Your little one’s cheeks are flushed and you check his temperature; he has a fever. “Alternate Tylenol and Ibuprofen until the fever abates,” your pediatrician’s office tells you, and you spend the next twenty-four hours anxiously watching over him, administering medication and feeling relief when his fever breaks.
A week later, you come home early from work. You check your temperature and sure enough–you’ve got a fever now, too. You reach for the acetaminophen and crawl into bed, hoping your fever breaks soon.
What If Fevers Helped–Not Hurt?
As convenient as acetaminophen is, however, it might not be the best option for fever relief for our families, for two reasons. The first is that one of the biggest misconceptions most of us have about our health is that a fever is a bad thing. This misunderstanding keeps us from taking advantage of our full arsenal of resources–including essential oils for fever.
In fact, biologists’ growing understanding of how our body protects us from disease reveals that fevers aren’t bad. They might even be wildly important to our future health as we grow from infant to adult (1, 2).
The second reason that acetaminophen may not be good for pregnant women or children is that scientists are accumulating massive amounts of evidence that point to a relationship between the use of acetaminophen and the development of asthma and Autism.
Are Essential Oils for Fever a More Healthful Solution?
Before I go any further, I want to say: we’ve all been there with a teething or feverish child! In my experience, a lot of my fellow parents grab Tylenol because it’s easy to use, it works, the doctors say it’s safe, and we just want our children to feel better. Using essential oils for fever can sometimes seem too complicated.
However, once we gain a better understanding of fevers and how they work, and realize that acetaminophen is not as safe as we thought it was, we’re empowered to find better solutions.
And the great news is that essential oils for fever aren’t just natural–they’re also effective, easy to use, and are uniquely situated to address the underlying cause of the fever in a way that traditional fever-reducing medications simply cannot.
I’ll share my favorite essential oils for fever below, but first let’s understand what’s going on when you or your child get too hot for comfort.
The Reason for a Fever
If your body was a country, your immune system would be its military, national guard, and border defense all rolled into one. Not only does your immune system help defend you from harmful invaders like viruses and bacteria, it also helps you defeat the pathogens when they breach your defenses.
You might be surprised to discover how familiar you are with some of your body’s elite defense forces: coughs and sneezes, for example, help you forcefully expel contaminants from your mouth, nose, and lungs. Mucus build-up in your nose and throat can trap bacteria and stop it from advancing, as well as deliver fighter cells to the battlefront.
None of these would be complete, however, without fever.
The Brain is Doing Its Job
In 2007, scientists traced the beginnings of the fever response to the hypothalamus, a tiny portion of the brain located in its very center (3).
Here’s how the process works: your body recognizes an intruder and raises the alarm. The ensuing inflammation triggers the release of hormones called prostaglandins. These hormones bind to a special receptor in the hypothalamus, which carefully tweaks your body’s temperature.
Dr. Clifford B. Saper, the neuroscientist who made the discovery, told the New York Times, “If you raise the body’s temperature a few degrees, white blood cells become more active; they actually fight harder. But most bacteria don’t grow as well.” (3)
So, not only do higher body temperatures create an untenable environment for the bad guys; but they usher more good guys to the front line!
A Sophisticated Alert System
Fevers are also a sophisticated alert system, letting you know there’s a problem. They’re not the only alert your body gives you–exhaustion and aches and pains are also your body’s way of indicating that rest is paramount.
Fevers may also indicate the presence of more serious concerns. For example, it’s one of the indicators of Kawasaki disease, which affects children and is treatable, but might be missed if fever is suppressed.
Dr. Mercola, osteopathic physician and natural medicine proponent, explains,
“It would be far more helpful to think of a fever as a healing response rather than a symptom of disease. And, raising your body’s temperature to between 102 to 103 degrees F is actually the ideal range of a fever because this is the temperature range in which microbes will be killed.” (4)
The Good News About Fevers
Ready to breath one more sign of relief? The final good news about fevers is that they are rarely harmful. Even febrile seizures, believed to be brought on by high fevers, rarely cause lasting danger, as scary as they are to experience!
