When you’re struck down with Strep Throat, you need to act quickly to get the infection under control.
If you’re unable to get a timely doctor’s appointment, not able to afford medical care, or if you simply want to avoid conventional medicine and prefer natural treatments, home remedies are an obvious choice, and when it comes to Strep Throat, home remedies using essential oils are hard to beat.
In this article, we’ll discover which essential oils you can use to combat the infection, and which oils will bring relief from the pain and inflammation so that you don’t have to suffer quite so much while you heal.
- 1 Strep Throat Can Be Dangerous
- 1.1 Strep throat complications include
- 1.2 What Is Strep Throat?
- 1.3 Strep Throat Is Not The Same as a Sore Throat
- 1.4 Symptoms of Strep Throat
- 1.5 How Essential Oils Can Help
- 1.6 For Strep throat specifically, we’re interested in:
- 1.7 Antibacterial/Antibiotic Essential Oils
- 1.8 Method
- 1.9 Zone of Inhibition
- 1.10 Results
- 1.11 Cinnamon Essential Oil (Cinnamomum verum)
- 1.12 Lemongrass Essential Oil (Cymbopogon citratus)
- 1.13 Thyme Essential Oil (Thymus vulgaris CT thymol)
- 1.14 Marjoram Essential Oil (Origanum compactum)
- 1.15 Winter Savory Essential Oil (Satureja montana)
- 1.16 Clove Essential Oil (Eugenia caryophyllus)
- 1.17 Palmarosa Essential Oil (Cymbopogon martinii var. motia)
- 1.18 Camphor Essential Oil (Cinnamomum camphora CT linalool)
- 1.19 Peppermint Essential Oil (Mentha piperita)
- 1.20 Thyme Essential Oil (Thymus vulgaris CT thujanol)
- 1.21 Marjoram Essential Oil (Origanum majorana)
- 1.22 Lavender Essential Oil (Lavandula stoechas)
- 1.23 Cajeput Essential Oil (Melaleuca cajuputi)
- 1.24 Tea Tree Essential Oil (Melaleuca alternifolia)
- 1.25 Analgesic Essential Oils
- 1.26 Anti-inflammatory Essential Oils
- 1.27 How To Use Essential Oils
- 1.28 Direct Inhalation
- 1.29 Steam Inhalation
- 1.30 Diffusion
- 1.31 Topical Application
- 1.32 Gargle
- 1.33 Where To Buy Essential Oils
Strep Throat Can Be Dangerous
Before we talk about the best essential oils for Strep Throat, it’s important to stress that Strep Throat, while very common and not usually serious, can occasionally lead to other health problems (some serious) if it isn’t brought under control.
Strep throat complications include
- Rheumatic fever – which affects the heart, joints and skin.
- Kidney inflammation and failure.
- Scarlet fever – rash all over the body caused by toxins from the bacteria
- Toxic Shock Syndrome – potentially fatal condition caused by bacterial toxins.
- PANDAS – pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infections.
- Ear infection.
- Sinus infection.
- Mastoiditis – an infection of the mastoid bone
- peritonsillar abscess – a pus-filled abscess on the tonsils.
Alternative remedies are great for treating numerous conditions, but sometimes you really do need the big guns of modern medicine. If you don’t begin to see improvement in your throat infection within a week, then you should seek medical advice.
What Is Strep Throat?
Strep Throat is caused by group A streptococcus bacteria – Streptococcus pyogenes. This type of bacteria is contagious and quickly spread from person to person through coughing and sneezing, direct contact, and by sharing cups and utensils.
To combat the infection, you need to kill the bacteria causing the trouble.
Young babies, the elderly, people with compromised immune systems, and those with diabetes are more likely to suffer complications from a Strep infection than normal healthy individuals.
Strep Throat Is Not The Same as a Sore Throat
A sore throat often accompanies seasonal colds and is caused by a virus, whereas Strep Throat, as we have already seen, is caused by Streptococcal bacteria.
How can you tell the difference? Strep Throat is a lot more painful than a regular sore throat, and the redness and swelling in the throat are more pronounced. Fevers are usually present.
