Can you use essential oils for immune system benefits?

Amber bottle of essential oil with glass dropper on a green background with wording essential oils for immune support by The Healthy RD

You can use essential oils for immune system benefits because these concentrated plant compounds can help to bust germs, detoxify harmful chemicals, reduce stress, and leave your house a cleaner place too.  

In this post, learn about some of the top essential oils for immunity and how to use them.  Additionally, learn about how other healthy lifestyle habits can help your immunity too. 

This post contains affiliate links.  Visit the disclosure page for more information. 

Immune system basics

Most of your immune system is rooted in your gut, so obviously, the quality of your diet is paramount to your immune health.  

Getting adequate hydration, probiotics, protein, vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and healing foods is the cornerstone to supporting your body’s ability to fight germs and infections. 

Additionally, high-quality sleep, reducing toxins in the home, and reducing stress play a big role in keeping your immune system strong. 

This is where essential oils come in. Essential oils can be very calming when you diffuse them and they can also help cleanse the air you breathe too. 

By also replacing toxic cleansers with essential oils in your cleaning routine, you can reduce the toxic burden on your body. 

Most essential oils may have beneficial effects on immunity because of this.  I will review the top essential oils that are known to help the body fight germs. 

Keep in mind, that many of the studies using essential oils, while helpful, are animal studies.  For this reason, it is best to not use these oils internally unless specifically guided by your doctor or healthcare provider. 

How to Use Essential Oils for Immunity

All essential oils can support a healthy immune response when used appropriately.  Some good ideas for using them include:

  • Adding the oils to your humidifier
  • Using a diffuser with essential oils
  • Massaging them into the skin with a carrier oil like olive oil or coconut oil
    • Try massaging diluted oils onto the bottoms of the feet 
  • Steam inhalation
  • Adding 20 drops of essential oil to a spray bottle with 1-2 cups of water instead of using harsh chemicals for cleaning
  • Make a compress using essential oils
  • Use a drop on the center of your face mask to freshen the air you breathe
  • Replace toxic chemicals for cleaning your home with essential oils: place 20-30 drops of essential oil in a glass spray bottle and dilute with 1-2 cups of water.

If you have a skin sensitivity to any particular plant oil, make sure to avoid using them.  Do not use concentrated oils on infants, small children, or pets unless you follow specific dilution recommendations like these. 

Related post: Music Health Benefits

Clove bud essential oil

Clove essential oil is a warming spice oil that is powerful because it helps fight both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria.  For this reason, it is one of the best go-to essential oils for immunity. 

Many studies show that using clove oil on surfaces and aerosolized clove oil has antimicrobial activity, and anti-oxidant as well as anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects [R, R, R]. 

A little bit of clove oil goes a long way.  

Add a few drops to a diffuser or a drop diluted in your favorite lotion or carrier oil.  You can even place a drop of clove essential oil in the center of your face mask to freshen up the air you breathe. 

Clove oil makes a great oil to diffuse for immunity by using it topically if you dilute it with carrier oil. 

A drop of clove oil is good for toothaches too.  

Another perk of clove essential oil is that it is very affordable.

Precautions with clove oil

  • Use only certified pure therapeutic grade clove essential oil
  • Cloves can cause skin sensitivity if allergic or sensitive
  • Do not use topically near your eyes
  • Essential oils for immune system benefits are meant to support, not replace usual infection precautions
  • Only use 1-2 drops if using topically and make sure to dilute this potent oil
  • Do not use clove oil topically on your pets
  • Clove oil is meant to support, not replace usual infection prevention precautions

Frankincense oil

The most coveted of oils, frankincense oil is precious and is a traditional medicine healing oil for many aspects of health.  

In early research, frankincense oil also has immunostimulant activity [R].

Frankincense oil also appears to induce cancer cell death in some preliminary studies. 

By reducing inflammation, research shows that frankincense essential oil also reduces inflammatory conditions like gingivitis while supporting healthy tissues [R]. 

The best way to use frankincense oil is to apply it topically, but if you use a high-quality essential oil like Doterra, you can also use a drop orally on occasion as well. 

Precautions with frankincense oil

  • Use only certified pure therapeutic-grade frankincense oil
  • Make sure to get ethically sourced frankincense
  • Frankincense can cause skin sensitivity if allergic
  • Do not use topically near your eyes
  • Essential oils for immunity like frankincense are meant to support, not replace usual infection precautions

Oregano essential oil

Perhaps the strongest antimicrobial oil is oregano essential oil.  Clinical research shows that using oregano oil is as effective as triple antibiotic therapy and has fewer side effects when treating small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) [R].

Oregano oil kills viruses on surfaces too, including HSV1, HHV-1, RSV, bovine herpesvirus type 2, and bovine viral diarrhea virus [R].

A common use for oregano oil is to help treat warts, which are caused by the virus called HPV. 