This article from Dr. Axe explains more about fever’s warning signs, but here’s when you should consult a doctor (5):
- Fevers in children and adults over 105 °F (that won’t come down)
- A reading of 100.4 °F when taken rectally in a child younger than three months
- A reading of 102.2 °F when taken rectally in a children between three months and a year
- A fever that has lasted longer than 48 hours in a child under two years
Outside of these scenarios, there’s rarely need for concern. Instead, your priority when a fever surfaces is to address what’s causing the fever.
The Problem With Treating Fevers With Tylenol
This is partly why acetaminophen and other fever-reducing medications aren’t helpful, while using essential oils for fever can be; lowering a beneficial fever might not do you or your child any favors.
A 2008 paper published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood highlighted three studies of adults and children infected with rhinovirus (the common cold), chickenpox, and bacterial disease in Japan and North America. All three concluded that symptoms were unaffected or worsened after the administration of acetaminophen. (6)
Unfortunately, taking longer to get better is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the dangers of acetaminophen (and why I’m such a huge proponent of using essential oils for fever).
The Role Tylenol Plays in Autism and Asthma
In 2017, researchers looked at how inflammation and oxidative stress (both have proven links to autism) interact with acetaminophen exposure in the womb and during early childhood.
In the resulting comprehensive review of available studies, the study authors explained that a compelling explanation for the skyrocketing diagnoses of autism today “is that increased exposure to acetaminophen, exacerbated by inflammation and oxidative stress, is neurotoxic in babies and small children.” (7)
The review points to an overwhelming number of studies and historical trends that point to direct links between acetaminophen and autism in Europe, New Zealand, Australia, and North America.
Tylenol doesn’t just play a role in autism induction; scientists have now established a causal link between asthma prevalence and severity and the use of acetaminophen. (8)
The evidence is increasingly overwhelming, but if you’ve used Tylenol for yourself or your child, don’t panic. There is tremendous value in making a course correction, even when we’re mid-flight, and fortunately, the following essential oils for fever are safe and effective.
Using Essential Oils for Fever
Using essential oils for fever has many benefits, including:
- Addressing fever’s root cause (viral or bacterial infection, inflammation, etc.)
- Easing symptoms besides fever (aches and pains, headaches, etc.)
- Aiding in rest and relaxation
- Increasing immune system strength and response
It’s all about strengthening your body to do what it does best–keep you healthy! Here are my favorite essential oils for fever:
1. Eucalyptus Oil
You might recognize the eucalyptus tree as the home of the koala, but the leafy green tree isn’t just good for the small furry mammals!
Eucalyptus oil is one of my favorite essential oils for fever because it’s been used traditionally as an antipyretic (fever reducer), an analgesic (pain reliever), and an anti-inflammatory for centuries (10). That means it covers all the roles of traditional drugs like Ibuprofen and Tylenol, but does so completely naturally!
Eucalyptus oil is especially effective when treating fevers resulting from respiratory infections, such as the flu, as well as cold and sinus congestion (you can read how I use eucalyptus oil for sore throats here). Plus, the oil has been shown to stimulate the body’s immune response (11).
Special Note: while it’s a great option for adults, eucalyptus oil is not safe to use for young children or infants, and adults should not use it orally for more than twelve weeks. There are better essential oils for fever for children–keep reading!
2. Peppermint Oil
Peppermint oil tops most of my favorite lists, and that includes my essential oils for fever list. Peppermint oil is easy to use, highly accessible, and inexpensive. Plus, you’re probably already familiar with the mint plant, so if you’ve never used essential oils before, this is a great place to start.
Here’s why peppermint oil should be one of your go-to essential oils for fever:
- Peppermint contains menthol, which has analgesic and cooling properties, important in helping to bring fever relief.
