Breathe More Easily: Essential Oils for Coughs, Colds and Congestion from Allergies

The tree pollen allergy season has arrived with a vengeance and with many people spending time exercising outdoors in rural areas and green spots than may have done so before, there is an uptake of interest in natural remedies for pollen issues.

Pollen allergies can result in streaming eyes and nose and nasty sinusitis which is inflammation of the delicate sinuses which are designed to promote clearance and correct functioning of the airways.  The sunny spring days can spell misery for many people who suffer from tree pollen hay fever and related conditions.  Obviously, Coronavirus has put a real emphasis on respiratory remedies and care too, for those who are suffering mild symptoms which can be managed at home, or who are suffering from a common cold or cough but want to be extra cautious.

pollen, a cause of seasonal allergies

Pollen allergies can cause flu-like symptoms, a blocked nose, congestion, coughs, and sneezes

So, what are nature’s remedies for a decongestant for pollen, viral illness, or just congestion from a good old-fashioned cough and cold?

Here are some of the best essential oils for a good clear out of the nasal passages and the different ways you can use them.

  • Peppermint Oil – sharp, cooling and clarifying and this is because peppermint oil contains menthol which can influence the mucous receptors in the nose, helping to promote clear airways and reduce inflammation. Peppermint oil also has form in fighting the bacteria which can cause sinusitis in the first place
  • Eucalyptus oil – this is a popular oil found in many over-the-counter treatments like Olbas Oil and Vicks Vapor rub. Eucalyptus oil is a pungent and powerful friend to relieve the pain and misery of chronic decongestion and this is all because it contains a compound called Cineole which is effective at alleviating headaches and the nasal obstruction associated with a pollen allergy or heavy cold
  • Tea Tree oil – tea tree oil is popular as an anti-inflammatory and a weapon against bacteria and viruses. It has a specific component, Alpha-sabine, which as well as combating infection, can also act as an anti-fungal so it is good at tackling some of the causes and the unpleasant symptoms of congestion.  Tea tree is a good choice for those people who find Eucalyptus just a bit too strong and overpowering in its scent
  • Clary Sage – a natural antimicrobial agent with a warm, herbaceous and slightly floral and fruity tone. This is lovely in a room diffuser whether you are suffering from congestion or not
  • Lavender oil – lavender is a real nighttime soother with its calming and relaxing effect. It is a softer fragrance than some of the other alternatives but it has analgesic and pain-relieving effects so don’t assume it is not a warrior in the war against decongestion just because it smells so nice.  A few drops of lavender oil in a warm bath and then a few drops on the pillow as you sleep will gently help calm the inflammation and pain of blocked sinuses
clary sage

Clary Sage is one of our favorite essential oils

How to use essential oils to help you breathe more easily

There are lots of tried and trusted methods and here are some of the best:-

  • A few drops of oil in a warm bath provide a natural and pervading steam inhalation as you relax
  • Some drops of your favorite oil in a room diffuser at night can help keep airways clear. As anyone who suffers from a cold or congestion knows, the last thing at night when you are lying down and first thing in the morning are some of the worst times.  The diffuser will spread the natural scent throughout the air to aid restful sleep during the night.  Personal diffusers also make a fragrant daytime companion on your desk at work or in the main living areas of the home
  • It’s easy to make a homemade steam infuser. Hot water and a few drops of oil in a basin or bowl and inhale the warming fragrances of your favorite oil.  You can place a towel over your head to make the effect more direct and targeted
  • A soothing chest rub is a lovely way to warm and calm irritated airways which seem to worsen when we lie down to go to sleep. The warming oils are calming and the scent from the vapor rub will gently permeate the nostrils and airways whilst you are sleeping
make your own vaporub recipe

An essential oils recipe for a decongestant chest rub

Essential oils are very powerful and shouldn’t be applied directly to the skin without dilution first.

Use a base oil like coconut oil or sweet almond oil.

Place your base oil in a glass dish and add anywhere from 1-15 drops of Eucalyptus oil, around 10 drops of peppermint oil and 10 drops of tea tree oil to suit.  The resultant mix is quite pungent and strong so you can also add between 10 and 15 drops of lavender oil to lighten the scent.

Mix and then decant into a glass jar for use before bed or whenever you want some symptomatic relief.  Always patch test a little of the solution on your skin first.

If you want something that is less liquid and more solid, then you can use beeswax base or shea butter which produces a solid, creamy-textured result more like a balm than a lotion.  Simply melt the beeswax or shea butter in a bain-marie or double boiler – a glass bowl sitting over a pan of simmering hot water will also do the trick.  Combine with the essential oils and then pour the liquid fusion into a glass jar to cool and then chill in the fridge before storing in a cool location out of direct sunlight.  This will produce quite a solid product but it will soften and easily massage into the skin once it responds to the warmth of the human body.

all natural vapor rub
Image Source

Many shop-bought vapor rubs and decongestants do contain essential oils but they can also contain chemicals that you won’t want to put up your nose.

If you make it yourself, then you know what’s in it and you can tailor the recipes and blends to suit your own preferences and favorite oils.

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