By Audrey Christie MSN, RN
We all know essential oils can be great at enhancing our living space and our experience of our homes. But how do we fully enjoy those experiences if we have a physical limitation? Is respiratory congestion ruining your season? Not to worry – no need to take the cold medicines that make you groggy.
Essential oils for respiratory congestion can help you drain that mucus, soothe your cough, and open up those air passages so you can breathe easy again.
Mucus, cough, sore throat, and drainage can be a battle especially dependent upon the season. These pesky symptoms aren’t as difficult to get rid of as you might think.
Research has shown for decades that essential oils are effective at providing you relief to the challenges you might face with your chest congestion symptoms.
The goal of using essential oils for respiratory congestion is to ease symptoms, drain mucus from the sinuses, ease a sore throat, calm a cough, and do all of this without The Unwanted side effects that cold and cough medicine sold over-the-counter can do.
Essential Oils for Respiratory Congestion
Essential oils are powerful healing substances harvested from plants. They are often taken from common plants that you may even have growing natively near you.
Typically they are harvested and processed through steam distillation or cold pressing to extract the most potent parts of the plant.
The result is a super-concentrated version of the plant’s healing qualities. They have long been used topically and aromatically for healing all sorts of ailments of physical and even emotional nature.
My Recommended Oils
Almost any oil inhaled aromatically can be beneficial for respiratory congestion. It’s just the nature of the way the human body interacts through the limbic system with these powerful plant medicines.
There are some specific oils that really work well with the aromatic treatment of respiratory congestion:
1. Lemon Essential Oil
Oil from lemons helps to reduce the swelling that can often occur in the lymph nodes with the mild viral infections that cause these symptoms.
It also can assist the sinuses in draining mucus so that you can breathe again! Simply apply a drop to each sinus with your fingertip. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/32155616?dopt=Abstract)
2. Bergamot Essential Oil
Bergamot contains camphene. This has a cooling and refreshing effect. It also has antioxidant properties which can help protect cells from damage from free radicals and germs. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5694587/)
3. Peppermint Essential Oil
Peppermint is often copied in synthetic products for respiratory conditions. You are no doubt already familiar.
Peppermint contains menthol which creates a cooling sensation that is very soothing to an irritated throat. Peppermint can also relax respiratory muscles, this works to ease breathing when you have a cough. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3607906/)
4. Eucalyptus Essential Oil
Eucalyptus is commonly used in (or a chemical variation of it) vapor or chest-rubs that are marketed to ease coughing.
It helps to ease inflammation, pain, ease muscle tension and is even said to fight off bacteria. (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20359267/)
5. Cinnamon Essential Oil
This last one is popular for many fall and winter issues, and it is said to protect against germs that cause respiratory troubles, especially powerful when combined with other essential oils on this list.
How to Use Essential Oils for Respiratory Congestion
The essential oils that are best suited for chest and head colds tend to be quite strong.
This is a good thing because it means they have powerful healing properties BUT also a reminder that you must proceed with caution.
Never leave kids alone to do their own essential oil work for example. It’s important to respect essential oils and treat them like medications, only using them when needed and at the proper dose.
It’s critical for you to understand that you must respect the oils. Especially when we are talking about using them in combination topically and aromatically for respiratory conditions.
What about discomfort?
If essential oils start to burn too intensely or if you get them in your eyes or other sensitive areas, use a carrier oil to dilute and stop the pain.
If you do get oil in your eyes or some other delicate area that causes burning – flush with olive oil or coconut oil. Do not add water, it will enhance the pain.
Ways to use it?
It’s also important that you pay attention to a little science lesson here.
There are some people on the internet that will tell you to take ingest essential oils orally for respiratory conditions or put a few drops in a cup of water. That is a big no-no.
Essential oils are hydrophobic, which means they don’t mix with water. Oil and water don’t mix nor do essential oils and water or essential oils in your digestive tract.
It’s dangerous to ingest essential oils, so don’t do it without proper care from a clinical aromatherapist.