- Studies have found peppermint oil to be as effective as acetaminophen for tension headaches (the kind that often accompany fevers). In Germany, it’s used as standard treatment. (9)
- It might have the ability to treat a cold, a sore throat, and even asthma. (12)
Peppermint oil shouldn’t be overused (too much can make you sick!) and pregnant women should probably stick to diffusing it, and not using it topically or internally. Also, if you’re breastfeeding, stay away from peppermint oil, since it can dry your milk supply (you can use other essential oils for fever, such as Roman chamomile oil or Frankincense).
One of my favorite ways to use peppermint is to combine one or two drops with a carrier oil (coconut oil works great) and massage gently onto the temples, the base of the neck and spine, and even the chest if the fever is especially high. It can also be taken orally–one drop in about four ounces of water.
Frankincense is the oil of kings (it’s one of the gifts the three wise men brought to Bethlehem!) for a good reason–it’s one of the most powerful oils we have in our arsenal, and it’s hands down one of the best essential oils for fever you can use.
Here are a few highlights:
- Frankincense has demonstrated antipyretic (fever lowering) abilities (13).
- It has also shown very powerful anti-inflammatory properties, and can be a powerful aid in reducing arthritis symptoms and even pain reduction (14, 15, 16).
- Frankincense boosts the immune system, has extremely strong anti-microbial properties, and helps to relieve stress and anxiety so that you can focus on getting better.
We’ve already written extensively on the many wonders of Frankincense, and my favorite way to use the oil to treat a fever is to combine with a carrier oil (you can make your own roller ball blend or purchase one for extra convenience) and roll on the bottom of your feet or your children’s feet or the back of the neck.
Bergamot has a lovely floral, woody scent and has a proven ability to lower cortisol, the stress hormone that, when released, can cause the flushed, warm feeling we experience during fever (17). High levels of cortisol are also related to high levels of inflammation, and bergamot oil’s ability to swiftly and effectively lower stress levels makes it a superb choice even when you don’t have a fever! Bergamot oil also has natural antimicrobial properties when exposed to bacteria (18).
Here are a few more essential oils for fever that I’ve found useful:
- Roman chamomile oil is one of the most helpful essential oils for fever when it comes to children. It’s extremely soothing and calming, has been used traditionally for fever treatment since ancient times with great results thanks to how gentle and safe it is.
- Oregano oil is one of my favorite essential oils for fever because of its infection-busting properties! Oregano oil’s benefits are difficult to understate, especially if you have a sore throat.
- Wintergreen has a cooling effect to peppermint and acts like an analgesic similar to aspirin (18).
- Verbena may also have an antipyretic effect (20).
Creating Your Own Fever Blend
There are many great recipes for creating blends of essential oils for fever. You can try some of the above oils individually to see what works best for you, and then make your own blend, or you can try the following recipe from There’s an EO for That:
- 10ml roll on bottle
- 2 drops peppermint oil
- 2 drops frankincense oil
- 2 drops eucalyptus oil
- Carrier oil (coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, grapeseed oil, sweet almond oil, etc.)
Add the essential oils to your bottle, then fill to the top with the carrier oil. Tighten the cap well and roll in your hands to mix.
I hope you now feel empowered to use essential oils for fever the next time you or your children get sick. Which oil do you plan to reach for first? Write in below in the comments section and let me know!