When you have a cold, your immune generally fights off the virus in one or two weeks, and your doctor won’t prescribe any medication to combat the virus, although you can speed the healing with natural antiviral remedies.
Strep Throat, once confirmed by a Strep Test at your doctor’s office, you will usually be treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics shorten the duration of the illness, limit the spread of the infection to others, and prevent complications arising.
Antibiotics don’t appear to prevent a recurrence of the infection, and many people report suffering from multiple bouts of Strep Throat, with the new infection cropping up soon after the previous one was eliminated.
Recurrent Strep Throat can be due to a drug-resistant form of Strep or having a Strep carrier in your family.
Continuing use of essential oils may help to prevent these recurring infections.
Symptoms of Strep Throat
Strep Throat symptoms can include:
- Sudden onset of a sore throat without any other cold symptoms
- Bright red throat with white patches
- Red splotches on the roof of the mouth or tonsils
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
- A headache
- Body aches and pains
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty swallowing
- Nausea and vomiting
How Essential Oils Can Help
Essential oils are obtained via steam distillation, from the leaves, stems, roots, flowers, fruits, and barks of certain plants and trees.
All plants need defense mechanisms against the bacteria, viruses, and fungi that attack them, and to raise this defense, plants manufacture chemicals. As well as warding off an attack from the infectious microbes that plague the plant world, these plant chemicals are surprisingly effective against many of the infections which cause disease in humans.
While all plants manufacture their own chemical weapons, relatively few produce useable compounds that can be captured as essential oils, which is why you’ll find a much fuller range of plant medicinals used in herbal medicine than in aromatherapy.
Luckily for us though, there are still many plants that we can capture essential oils from, and in this form, the plant chemicals are incredibly concentrated and therefore very potent.
All essential oils have more than one therapeutic action, but not all possess antibacterial or antibiotic properties, even so, when used in conjunction with microbe killing oils, the non-microbial or less effective antimicrobials can still help to relieve symptoms and ease the pain.
For Strep throat specifically, we’re interested in:
- Essential oils are possessing antibacterial and antibiotic properties, able to combat bacterial infections including infections caused by streptococcus bacteria.
- Anti-inflammatory essential oils to reduce the swelling in your throat, making you more comfortable and making it easier for you to swallow.
- Immune boosting essential oils to support and strengthen your immune system, helping you to fight the bacteria.
- Analgesic (pain relieving) essential oils, which can be more effective at managing pain than typical over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen.
Antibacterial/Antibiotic Essential Oils
Note – antibacterial and antibiotic are basically synonyms which are used interchangeably to mean that the substance kills bacteria.
In 2013, French researchers from the university of Angers tested 18 essential oils to determine which essential oils could kill Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria.
Of the 18 essential oils tested, 14 showed antibacterial activity against the Strep Throat causing agent.
The antibacterial effects differed among the 14 essential oils with some showing much stronger effects than others.
Researchers used Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria collected from the throat of a child and used this bacteria to test the effects of the essential oils.
Each essential oil was then used on the bacteria and their effects evaluated.
Zone of Inhibition
The zone of inhibition is a test used to determine the effectiveness of antibacterial agents.
To carry out the test, bacteria are spread over an agar plate (Petri dish containing a growth medium for bacteria) and then an antibacterial substance is applied to the center of the plate.
The bacteria on the plate are incubated for 18 to 24 hours at the optimum temperature for bacterial growth.
If the antibacterial substance is effective against the bacteria, then a circular, bacteria free area will form on the plate. The wider the bacteria-free zone, the more potent the antibacterial substance.
The five oils with the greatest antibacterial activity had zones of inhibition measuring 45 to 38 mm.
