if you purchase them from a reputable supplier.
The oils on this list are all available from us at Volant where we pride ourselves on delivering ethically sourced, sustainably produced, 100% organic essential oils.
Eucalyptus is one of the most popular essential oils to diffuse for sore throats, and for good reason.
The leaves of this tree have long been used as an antiseptic to treat colds, coughs and sore throats. More recent research has revealed that eucalyptus essential oil can also be effective when treating the kinds of respiratory tract infections that give you a sore throat.
This essential oil is capable of antimicrobial action and it’s very effective against the kinds of sore throats that are caused by staph and strep, which are both types of gram-positive bacteria.
Although lavender essential oil is most famous for its anti-depressant and relaxing effects, its anti-inflammatory properties make it a good essential oil for sore throats too.
This flowering plant has antimicrobial properties that fight against the bacteria responsible for your sore throat and potentially even against influenza. And the fact that it will make you less tense, boost your mood and help you sleep better are added benefits to using this oil for a sore throat.
Many throat medicines contain lemon, and aromatherapists often rely on lemon essential oil as a natural analgesic. It’s effective at combating depression and stress and boosts your body’s ability to cleanse toxins. It also stimulates lymph drainage, working to rejuvenate your energy levels and purify your skin.
Lemon oil is created using the skin of this fruit and it’s an excellent essential oil for a sore throat. This is because it’s not just antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, but it’s also high in vitamin C. Plus, it stimulates your saliva glands and assists with keeping your throat moist.
The peppermint plant contains menthol, an essential ingredient in many medicines that alleviate the pain of a sore throat. This is why peppermint essential oil is such a popular choice for treating this condition as well as coughs and colds in general. Its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties make it a very effective treatment amongst essential oils for sore throats.
When you use peppermint for sore throat discomfort, you’ll feel it working immediately as it opens up and cools your airways, helps relieve your sore throat symptoms and inhibits the growth of the pathogens responsible for your illness.
Peppermint for sore throat can work alongside gentamicin, an antibiotic, and it has antiseptic as well as antioxidant properties. It’s effective for treating dry mouth, halitosis and sore throats.
Due to its antiseptic properties, tea tree essential oil is frequently used for a range of oral problems, including gum infections. This is what makes it so effective when combating oral pathogens. Tea tree oil causes a loss of the integrity of cell membranes in certain pathogens, so consider it in combination with other effective oils if you’re suffering from an upper respiratory tract infection.
Oregano and Thyme
Although Origanum vulgare has been used in folk medicine for centuries to treat a range of illnesses including oregano oil for sore throat, oil of oregano (aka oregano essential oil) has gained popularity in recent years for many uses, one of them being fighting off infections, especially upper respiratory tract infections. Oregano oil’s main active compound is carvacrol, which is a powerful anti-inflammatory and pain reliever and has antimicrobial effects against many bacteria, viruses and fungi.
Thyme oil is also rich in the active compound carvacrol, and many studies that find oregano oil effective for a sore throat, respiratory tract infection or killing germs also find thyme oil effective.
Because it’s very potent and can have a burning sensation when applied to mucous membranes, it’s best used well diluted and in combination with other effective essential oils for sore throat.
Perhaps unsuspectingly because it’s usually thought of in terms of desserts, cinnamon essential oil is a powerful antimicrobial. It has especially interesting effects against viral colds and flus as well as fungal infections of the respiratory tract. Diffusing cinnamon might help reduce viral attachment and a resulting sore throat in the first place if you breathe it in.
What the research tells us
More and more scientific research into the medical uses of essential oils is becoming available and it’s proven what people have suspected for thousands of years. In many cases, these oils are a suitable alternative therapy and a helpful resource for treating many physical ailments, including a sore throat. Study after study proves that certain oils have exactly the antiviral, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties our bodies sometimes need.
There’s science behind the use of essential oils for sore throats, and these are some of the studies that prove it.
Lemon essential oil’s effect on pain and infections
Although it was done on mice, not human beings, this 2013 study revealed that inhaled lemon oil affected the way animal brains respond to painful stimuli, having an analgesic effect.
Another study in mice from 2011 discovered similar effects, that lemon essential oil reduced pain when given orally.
Another 2021 paper discusses the usefulness of essential oils derived from citrus peels, with limonene being the main active compound responsible for the oils’ antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects, among others.
Lavender essential oil’s antimicrobial properties
It has been discovered that lavender essential oil may well have significant anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties above and beyond its other benefits. Lavender oil has been shown to have both antibacterial and antifungal effects on various strains that cause upper respiratory tract infections in humans.
Thyme and oregano oil for sore throat
One study evaluated the in vitro antimicrobial effects of 6 different herbs traditionally used for sore throats. Out of the 6 herbs, oregano had the most potent antimicrobial effects, followed by thyme, which contains similar active compounds.
Erythromycin-resistant Streptococci samples were taken from children with tonsillitis, which generally features a sore throat, and treated the bacteria with various essential oils. Once again, oregano and thyme oil shine here, killing the most bacteria with the lowest concentrations of oils, in combination with the antibiotic medication or even alone, making carvacrol-rich oils potential therapies for this cause of sore throat.
Peppermint oil’s antimicrobial properties
Not only does peppermint help you feel like you can breathe better, it has also been shown to improve the antibacterial and antifungal effects of the drug gentamicin to which various strains show antibiotic resistance.
Efficacy of tea tree oil for respiratory tract infections
A 2013 in vitro study showed that tea tree and peppermint essential oils have significant antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects against pathogens of the mouth including the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus, Enterococcus faecalis and E. coli and the yeast Candida albicans.