- Evans, S.S., Repasky, E.A., & Fisher, D.T. (2015). Fever and the thermal regulation of immunity: the immune system feels the heat. Nature Reviews Immunology, 15(6), 335-49. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25976513
- Cannon, J.G. (2013). Perspective on fever: the basic science and conventional medicine. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 1, S54-60. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23578918
- Schaffer, Amanda. (2007). Research identifies brain site for fever. Retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/07/health/07feve.html
- Mercola, Joseph. (2010). How to kill a cold, starve a fever — and when you absolutely must see a doctor. Retrieved from: https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/10/26/scary-symptoms-that-are-really-no-big-deal.aspx
- Oliver, Kyra. (2016). How to get rid of a fever. Retrieved from: https://draxe.com/how-to-get-rid-of-a-fever/
- El-Radhi, A. S. M. (2008). Why is the evidence not affecting the practice of fever management?. Archives of disease in childhood. Full text: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.845.3437&rep=rep1&type=pdf
- Parker, W., Hornik, C.D., Bilbo, S., Holzknecht, Z.E., Gentry, L., Rao, R., Lin, S.S., Herbert, M.R., & Nevison, C.D. (2017). The role of oxidative stress, inflammation and acetaminophen exposure from birth to early childhood in the induction of autism. The Journal of International Medical Research. Full text: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0300060517693423
- McBride, J.T. (2011). The association of acetaminophen and asthma prevalence and severity. Pediatrics, 128(6),1181-5. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22065272
- 9.Göbel, H., Heinze, A., Heinze-Kuhn, K., Göbel, A., & Göbel, C. (2016). [Peppermint oil in the acute treatment of tension-type headache]. Schmerz, 30(3), 295-310. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27106030
- Sebei, K., Sakouhi, F., Herchi, W., Khouja, M.L., and Boukhchina, S. (2015). Chemical composition and antibacterial activities of seven Eucalyptus species essential oils leaves. Biological Research, 48(1), 7. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4417289/#CR8
- Serafino, A., Vallebona, P.S., Andreola, F., Zonfrillo, M., Mercuri, L., Federici, M., Rasi, G., Garaci, E., & Pierimarchi, P. (2008). Stimulatory effect of Eucalyptus essential oil on innate cell-mediated immune response. BMC Immunology, 9, 17. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2374764/
- Thosar, N., Basak, S., Bahadure, R. N., & Rajurkar, M. (2013). Antimicrobial efficacy of five essential oils against oral pathogens: An in vitro study. European journal of dentistry, 7(Suppl 1), S71. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4054083/
- Siddiqui, M.Z. (2011). Boswellia Serrata, A Potential Antiinflammatory Agent: An Overview. Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, 73(3), 255–261. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3309643/
- Abdel-Tawab M, Werz O, Schubert-Zsilavecz M. Boswellia serrata: an overall assessment of in vitro, preclinical, pharmacokinetic and clinical data. Clin Pharmacokinet. 2011;50:349–369.
- Triantafyllidi, A., Xanthos, T., Papalois, A., & Triantafillidis, J. K. (2015). Herbal and plant therapy in patients with inflammatory bowel disease. Annals of gastroenterology: quarterly publication of the Hellenic Society of Gastroenterology, 28(2), 210.
- Chang, S. Y. (2008). Effects of aroma hand massage on pain, state anxiety and depression in hospice patients with terminal cancer. Journal of Korean Academy of Nursing, 38(4), 493-502.
- Watanabe, E., Kuchta, K., Kimura, M., Rauwald, H.W., Kamei, T., & Imanishi, J. (2015). Effects of bergamot ( Citrus bergamia (Risso) Wright & Arn.) essential oil aromatherapy on mood states, parasympathetic nervous system activity, and salivary cortisol levels in 41 healthy females. Forschende Komplementärmedizin, 22(1),43-9. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25824404
- Mandalari, G., Bennett, R.N., Bisignano, G., Trombetta, D., Saija, A., Faulds, C.B., Gasson, M.J., & Narbad, A. (2007) Antimicrobial activity of flavonoids extracted from bergamot (Citrus bergamia Risso) peel, a byproduct of the essential oil industry. Journal of Applied Microbiology, 103(6), 2056-64. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18045389
- Hebert, P. R., Barice, E. J., & Hennekens, C. H. (2014). Treatment of Low Back Pain: The Potential Clinical and Public Health Benefits of Topical Herbal Remedies.
- Abena, A. A., Diatewa, M., Gakosso, G., Gbeassor, M., Hondi-Assah, T. H., & Ouamba, J. M. (2003). Analgesic, antipyretic and anti-inflammatory effects of essential oil of Lippia multiflora. Fitoterapia, 74(3), 231-236. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12727486