Oregano is also able to kill methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) on surfaces and a small clinical trial shows that when used topically in creams, it helps effectively treat MRSA infections [R].

While oregano is helpful, a little bit of oregano oil goes a long way. So make sure to dilute it 20:1 carrier oil to oregano oil when applying it to the skin or follow directions on the label for other uses. 

Precautions with oregano oil

  • Use only certified pure therapeutic-grade oregano essential oil
  • Oregano oil can cause skin sensitivity if allergic
  • Do not use oregano oil topically near your eyes
  • Essential oils for immunity are meant to support, not replace usual infection precautions
  • Do not use oregano essential oil topically on your pets

Thyme essential oil

Amber essential oil bottle tilted on its side next to fresh thyme leaves on a brown background by The Healthy RD
Thyme essential oil bottle and fresh thyme sprigs

Not just for flavoring savory dishes, thyme herb, and thyme oil has a long history of use as medicine. 

Listed in the German Commission E as a treatment for respiratory infections, thyme herbs, and essential oils are very helpful for immunity. 

For example, thyme oil strongly reduces the growth of multidrug-resistant strains of Staphylococcus, Enterococcus, Escherichia, and Pseudomonas genus of bacteria in early research [R].

In traditional medicine, thyme oil is used to help alleviate coughs, as an anti-inflammatory agent, to help with viral and bacterial conditions of the upper respiratory system. 

Thyme helps to reduce biofilms and is also antifungal, anti-parasitic, and antiviral.

This oil is one of the strongest essential oils out there, so make sure to dilute it before applying it to your skin.  If you use a high-quality supplement-grade essential oil like Doterra thyme oil, you can also use a drop or two orally on occasion as well. 

Precautions with thyme oil

  • Use only certified pure therapeutic grade thyme essential oil
  • Oregano oil can cause skin sensitivity 
  • Do not use topically near your eyes
  • Essential oils for immunity are meant to support, not replace usual infection precautions
  • Do not use oregano oil topically on your pets

Eucalyptus essential oil

Eucalyptus is a favorite essential oil for many people because it has noticeable effects on clearing airways when vaporized. 

Research shows that Eucalyptus oil reduces many kinds of microbes, including Mycobacterium tuberculosis, MRSA, viruses, and fungi, such as Candida albicans. 

Eucalyptus essential oil also has immune-stimulating, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, pain-relieving effects, and the ability to reduce muscle spasms. 

This means that eucalyptus oil is likely helpful for immune conditions like bronchitis, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) [R].

A favorite way to use eucalyptus oil is to place some steaming water in a large bowl, add a few drops of eucalyptus, and lean your face over the bowl. Capture the steam by placing a large towel over your head.  Breathe in the steam for about 5 minutes. 

Another great way to get the benefits of eucalyptus oil is to diffuse it. 

Additionally, eucalyptus is a great oil to help clean your home and detoxify your air.

Precautions with eucalyptus oil

  • Use only certified pure therapeutic-grade eucalyptus essential oil
  • Eucalyptus can cause skin sensitivity 
  • Do not use topically near your eyes
  • Essential oils for immunity are meant to support, not replace usual infection precautions
  • Avoid eucalyptus oil if you have epilepsy
  • Do not use topically on your pets

Tea tree essential oil

Tea tree oil benefits for immunity may be numerous because this oil has antifungal effects (think athlete’s foot and Candida), antibacterial effects, antiviral effects, and is also helpful as a decongestant. 

Long used in folk medicine, tea tree essential oil is a great immunity oil because contains over 100 volatile compounds. The main active compound is terpinene-4-ol, which has strong antimicrobial properties [R].

Tea tree has immunomodulatory effects by helping to improve innate immune response and dampening inflammation [R].

It does all of these things by stimulating the immune system and balancing the immune response [R]. 

Precautions with tea tree oil

  • Use only certified pure therapeutic-grade tea tree oil
  • Tea tree essential oil can cause skin sensitivity if allergic
  • Do not use topically near your eyes
  • Essential oils for immunity are meant to support, not replace usual infection precautions

Peppermint essential oil

Peppermint essential oil can help manage upper respiratory infections.  It does so by helping with the relaxation of bronchial smooth muscles, increasing oxygen flow to the lungs and brain, and decreasing blood lactate according to research.

The menthol in peppermint oil also improved lung capacity and reduced coughing when exposed to lung irritants in a small clinical study. 

Other research shows that the menthol in peppermint oil helps to reduce coughing by acting as an antitussive [R, R].

Peppermint is also a potent antiviral and antibacterial oil [R].

Precautions with peppermint oil

  • Use only certified pure therapeutic-grade peppermint essential oil
  • Can cause skin sensitivity if allergic
  • Do not use topically near your eyes
  • Essential oils for immunity like peppermint oil are meant to support, not replace usual infection precautions
  • Do not use topically on your pets

Lavender essential oil

Lavender’s benefits are well-established because this herb is calming and can even reduce the stress hormone in the body called cortisol when used as aromatherapy. 

