Winter Aromatics: Immune Boosting Recipes

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No matter what time of the year, inhaling Mother Nature’s aromatic plants have purpose. We continue our discussion about Winter Aromatics – specifically Immune Boosting Recipes that can easily be made at home.


Quick Refresher –

Plants themselves create their own aromas to attract and to protect – as part of their biological evolution aimed at survival.

The function of the aromas may be to attract helpful insects to aid in pollinizing or the plant’s aroma may function to protect the plant by repelling harmful pests.

Many organic farmers and gardeners know of the amazing natural aromatic feature of plants as they interplant special plant combinations, called companion planting – plants to attract pollinators and plants to repel harmful pests.

Generally, if the plant’s aroma is found in the flower or the fruit, the aroma’s function is to attract assistance for pollination.

When the plant’s aroma is found in the root, bark, or leaves, the aroma functions to defend the plant.

Many ancient civilizations from around the world have known that the aromas that function to defend the plant can also be used by humans as defense for human health – aimed at survival.

Using plants as medicine is not rocket science. The practice of using plants began long before our western culture developed prescription drugs. Did you know that nearly all prescription drugs originated from plant material?

Many of the herbs didn’t taste good as infused teas or used as tinctures dropped on the tongue. So pills were created – by forming a dough-like paste from ground flour with the crushed herbs or tincture drops within. The paste was rolled into a tubular shape and then cut with a knife. TA-DA! An easy to swallow form of medication.

Two of our basic over-the-counter remedies, BenGay (originated in France and was brought to America in 1898) and Vick’s VapoRub (began its product debut in North Carolina, USA at the turn of the 20th century) use aromatics of the same plant species. Eucalyptus relieves pain and relieves nasal congestion.

“A cheap cure for a serious disease severely overchallenges (sic) the imagination.” Kurt Schnaubelt

To identify aromatic plants that benefit humans by boosting the immune system, we turn to plants that provide aromas found in the root, bark, and leaves of those plants.

Plant aromas can boost the immune system by either stimulating the immune system or by strengthening the immune system. Plants can also be used to assist the immune system during the recovery process, say from a cold or from the flu by shortening the duration of suffering from the unwanted side-effects.

In botanical medicine, both aromatherapy (using essential oils derived from plants) and herbal medicine (using bio-compatible plant material), the plant’s aroma found in the root, bark, or leaves are the most beneficial in preventing and treating respiratory conditions.

Just as with plants that use their biologically evolved aromas aimed towards assisting their survival, humans benefit from these aromas as well. The aromas inhaled assist the body to protect and defend itself.

When we combine aromatherapy (using essential oils derived from plants) with herbal medicine (using bio-compatible plant material), we enhance the function of the immune system in two ways.

  1. Aromatics trigger receptors in the brain which communicate to the parasympathetic nervous system. (Review Basic Aromatherapy 101 from our previous Winter Aromatics blog)
  2. Herbs are bio-compatible plant material and are used to enhance the function of the digestive system.


Today we feature two easy recipes that can be made at home.

  1. Immune Aromatherapy Blend Recipe
  2. Immune Herbal Recipe

This recipe is ideally used in a diffuser. If you don’t have a diffuser, 1-2 drops of the Immune Blend can be placed on a tissue pinned to clothing (preferably pinned near the chest area so the aroma can be inhaled).

Before we get to the recipe, there are a few basic rules about using essential oils that everyone needs to understand. It’s Aromatherapy 101.

Three Essential Oil Rules to Follow:

  1. Always Dilute
  2. Less is More
  3. Follow the Money

Always Dilute

Essential oils are highly concentrated organic plant material. Essential oils are extracted from plant material through an intense distillation process. The yield of essential oil from plant material is between 0.005% and 10% – resulting in a highly concentrated essential oil.

There are a number of other factors to understand that justify the practice of always diluting essential oils.

  • Education and understanding of essential oils is necessary before use
    For example Cinnamon Bark and Cinnamon Leaf (Cinnamomum verum and Cinnamomum zeylanicum) essential oil can cause skin irritation. Cinnamon Bark is created by removing the bark from the tree. The chemistry of the removed bark changes as it ages. So the newly dried bark has a better and more complicated aroma. The main chemical compound found in Cinnamon Bark, cinnamaldehyde, increases as it ages and dries.  Cinnamaldehyde is the chemical responsible for most allergic and irritating reactions to Cinnamon Bark essential oil. Knowing who processes the Cinnamon Bark, how they harvest the bark and how they distill the bark is important information to know. Purchasing from a highly reputable source who is upfront with providing this information is very beneficial.

