How many times have you washed your hands today? We’re constantly being told that frequent hand washing is the key to preventing the spread of coronavirus, and it’s definitely advice we should all be following.
But I hear time and time again from people who say the skin on their hands isn’t too thrilled. If you’ve braved a trip to the grocery store lately, you’ll have seen lots of people walking around with chapped and even bleeding hands thanks to a steady assault from alcohol-based hand sanitizers and a relentless stream of hot water and harsh hand soap.
Of course, it seems like a fair tradeoff if it helps us avoid getting or spreading a deadly virus, but does it really have to be this way?
The answer is no.
I’m not saying you should stop washing and sanitizing your hands. For the sake of everyone, please continue.
But I am saying that it’s completely possible to help keep viruses and bacteria away while protecting your skin from damage, and we have essential oils to thank for that.
What are essential oils?
In short, essential oils are compounds that are extracted from plants and capture the flavor and scent, or “essence”, of the plant. They’re obtained via distillation or cold pressing, and they offer lots of healing properties.
Essential oils shouldn’t be ingested. Instead, they’re typically used either in a diffuser to provide aromatherapy or diluted and applied topically to the skin.
Several essential oils offer antimicrobial properties, which means they can kill viruses, bacteria, and fungi. Here’s a look at some of the best.
Lavender oil is considered one of the most popular essential oils and that’s largely due to its broad range of benefits. It has antifungal, antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic properties – and that’s just for starters.
In addition to helping fight fungal infections, it’s often used in aromatherapy to relieve headaches, fatigue, stress and even depression.
Some studies have shown that it can reduce anxiety as well – and that’s something I think we could all use some help with these days!
You may already be familiar with peppermint oil’s cool and refreshing fragrance, but it’s the health properties of this oil that really make it stand out. It’s used topically to help relieve itching, muscle pain and headaches, and it’s also used to address the common cold, nausea, irritable bowel syndrome, and other digestive complaints.
Like lavender oil, it’s featured in Healthline’s 10 Essential Oils for Fighting the Flu. It can reduce coughs, throat infections and sinusitis. It boasts mild antimicrobial properties, and it can also boost your energy.
Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil comes all the way from Australia, from a tree called Melaleuca alternifolia, rather than an actual tea plant as the name might imply. It contains several compounds that can kill certain types of viruses, fungi and bacteria, and it can also raise your white blood cell activity, which can help you fight off germs.
It’s considered a natural hand sanitizer, surface sanitizer, and insect repellent, and it boosts wound healing, soothes skin inflammation and disinfects cuts and scrapes.
Lemongrass oil has a pleasant citrus fragrance, and it’s often used in aromatherapy to relieve depression, anxiety and stress. On top of that, it has proven effective in studies in preventing skin infections, blood infections, pneumonia, and serious intestinal infections. It can also fight fungi like ringworm, jock itch and athlete’s foot. This essential oil is one serious overachiever!
Other essential oils
Although we’ve just examined three great oils, it’s worth noting that there are lots of other essential oils that have demonstrated the ability to kill bacteria, such as thyme, oregano, cinnamon, clove, lemon, and rosemary, to name just a few.
Harnessing the benefits of essential oils for angry hands
So, should you go out and buy these oils and start rubbing them into your hands?
I’m afraid not. Essential oils don’t have the texture you might expect from something called “oil”, and they need to be mixed into a carrier oil to make them emollient and dilute them as they’re extremely strong.
But that’s actually what’s so great about essential oils right now: they have antimicrobial properties and you can combine them with oils and other ingredients that will soothe and heal broken skin. It’s like two solutions in one and a win-win for your long-suffering hands!
While you could certainly mix up a few drops of these essential oils with your moisturizer of choice, getting high-quality oils is, well… essential. And it’s not an easy feat when you can’t leave the house. It’s often more convenient to find all-natural products from trusted brands that use these ingredients.
Dr. Doug’s Miracle Balm combines all-natural lavender and peppermint oils with organic extra virgin coconut and olive oils as well as organic beeswax for a product that will sanitize and heal at the same time. Coconut oil’s high concentration of nourishing healthy fats and vitamin E can smooth skin nicely, while olive oil contains antioxidants that can fight damage from free radicals and prevent signs of sun damage.
Beeswax is also used in Miracle Balm, and while it may not be an essential oil, it boasts anti-bacterial properties of its own. It’s also suited to fighting dry skin, stretch marks, eczema and even acne.
This is a very trying time that has been as hard on our spirits as it has our hands. So, let’s all follow social distancing guidelines and keep washing our hands, and let the power of nature keep viruses and bacteria away while protecting our skin from damage. Your hands will thank you!