- Cinnamon essential oil (Cinnamomum verum)
- Lemongrass essential oil (Cymbopogon citratus)
- Thyme essential oil (Thymus vulgaris CT thymol)
- Marjoram essential oil (Origanum compactum)
- Winter Savory essential oil (Satureja montana)
Two oils exhibited zones of inhibition of 18 and 15 mm:
- Clove essential oil (Eugenia caryophyllus)
- Palmarosa essential oil (Cymbopogon martinii var. motia)
Essential oils with zones of inhibition ranging from 13 to 9 mm:
- Camphor essential oil (Cinnamomum camphora CT linalool)
- Peppermint essential oil (Mentha piperita)
- Thyme essential oil (Thymus vulgaris CT thujanol)
- Marjoram essential oil (Origanum majorana)
- Lavender essential oil (Lavandula stoechas)
- Cajeput essential oil (Melaleuca cajuputi)
- Tea tree essential oil (Melaleuca alternifolia)
Note – CT stands for chemotype and denotes a particular subspecies of a plant grown in a certain area under particular climatic conditions, resulting in a chemically distinct essential oil.
To help put those zones of inhibition into a useful context for you, here are the zones of inhibition against Streptococcus pyogenes for some common antibiotics:
- Penicillin – 39.0 mm
- Ampicillin – 34.5 mm
- Ciprofloxacin – 30 mm
- Amoxicillin – 22.3 mm
- Erythromycin – 14.5 mm
- Vancomycin – 14.5 mm
- Tetracycline -10.5 mm
- Gentamicin – 2.0 mm
It should be stressed that the essential oils in this study were tested in the lab and not used in a clinical setting on patients. However, these essential oils have been used for centuries in European herbal medicine and in Traditional Chinese Medicine and in the Indian Ayurvedic System. Modern research is just beginning to scratch the surface when it comes to essential oils.
Before using essential oils to treat infectious illness, you should satisfy yourself as to the effectiveness and safety of the oils you plan to use or consult a practitioner of natural medicine.
Cinnamon Essential Oil (Cinnamomum verum)
Also known as Cinnamomum zeylanicum, cinnamon essential oil of this type comes in two forms – leaf oil and bark oil. Both forms can result in skin irritation and sensitization, with bark oil presenting a higher risk for sensitization.
Cinnamon bark oil must not be used during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
Essential oil experts Robert Tisserand and Rodney Young, authors of Essential Oil Safety – A Guide for Healthcare Practitioners, recommend a dermal maximum of 0.7% for cinnamon bark oil and 0.6% for cinnamon leaf oil.
This equates to approximately 4 drops of essential oil in 30 ml or one ounce of carrier oil.
Cinnamon essential oil can be applied topically to the skin, used with direct, steam or diffused inhalation, or used as a gargle.
Lemongrass Essential Oil (Cymbopogon citratus)
In addition to its antibacterial activity, lemongrass essential oil will help to relieve the pain caused by Strep Throat due to its analgesic properties.
Safe for inhalation, topical use and as a gargle.
Tisserand and Young recommend a dermal maximum of 0.7% (4 drops) for this essential oil.
Thyme Essential Oil (Thymus vulgaris CT thymol)
The major constituent of this chemotype of thyme essential oil is thymol which is a known irritant. Therefore, thyme CT thymol essential oil should be used as a dermal maximum of 1.3%.
An ounce of essential oil contains approximately 600 drops (this varies according to the viscosity of the oil).
To calculate a 1.3% dilution, multiply the decimal equivalent 0.013 by 600. The resulting 7.8 can be rounded up to 8 drops.
Thyme may inhibit blood clotting, so if you take blood-thinning drugs, you should avoid thyme essential oil or consult your doctor before use.
Not suitable for use during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
May irritate mucus membranes – if using in steam, begin with one drop and increase the amount if no discomfort arises.
Marjoram Essential Oil (Origanum compactum)
Marjoram essential oil has analgesic properties as well as the ability to kill bacteria.
Safe for topical use, inhalation and for mixing with water to make a gargle.
Not safe during pregnancy.
Winter Savory Essential Oil (Satureja montana)
Winter Savory is a culinary herb related to thyme. The essential oil obtained from the plant is very high in phenols and contains 30 to 40% carvacrol, and 20 to 30% thymol.
Information on Winter Savory essential oil is quite difficult to find, however, due to its constituents, it would be wise to follow the same advice given for thyme essential oil.
Winter Savory is known to be unsafe for use during pregnancy.
Clove Essential Oil (Eugenia caryophyllus)
Available as clove bud oil, clove leaf oil, and clove stem oil, clove bud is the safest type to use. However, there is still a risk of skin and mucus membrane irritation, so it must be well diluted before use.