By dampening stress, lavender essential oil also may help to improve immune compounds like salivary IgA, which are indicators of immune function.  

Lavender also may increase immune function by increasing adaptive immunity-CD8 T-cells and CD16 T-cells [R].

Lavender is also effective against many types of bacterial and fungal strains on surfaces.

Precautions with lavender oil

  • Use only certified pure therapeutic-grade lavender essential oil
  • Lavender can cause skin sensitivity if allergic
  • Do not use topically near your eyes
  • Essential oils for immunity are meant to support, not replace usual infection precautions

Other Immune Boosting Tips

Why limit yourself to one of these powerful oils?  

If you blend them together, chances are, they will have synergistic effects.  

For example, a nice combination for the body and mind is lavender and eucalyptus.

By the way, you can also try mixing it up by adding another immune-boosting oil like lemon oil.

Essential oils are just one of many ways to help support your body’s immune response. Additionally, make sure to eat whole foods with plenty of protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. 

Support healthy sleep habits and destress by using natural ways to relax.  Combine aromatherapy with yoga or meditation for an extra relaxing and immune-boosting habit. 

To support a natural immune response, consider adding certain types of mushrooms, which are rich in nutrients and immunomodulatory compounds. 

Try adding medicinal mushrooms for immunity

A favorite way to naturally support immunity is to eat medicinal mushrooms and research continues to build on this concept. 

For example, chaga mushrooms may help fight inflammatory bowel diseases and mushrooms like cordyceps and reishi mushrooms may improve lung function.

Using mushrooms like reishi is also calming to the nervous system, which also helps support a healthy immune response. By doing so, mushrooms also support restful sleep too. 

Vitamins and minerals for immunity

Germs and microbes don’t thrive as well in a well-nourished human [R]. This means that if you want a healthy immune system, you need to eat well and avoid junk foods most of the time. 

By eating nutrient-rich foods and supplementing when needed, your body can help fight germs in the most effective way. 

Some key nutrients for immunity are vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, and selenium.

Men’s multivitamins typically have more immune-enhancing nutrients so both men and women would benefit from the men’s variety.  I like this one.


Nourishing your body means that you are nourishing your immune system in your gut. This means that the foods you include in your diet affect your immunity. 

And gut health requires a healthy microbiome from eating probiotics and prebiotic fibers

By supporting a healthy microbiome, probiotic foods may reduce infections [R].  The best way to get probiotics is by eating fermented foods like:

  • Sauerkraut
  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Apple cider vinegar with the mother
  • Kimchi
  • Kombucha
  • Fermented teas like oolong or Puerh

Also make sure to get a lot of good prebiotic fibers from foods like vegetables, seeds, nuts, and fruits. 

Immune boosting colostrum

Bovine colostrum is a supplement that can help immune function by helping to heal the gut and by also providing antibodies and immunoglobulins.  

Colostrum is rich in protective antibodies but also is rich in nutrients, lactoferrin, and growth factors. Also, colostrum contains other healthy compounds that may help heal a body under stress.

It’s my go-to for allergy relief and overall feeling well. 

Just make sure to avoid taking colostrum if you have a true milk allergy. 


Your immune system can be thrown off balance and suffer if you are constantly stressed out.  This means that you need to take some time for yourself to relax and de-stress.

Some common and effective ways to help reduce stress are:

  • Slow breathing
  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Calming music
  • Diffusing essential oils
  • Chatting with supportive friends or family
  • Adding adaptogenic herbs and medicinal mushrooms

In summary, you should take time every day to reduce stress to support a healthy immunity. 

Good sleep hygiene

Sleeping well is also key to helping our immune system mount a robust response to germs and infections.  

Make sure to get some sun during the day and avoid computer, phone, and television lights before bed.  Also, avoid alcohol and caffeine later in the day too. 

By developing good sleep hygiene habits, you are supporting a healthy body and immunity. 

Essential oil supplies

Not sure where to get started with essential oils? 

Here are a list of products to get you going:

  • Doterra
  • Aromatherapy diffuser
  • Glass roll-on bottles
  • Glass spray bottles for cleaning


Immune-boosting essential oils can provide an easy way to help support the body by reducing stress. These powerful oils are also helpful in reducing upper respiratory infection symptoms and reducing many kinds of harmful germs. 

Make sure to dilute these oils with water or a carrier oil and remember little bit goes a long way. 

Use essential oils as one of many health routines like a good diet, moderate exercise, and high-quality sleep, and not as a sole source of immune habits.

Include other immune-boosting compounds like vitamins, minerals, and medicinal mushrooms to help support a natural stress response and immune response.   

Please know that most research using essential oils is in animals and not humans, so the results are preliminary.  

The information on this site is for informational purposes only and is not meant as medical advice.  Visit a qualified healthcare professional before making any changes to your healthcare routine. 

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