You should note that sometimes respiratory issues require medical intervention, ultimately you are responsible for your health and wellness and must make the determination about when to seek medical care.
Shortness of breath, faintness, high fevers, persistent symptoms are all reasons to reach out to your doctor.
Finally, know that the most effective way to use essential oils for these respiratory conditions is to use a combination of aromatic and topical approaches.
How to Apply Essential Oils for Respiratory Congestion
The most effective way to use essential oils for respiratory congestion is to use a combination of aromatic and topical approaches.
The first step no matter your strategy is to choose the oils. With respiratory oils, it is pretty easy to choose based on symptoms.
Make your selection by checking with symptoms you need the most help with. You can use a single oil or a combination, I don’t often recommend more than 3 oils in any one combination.
If you are unsure, choose the oil you are most drawn to.
My favorite pairings?
Here are a few suggested pairings for the best results:
Eucalyptus and Cinnamon
This is a great combination if your symptoms are primarily in your chest and you aren’t having much sinus congestion.
Eucalyptus, Peppermint, and Lemon
If you aren’t running a fever, but do have a cough, irritated throat, and a stuffy nose too.
Eucalyptus and Lemon
Work well if there is a low-grade fever and you are experiencing coughing, irritated throat, and a stuffy nose.
Bergamot and Peppermint
These are perfect at the end of a cold, they can also be used in combination with your conventional medical treatments.
Application Methods for Respiratory Congestion
Essential Oil Chest Massage
Essential oils are powerful, so before applying them to the skin in a massage, be sure and dilute them appropriately with a quality plant-based carrier oil.
Grapeseed oil works beautifully for this, as does coconut oil, but any plant-based kitchen oil will work just fine too.
Place 1 tablespoon of carrier oil (or plant-based oil of your choice) into a small glass bowl, never mix essential oils in plastic.
Select your oil(s) from above and drop 2-4 drops of each oil or 4-6 drops total into the tablespoon of carrier oil. You can use this same ratio to make a larger batch as needed.
Essential oils like to be stirred not shaken. So stir lightly so that the oils mix. Massage the oil mixture into your chest, throat, and down the sides of the chest.
Be careful not to get too close to your sensitive skin in your armpits.
If you like to layer healing, massaging in a figure-8 motion can activate the oil properties and speed the benefits.
Even though you are getting benefits from the topical application within about 30 seconds, you are also getting the aromatic benefits as well.
You can also hold firm pressure on any tender areas between the ribs near the collar bones for 30 seconds each to further release the tension.
The aromatic use of essential oils for any respiratory condition is the very best method of treatment. Topical application to the chest will also have an aromatic benefit to it due to the continuity of the respiratory system.
The scent particles of the essential oils will work on your limbic system to send the message to your brain to make the changes needed for healing.
Steam Inhalation vs Diffuser
You can take advantage of the aromatic healing properties of essential oils that are particularly powerful for Victory conditions by diffusing any combination of the oils listed above.
Depending on the size of the room you may need more or less essential oils in your diffusers. You can run diffusers Around the Clock even while you sleep to make relief effortless.
If you don’t own any oil diffusers, you can achieve this same effect by adding a few drops of essential oil listed above or even one of the combinations suggested, into boiling water.
You then remove the boiling water from the heat and carefully throw a towel over your head and the steaming water, then you inhale the steam. You may have seen this in movies from the 80s and 90s, like Crocodile Dundee.
You can also reap the aromatic benefits without any equipment at all, simply drip and drop or two of essential oil into your hand, activate it by rubbing your hands together, and then cup your nose and mouth and inhale deeply.
After doing this 3-4 times take a break. Repeat often until your symptoms are gone.
You can choose to work with one or more of these methods to ease the discomfort associated with respiratory congestion.
Essential oils are a gold standard in treatment for mild upper respiratory congestion. They can help to soothe symptoms and can be complementary to your western medicine interventions.
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