The dermal maximum for this oil is 0.5%, (0.005 x 600 = 3 drops per ounce of carrier oil).
For inhalation, begin with one drop in water and increase only if no irritation of the mouth or nasal passages occurs.
May also be used as a gargle.
Not safe for use during pregnancy, and could cause blood clotting issues, so those on blood thinners should avoid this essential oil or seek advice before use.
Palmarosa Essential Oil (Cymbopogon martinii var. motia)
Safe to use topically, for inhalation and as a gargle.
Camphor Essential Oil (Cinnamomum camphora CT linalool)
This particular type of camphor oil is also known as Ho Leaf oil and is considered to be safe essential oil for all uses. The main constituent of this oil is L-linalool which is also present in another very safe essential oil – lavender.
Caution – Other types of camphor essential oil have significant potential for causing skin irritation and even toxic reactions, and are best avoided unless used in professional hands. These types of camphor are not a safe oil to use around children in any circumstances.
Peppermint Essential Oil (Mentha piperita)
Analgesic and anti-inflammatory, peppermint essential oil will help to combat bacteria, relieve swelling and lessen pain.
Not suitable for use near the faces of infants or young children, but can be used on the torso or limbs. Ideal for adult use as a topical oil, inhalant, and as a gargle.
Thyme Essential Oil (Thymus vulgaris CT thujanol)
According to Tisserand and Young, this thyme chemotype is safe for all uses.
Marjoram Essential Oil (Origanum majorana)
Also known as Sweet Marjoram, this chemotype is generally safe for all uses. However, it is not safe during pregnancy.
In addition to its antibacterial properties, Sweet marjoram acts as a pain reliever.
Lavender Essential Oil (Lavandula stoechas)
Lavandula stoechas is better known as French Lavender, there are many types of lavender essential oil on the market, so check labels carefully to ensure that you purchase the right one as it’s French Lavender that has the highest antibacterial activity.
All types of lavender oil are known to be exceptionally safe for all uses, and in addition to their bacteria-killing properties, this fragrant oil also acts as an analgesic.
Cajeput Essential Oil (Melaleuca cajuputi)
- Not recommended for use with young children – may cause breathing difficulties.
- This essential oil also has mild analgesic properties.
- Use topically, as an inhaled oil or as a gargle.
Tea Tree Essential Oil (Melaleuca alternifolia)
While tea tree essential oil resulted in the smallest zone of inhibition of the 14 effective essential oils tested, it’s a very worthwhile essential oil to consider.
Tea tree is very safe for all uses, contains analgesic properties and acts a robust immune system stimulant.
While unlikely to combat the infection on its own, tea tree would make a beneficial partner to any of the other oils listed.
Note – When mixing any essential oils be sure to adhere to the dilution standards. For example, 12 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil, means 12 drops total, not 12 of each oil.
Analgesic Essential Oils
- Eucalyptus Blue Gum (Eucalyptus globulus) – Suitable for topical use and steam inhalation. May cause breathing difficulties in children.
- Peppermint – see above
- Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) – Safe for all uses, keep away from faces of infants and children.
- Black pepper (Piper nigrum) – Safe for all uses
- Marjoram – see above
- Lavender – see above
- Tea Tree – see above
- Lemongrass – see above
Anti-inflammatory Essential Oils
- Thyme – see above
- Clove – see above
- Chamomile German (Matricaria retutica) – Safe for all uses.
- Eucalyptus Blue Gum (Eucalyptus globulus) – Suitable for topical use and steam inhalation. May cause breathing difficulties in children.
- Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) – Safe for all uses, however, a dermal maximum of 0.4% (2 drops) is recommended to avoid phototoxicity.
- Sweet Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) – Not suitable during pregnancy or breastfeeding, do not use on young children, seek medical advice before use if using blood thinners. Safe for use when applied topically, as an inhalant, and as a gargle.
- Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) safe for all uses.
How To Use Essential Oils
Unlike oral antibiotics which have to contend with the digestive system before they can get to work, essential oils which are inhaled or applied topically, are quickly absorbed directly into the bloodstream meaning they can start to combat infections almost instantly.