In the face of the current pandemic, researchers tested the effects of tea tree oil against feline and human coronavirus models and found that it was able to kill the viruses and prevent their entry and fusion with cells, making it a useful disinfectant to prevent certain viral infections that often begin with a sore throat.
In a 2021 issue of the journal Antibiotics, one study found 5 essential oil combinations out of 369 commercially available blends were found most effective for potentially treating respiratory tract infections. All 5 combinations included tea tree oil, and 2 of the combinations also included either oregano oil or rosemary oil.
Cinnamon oil for fungal and viral respiratory infections
The vapor of cinnamon bark oil has been shown to be sufficient to kill fungi that cause respiratory mycoses, or fungal infections of the airways, the first symptom of which is often a sore throat.
A hot water extract of cinnamon reduced viral attachment and internalization of human respiratory syncytial virus (HRSV) by inhibiting F protein production and syncytium formation, thereby interfering with HRSV spreading. HRSV is one of the leading causes of severe lower respiratory tract illness in the world.
Eucalyptus essential oil’s antibacterial properties
In 2011, scientists compared different types of eucalyptus oil to determine their antibacterial properties. It was revealed that all eucalyptus essential oils were antibacterial to one degree or another and proved effective against certain drug-resistant bacteria. This makes eucalyptus a good choice when looking for oils for sore throats.
Three different blends of essential oils were tested for their antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal effects in a comparative study. A blend containing eucalyptus, cinnamon, rosemary and wild carrot oils showed the most potent antibacterial and antiviral effects. Its effectiveness against H1N1 and HSV1 viruses and Staphylococcus aureus and Staphylococcus pneumoniae make this blend a potential natural alternative for influenza and post-influenza bacterial pneumonia infections. A blend containing oregano oil was found more effective against fungal strains.
Gargling with essential oils
A different kind of approach to using essential oils was taken in a controlled study where spinal surgery patients gargled with a solution of peppermint, tea tree and lemon essential oils at a ratio of 1:2:2. Patients gargled with it for 15-20 seconds three times. Compared to both wet gauze or gargling with cold water, the essential oil gargle reduced sore throat, thirst and bad breath post-surgery.
Essential oil throat spray
A placebo-controlled study tested the effects of an essential oil throat spray on the symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections, including sore throat, cough and hoarseness. The throat spray included a blend of eucalyptus, rosemary, peppermint and oregano oils and was used 5 times a day for three days. Subjects found that the blend significantly improved their symptoms after 20 minutes.
Effective blends of essential oils for sore throats
You can use the essential oils we’ve mentioned separately or mixed together in a way that suits you. Creating your own essential oil recipe for sore throats can be a really enjoyable process as you test out different scent combinations until you find something you really like.
Here are some ideas on essential oil recipes for sore throats to get you started. You can use the following blends topically, in your diffuser, or you can even try making them into a sore throat spray or gargle solution of your own. (Although we don’t recommend the latter, some studies do support this.)
- Combine 4 drops of lemon essential oil, 2 drops of peppermint, and 1 drop each of lavender and tea tree oil.
- Try mixing 4 drops of lemon essential oil with 2 drops each of eucalyptus and peppermint oil.
- Test out 4 drops of cinnamon oil, 2 drops of eucalyptus oil and 2 drops of oregano oil for a spicy sore throat treatment.
How to use essential oils for a sore throat safely
Even though essential oils are a natural product, that doesn’t mean that they can’t cause an adverse reaction in certain instances. There are certain safety guidelines you should follow to ensure you get the most out of these oils without any side effects.
All oils have the potential to cause an allergic reaction. You’ll need to discontinue use if you start itching, develop a rash, or notice an increased heart rate or change in your breathing after contact with an essential oil.
You also need to proceed with caution if you’re pregnant, trying to conceive or breastfeeding. Only start experimenting with essential oils for a sore throat once you’ve got the go-ahead from your medical practitioner.
It’s safest not to ingest essential oils, and use caution if using them internally.
FAQs about using essential oils for a sore throat
Can essential oils irritate your throat?
Although experiencing an anaphylactic reaction to essential oils is rare, it’s not impossible. It’s best to seek medical advice if you’re prone to allergic reactions. Do a patch test first before using them for the first time.
What essential oils are good for a sore throat?
We highly recommend trying eucalyptus, lavender, lemon, peppermint, tea tree and oregano essential oils for a sore throat.
What happens if you don’t dilute essential oils before use?
You can experience skin irritation, burns, rashes, difficulty breathing or other types of allergic reactions.
How often can I use essential oils?
Avoid excessive use of oils for sore throat no matter how effective you’re finding them. Build up to between 3-4 uses every 24 hours.
Treat your sore throat effectively
Sore throats are a common problem for many of us, particularly when the weather starts changing. You could be at the point where you’re suffering from extreme pain and discomfort and finding little relief from over-the-counter medications.
If this rings true for you, chat with your medical practitioner about using some of these recommended essential oils for sore throats. Just ensure that you only use 100% pure, organic oils like those available from Volant.
But remember that the best way to tackle a sore throat is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Do this by keeping your immune system in top shape by following a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, reducing stress and exercising often enough.
Don’t ignore your body until it gets sick! Learn everything you need to know about staying healthy so that you are able to spot the first symptoms of a sore throat and other illnesses and nip them in the bud with the help of essential oils.
If you have any questions about using oils for sore throat, get in touch with Volant at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re always happy to assist in your journey to good health with essential oils.