Severe colds and various unidentified virus infections are often referred to as ' 'flu', and some authorities would argue that this is incorrect, and that true influenza is a much more severe infection, appearing in widespread epidemics, often at intervals of approximately ten years. However, we shall take the first, and most usual definition since such infections are so widespread, and since this an area where rapid self-help with essential oils is really effective.

The most important point to remember is that treatment is most effective if started at the very first sign of infection. At this stage, a moderately hot bath with a few drops of anti-viral essential oil added will usually provoke profuse sweating, followed by a deep, restful sleep, the sick person should go straight to bed after bathing. Very often, this will be enough to avert a full-blown attack of 'flu completely, though it is a good idea to repeat the bathing for the next two or three days. The most spectacularly effective oil for this purpose is Tea Tree. Some people may find this oil a mild skin irritant, and may not be able to tolerate more than 3 or at the most 4 drops in a full bath, but even this tiny amount is enough to avert the attack of 'flu. If you do not have Tea tree to hand, try a 'cocktail' of Lavender and Eucalyptus, using 3 drops of each.

It must be made clear that this approach is not suppressive, i.e. we are not trying to mask the symptoms of illness. To understand this, it may help to know the manner in which the infection progresses. Between the time when the virus enters the body and the time when the person infected begins to feel ill, the virus reproduces itself rapidly. (Viruses can only reproduce in the body of a host.) No reaction is experienced until the number of viruses in the body reaches a certain level. If the immune system is working at maximum efficiency, the invading virus may be neutralised before it can reproduce sufficiently to make its host feel ill. The person is then said to have good resistance to infection, and this explains why some people 'catch' colds or 'flu in an epidemic and others do not.

At the point where the first symptoms of illness are felt, all the defence mechanisms of the body will be working at full tilt, and an antiviral essential oil will reinforce that effort. Eucalyptus, Lavender and most especially Tea tree act in two ways, by both attacking the virus itself, and by stimulating the immune response. This can be enough to prevent any further proliferation of the virus in the body, so the bout of illness progresses no further.

The effect of an essential oil Baths can be increased by taking a steam Inhalation, or this can be used if bathing is not practical, or if the person feels loo ill to take a bath. Use any of the oils suggested for the bath. Tincture of Echinacea will help boost the Immune System.

If this sort of intervention does not stop a 'flu attack from developing, it will almost certainly reduce its length and severety. In this case, bath with the oils daily, if not feeling too ill, and take an inhalation at least three times a day. This will also help to prevent secondary infections of the respiratory tract by bacteria.

Such bacterial side infections are the greatest risk of 'true' influenza, and were responsible for the thousands of deaths in past epidemics. The use of antibiotics has dramatically reduced such deaths, although the very young and the elderly are still at risk and a really severe infection of this kind may be one of the situations in which the use of antibiotics is sensible. In this case, do not stop the treatment with essential oils - it can only be beneficial and will not conflict with the more orthodox drug treatment.

Burning or diffusing essential oils in the sick person's room is a good additional measure. Again, Tea tree or Eucalyptus are good choices, possibly with some Bergamot added. Another anti-infectious oil to vapourise is Clove, which has been used in epidemics for hundreds of years. Remember, though, that this is a skin irritant, and do not use for bathing.

Recovery from influenza is often slow, and the convalescent may feel very weak and lacking in vitality. Bergamot can be a very helpful oil at this stage, used in massages if possible, but if not, in baths. Rosemary is a tonic and stimulant oil, n very valuable in helping the convalescent to get back on his feet. A course of Floradix or ginseng can be beneficial.

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