6 Effective Essential Oils For Congestion
This is the time of year when it feels as though everyone you meet is either coughing, spluttering or sneezing around you.
We are not half way through winter yet, but an increasing number of people are already falling victim to coughs and colds so it certainly pays to have some proven home remedies at hand in case you’re struck down.
It’s not just the colder weather that causes viral infections to spread, it’s the fact that cold weather often holds less moisture in the air which allows viruses to grow and spread more easily. The warm and cosy environment inside your house when you dial-up the central heating also tends to dry the air, thereby encouraging the bugs to ‘go viral’ indoors too!
The primary symptom of a common cold is a stuffy nose (known as congestion) that causes the sinuses to become blocked, making breathing more difficult and often leading to headaches. To avoid this situation and put an end to stuffy airways it’s important to tackle this congestion effectively, so you must act promptly in order to get things cleared from your airways.
But as you probably know, antibiotics can’t treat viral infections, so you’ll get no relief there. In any case, by the time you realize you are coming down with a winter cold it’s usually already too late. If your mucous membranes become irritated and inflamed (rhinitis) they will lose their protective function as well as become sore, so they need a little TLC too.
Thankfully, essential oils have a long history of being used for congestion and are incredibly effective for both instant and long-term relief. Certain essential oils can also help prevent secondary infections from setting in by fighting the viruses while they strengthen the immune system at the same time. Best of all, they are a natural solution for clearing congestion rather than having to resort to the pharmaceuticals that often have unwanted side effects.
Here are some of the most effective essential oils for easing congestion and clearing sticky mucous and catarrh: –
- Eucalyptus essential oil
When inhaled, the decongestant action of eucalyptus essential oil effectively clears sinusitis and eases congestion of the chest as well as helping to stop bacteria and viruses spreading. Due to its lower cineol content, eucalyptus radiata essential oil doesn’t trigger the cough reflex as easily as regular eucalyptus (globulus), making it better suited for clearing congestion, especially with young children. This is a good oil to vaporize in an aromatherapy diffuser to help limit the spread of viruses.
- Frankincense essential oil
Frankincense essential oil has been used for centuries to help break up phlegm deposits in the upper respiratory tract and lungs, and it can help relieve bronchitis-related congestion and catarrh too. When combined with sandalwood essential oil it becomes one of the very best aromatherapy treatments for congestion.
- Myrtle essential oil
This essential oil is commonly used to support the respiratory system, and has multiple applications since it is also an anti-viral and antiseptic oil. This makes it a valuable oil to have around the house during the winter, particularly for children, since it has a more gentle action than other decongestant oils. Put a few drops of myrtle essential oil in a diffuser in a child’s bedroom overnight to help clear nasal passages and soothe tickly coughs.
- Peppermint essential oil
One of the principal ingredients of peppermint essential oil is menthol, which has been scientifically proven to relieve sinus and congestion. It works by thinning mucus and breaking up phlegm, and this is the reason it has been used in conventional decongestant medicines for so many years. However, this is a very powerful oil and should never be used near children under the age of three.
- Pine essential oil
The needles and shoots of the pine tree were used by Native Americans to treat bronchial conditions, coughs, colds and fevers for thousands of years, and modern science has proven the antiviral and antiseptic properties of the essential oil. This makes pine essential oil invaluable during the cold and ‘flu season to help stop the spread of infection whilst also clearing a stuffy nose and catarrh.
- Sandalwood essential oil
The expectorant properties of sandalwood essential oil are legendary and can help ease the misery of colds and tickly, irritating coughs when it is vaporized. Used as an inhalation, the expectorant properties of this oil can help clear lingering catarrh as well as soothing irritated mucous membranes. Add one or 2 drops of lemon essential oil to help break up mucous.
Methods of use
The decongestant and soothing properties of essential oils can be put to use in a variety of ways. Essential oils are extremely versatile so you can use them at home or even when are out and about, so just choose the method that is most convenient for you; –
This is by far the most effective way to clear a stuffy nose, phlegm or mucous. Fill a large bowl with almost boiling water and add 3 or 4 drops of your chosen essential oil. To increase the power of your essential oil steam inhalation you can add 1 drop of 3 or 4 oils; for example, a particularly effective decongestant blend is 1 drop each of eucalyptus, peppermint and pine essential oils.
Lean over the bowl, close your eyes and breathe slowly and deeply for a few minutes until things begin to clear. A towel can be placed over the head to help direct the vapours. If required, replenish with fresh hot water and further drops of essential oils and repeat the process until relief is felt.
To help keep airways clear while you sleep simply add your essential oils to an aromatherapy diffuser or burner. Electric diffusers are the best choice since they can run for hours delivering a steady infusion of oils that will help clear your decongestion.
An irritating tickly throat or a feeling of tightness in the chest (especially during the night whilst laid in bed) can be helped with a few drops of sandalwood and frankincense essential oils in the diffuser. Place your diffuser or burner at the side of your bed for a soothing and comforting effect on the bronchial passages to assist you getting a good night’s sleep.
Place up to 6 drops of essential oil into a nice hot bath and enjoy a nice relaxing soak while the decongestant essential oils work their magic. The heat from the water causes the essential oils to quickly fill the air in the bathroom, and the vapour you breathe in gets to work on your lungs and nasal cavities. Since peppermint oil is very powerful use no more than 2 drops, and always use a bath dispersant to ensure that the essential oils have been dissolved evenly into the water before stepping in to your bath.
If you are out and about during the day and feel congested just place 3 or 4 drops of essential oil onto a paper tissue, and gently inhale directly from the tissue. Take care to not get any of the undiluted essential oil onto your skin. This simple but highly effective method can be a real life-saver when you are outdoors and unable to use any of the other methods.
Copyright © Quinessence Aromatherapy Ltd 2023. Written by Geoff Lyth