This is the easiest way to use essential oils, and it’s perfect for when you need a quick “hit” because you don’t have the time to use the other methods, or you just don’t feel well enough to bother.
Just uncap the bottle and inhale the aroma which contains the antibacterial molecules. Inhale through your mouth and then your nose.
Alternatively, you can sprinkle a few drops of the oil onto a tissue so that you don’t leave the top off the bottle for too long and expose the contents to oxygen which degrades the oil.
Steam inhalation with added essential oils is of great benefit when you have a cold as it helps to loosen mucus and ease congestion, but it’s also beneficial when you have a throat infection.
The steam will deliver the essential oil molecules to the mucus membranes of your nose and sinuses where they pass quickly into your bloodstream, and the moisture will soothe irritation in your throat and ease inflammation.
When you use an essential oil steam, you’re also delivering stress relieving molecules right to the emotional center of your brain which will help to relax you and make you feel better during your illness.
To make steam, fill a bowl with boiling water and add 3 to 4 drops (unless otherwise stated) of your chosen essential oil. Lean over the bowl (not too close in case the steam scalds your skin) and drape a towel over your head so that it forms a tent over the bowl and traps the steam inside.
Close your eyes and inhale slowly and deeply, moving away from the steam to take a break if you need to. Continue to inhale until the water cools and the steam runs out.
An essential oil diffuser uses ultrasonic vibrations to vaporize the essential oil and emit an antibacterial mist into the air.
A diffuser is an ideal way to benefit from essential oils while you sleep. You’ll find a wide range of diffusers to fit all budgets online at Amazon and similar retailers.
Essential oils can be applied to the skin once they have been sufficiently diluted. Essential oils are very strong, and undiluted oils can cause rashes and irritation as well as increase the likelihood that you’ll develop a sensitivity to the oil.
Once you develop sensitivity, you’ll experience an allergic reaction if you use the oil again in the future, so to make sure that you’re always able to use these powerful natural remedies, take care to dilute your essential oils properly.
Don’t be tempted to use larger amounts of essential oil – even when it seems as though the amounts you are using are tiny.
Essential oils are highly concentrated botanical compounds – for example, it takes 30 pounds of lavender to make 15 ml of lavender essential oil and 65 pounds of rose petals to make 15 ml of rose otto.
As a general rule, a 2% dilution is plenty strong enough for therapeutic use. To make a 2% dilution, mix 12 drops of essential oil with 30 ml (one ounce) of carrier oil.
For children and the elderly, a 1% dilution is the preferred strength and to make this use 6 drops of essential oil per ounce or 30 ml of carrier oil.
Your carrier oil can be any plant-based oil that you have to hand – sunflower, olive, rice bran, apricot kernel, almond, jojoba, coconut oil, etc.
Gently massage the diluted essential oil into your throat and neck area several times a day, using no more than one ounce of your diluted oil per day.
Some essential oils may be mixed with a glass of water and used as a gargle or mouthwash. The essential oils listed in this article as suitable for use as a gargle are all GRAS (generally recognized as safe) food additives.
Even so, caution should be exercised when using essential oils internally, and care should be taken not to swallow the gargle mixture.
Use 2 to 4 drops in an 8 oz glass of water.
Where To Buy Essential Oils
It’s essential to buy pure essential oils (sometimes called therapeutic grade) which have not been contaminated with other substances.
Dishonest vendors will often sell oils (at appealing prices) that are diluted in this manner, and since they haven’t listed the adulterants on the label you won’t know what you’re using on your body, and you won’t get the benefit of a full-strength essential oil.
For this reason, the best course of action is to purchase essential oils from reputable vendors like Tisserand, Mountain Rose Herbs, and Plant Therapy, especially when you buy an oil for the first time.
This way you’ll know what pure essential oils look and smell like, and you’ll become familiar with the effects that they have.
Updated: October 5, 2018 by Dr. Kimberly Langdon M.D. All medical facts and points stated on this page are correct as of this date. Please be aware that new content and additional references were added in this last update. All the content and media has been uploaded by Lily Greene our webmaster, who is also in charge of page design.