Knowing about Cinnamon Bark and its chemical constituent, cinnamaldehyde, does not mean that you should not use Cinnamon Bark or Leaf essential oil. It simply means that being properly informed, enables the consumer to be observant.

As with all essential oils, education and understanding of essential oils is necessary before use.

  • Never use essential oils directly on the skin. Some oils can cause adverse results, such as burning or rash. Always dilute essential oils in a carrier oil, not water. Oil and water do not mix.  As such when the essential oil touches the skin (even when in water), the contact is as though the oil is being applied directly to the skin – thus a potential for an adverse experience.
  • Never ingest essential oils without supervised direction by a qualified practitioner. The same adverse effects when essential oils are applied directly to the skin can occur to delicate internal tissue when ingested. The unfortunate difference being that internal damage may not be reversible.

Less is More

Always keep the “less is more” rule in mind. The body only needs to inhale a small amount of essential oils to stimulate cell communication. Essential oils are volatile – meaning they are very light and evaporate quickly. Inhaling a tiny minuscule amount of essential oil will be received by the receptors in the nose and then travel to the brain where the brain cells then communicate to the necessary nervous system receptors.

Breathing too much of any essential oil may reverse the beneficial effect or may numb the receptors – therefore, having no beneficial effect. Again, less is more.


Follow-the Money

Always purchase essential oils from a reputable source. In today’s commercialized world, most essential oils found at big-box retail are adulterated.

The rule to practice is, “follow the money.” Basically, if the essential oil is cheap, it’s not real.

Most large companies will bottle either poor quality essential oils, dilute the essential oils with carrier oils to extend their production, bottle synthetic essential oils mimicking the aroma of the organic essential oil, or will substitute less expensive essential oils that smell very similar (for the average inexperienced person) to the labeled oil. In the case of the latter, the substitute essential oil will have completely different therapeutic benefits.

Follow-the-money – Understand that essential oils are not cheap to make. For example, it takes up to sixty roses to create one drop of rose essential oil. Think of the time it takes the plant to produce just one rose blossom … a long time. Time is money. Then add to that the process of distillation just to get one drop. Rose (absolute) essential oil, Rosa damascena from Morocco can cost $60-$80 for a 10ml bottle. Rose (hydro-distilled) essential oil, Rosa x damascena Mill. from Bulgaria can cost nearly $340 for 10 ml.

It takes time to grow the plant, harvest, distill the plant material, bottle, label, package, warehouse, and ship – all that happens before the essential oil arrives to the retailer’s warehouse and/or store shelf.

There are several threatened or endangered species of plants that have been over-harvested.  For example: Santalum spicatum, Sandalwood essential oil – it takes thirty years for the sandalwood tree to reach maturity and be harvested for its essential oil. Once the trees are cut, that’s it … the tree is not self-sustaining as are other plants harvested for their essential oils. Sandalwood essential oil from Australia costs $53-$56 for a 10 ml. bottle.

These identified species are now protected with laws regulating limited production as well as enforced sustainable management – replanting requirements to ensure plant rejuvenation.

Immune Aromatherapy Blend Recipe

This recipe is ideally used in a diffuser. If you don’t have a diffuser, 1-2 drops of the Immune Blend can be placed on a tissue pinned to clothing (preferably pinned near the chest area so the aroma can be inhaled).

Tools/equipment needed:

1 each        10 ml Colored Glass Bottle with cap or dropper

1 each        Dropper or Pipette (dropper or pipette are needed only if bottle only has regular cap)

1 each        Ultrasonic Nebulizer Diffuser – uses high-frequency vibration to create a vaporizing mist that disperses the essential oil molecules into the air. Essential oils are not heated – which means they won’t evaporate quickly as with conventional essential oil burners and heaters.

Essential Oil Ingredients:

15 drops Sweet Orange – (Citrus sinensis) boosts the immune system for combating cold and flu viruses, aids digestion, irregular heartbeat, and high blood-pressure. Emotionally Sweet Orange counters depression, anxiety, and nervous tension.

5 drops Ravensara (Ravensara aromatic) – boosts the immune system, and acts as an antiseptic treatment for bronchitis, sinus congestion, and other viral infections. Ravensara stimulates digestion secretions. Emotionally Ravensara focuses attention, and counters shock and depression.

5 drops Peppermint (Mentha piperita)– Inhaling Peppermint clears sinuses and lung congestion, stimulates  digestive juices which in turn slows the digestive tract and makes digestion more rhythmic. Emotionally Peppermint is a stimulant that counters depression, anxiety, mental fogginess, and lack of focus.

5 drops Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) – Is antiseptic and counters viral infections, boosting immune system through increasing production of interleukin. Tea Tree builds emotional strength.

5 drops Lavender – (Lavandula angustifolia) is one of the safest and most widely used essential oils as a go-to oil for a variety of conditions. Lavender is used to combat most flu viruses and is good to the lungs and sinuses. It helps digestion and boosts the immune system. Emotionally Lavender provides a wonderful balancing effect – it relaxes and helps those with insomnia as well as some medical drugs, but without the drug side-effects. Lavender helps with nervous exhaustion, mental stress, irritability, and depression.

Not surprising, Japanese studies have found that lavender aroma affects the parasympathetic nervous system.

2 drops Cypress – (Cupressus sempervirens) stimulates circulation, alleviates spasmodic coughing, and relieves lung congestion. Emotionally Cypress eases insomnia, depression, anxiety, nervousness, and grief.

Source for purchasing the above tools/equipment and ingredients:


Be sure to read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the diffuser.

Be respectful of others (both humans and animals – cats especially) in proximity of the diffuser.

  1. Drop the specific number of drops of the essential oils into a dark colored bottle. Swirl the mixture in the bottle to mix the oils together.
  2. Using a dropper (often accompanies the bottle) or a disposable plastic pipette, drop the recommended number of essential oil drops – as defined by your diffuser’s manufacturer – into the diffuser’s water.
  3. Turn on the diffuser and enjoy the aromatic mist.

This blend is not recommended for daily use, but rather should be used intermittently during the cold and flu season. Keep the “less is more” rule in mind. The body only needs to inhale a small amount of essential oils to stimulate cell communication and begin the immune boosting benefits.

For personal use at your office or at home beside your bed (if a diffuser is not suitable), place 1-2 drops of the Immune essential oil blend on a cotton ball and set the cotton ball in a small bowl or dish (to protect the furniture surface). Refresh the cotton ball with another drop of the Immune Blend every 4 hours or as needed. Again, the Immune Blend is not recommended for daily use, but rather should be used intermittently during the cold and flu season.

Immune Herbal Recipe

Herbal medicine is also used for boosting the immune system. Often the aroma of a plant-based tea will trigger the brain receptors in the very same way as the aromatics of the essential oils found in the essential oil blend.

There are added benefits of drinking herbal tea.

One benefit is that the plant material is not a concentrate as is the essential oil distilled from the same plant. Being that the plant material is not concentrated, there are fewer concerns and cautions.

Another benefit is that the chemicals and nutrients released from brewing the tea, when ingested, will provide nutritional value. Essential oils when inhaled, provide no nutritional value. (Special note: NEVER ingest essential oils without the guidance and direction of a trained practitioner.)


A hot water herbal infusion is the basic preparation method. Tulsi tea (Holy Basil), Ocimum sanctum, is the most recommended form of tea for boosting the immune system to ward off a cold or flu. Tulsi tea is very safe to drink. It has properties that encourage a healthier response to stress, provide natural detoxification of toxins, and increase stamina. There are several plant varieties of Holy Basil and they all carry similar immune boosting properties. So don’t worry about which plant variety is listed on the package.

The immune boosting benefits of Tulsi tea can be enhanced by adding other herbs to the basic Tulsi blend. Often times health food stores will have pre-packaged blends of Tulsi tea with these beneficial herbs. If possible, look for a blend containing Licorice root.

Online Resources:

Tulsi Basil (loose herb):

Tulsi Tea with Licorice:


Licorice Root increases our resistance by strengthening and regulating the immune system. It has beneficial anti-inflammatory properties for the digestive, respiratory and urinary systems. By reducing inflammation, Licorice Root encourages normal functions of these systems thus strengthening the immune system.

Licorice Root should not be taken by those with hypertension, edema and water retention issues, or kidney disease. Like Echinacea, Licorice Root is an excellent herb that should not be used for extended periods of time.


Herbal Tea Directions:

Using 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon dry herb (placed in a tea brewing diffuser) per cup of water, then steeped for 4-6 minutes.

The infusion will become stronger by adding more dry-herb and increasing the steep time. However, keep the “less is more” rule in mind. The body only needs a small amount of herbs to stimulate cell communication and begin the immune boosting benefits.


I hope you enjoy the benefits of trying either or both of these Winter Aromatics: Immune Boosting Recipes.


Our next aromatic discussion will be about: Relentless Rashes





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Janet Kempe is not a licensed medical practitioner and does not diagnose, prescribe medications, or claim to cure any health condition.