A safe and natural way to build respiratory resiliency and improve existing respiratory symptoms.
Respiratory health seems to be on all of our minds these days. Whether you have a pre-existing respiratory condition, such as seasonal allergies or are just looking for ways to strengthen your health in these unprecedented times of COVID-19, essential oils can be of great help. They are generally inexpensive, natural, and if used according to recommended guidelines, are safe for the whole family. As the evidence of effectiveness of aromatherapy grows, we see that there is a list of essential oils that can address common complaints of the respiratory system. Let’s jump right in!
What is the respiratory system?
They say we can survive approximately 40 days without food and 3 days without water but only minutes or even seconds without a breath of air! So what is this valued system doing with that air? To begin, our respiratory system mainly consists of airways, lungs and the diaphragm. We draw air in and out of our body by the contraction and expansion of the diaphragm. Air is pulled in through the nose and sinuses where it is filtered and warmed, then through the trachea and into the lungs. Inside the lungs, air is filtered down into tiny sacs, called alveoli, which passes oxygen into the bloodstream. Oxygen, our most important nutrient, is then pumped around the body by the heart and circulatory system to every cell in our body.
At the same time, an opposite process is taking place where carbon dioxide, a waste product of the body, is being picked up by the bloodstream and brought back to the lungs where it is expelled on each exhalation.
How essential oils can help.
When everything is in working order, we hardly notice the processes of the respiratory system but it doesn’t take much for us to quickly become uncomfortable when there is a disruption. When looking for a solution to these disruptions, we are most often looking for something to calm congestion, ease inflammation, reduce infection and boost the immune system. The great thing about essential oils is that, more often than not, a single essential oil can address more than one symptom in a short amount of time. And a carefully selected blend of essential oils can tend to everything you may be dealing with.
An essential oil is an extraction of the oil from a particular plant and is a concentration of that plant’s intrinsic nature or indispensable qualities. Within that essence, science is discovering chemical compounds that can have a profound effect on our minds and bodies. Some of the qualities of essential oils have been observed in the lab but as the scientific study of essential oils is still new, we also look to anecdotal evidence from the hundreds of years that these plants have been used in therapeutic applications.
So lets take a look at our top 3 essential oils for supporting the respiratory system.
#1 - Eucalyptus Essential Oil
It may come as no surprise that Eucalyptus oil is number 1 on our list as it has been used in over-the-counter vapors and chest rubs for decades now. Eucalyptus contains the well researched chemical compound 1,8-cineole, which offers strong therapeutic benefits.
For respiratory conditions, Eucalyptus eases a number of symptoms. Its anti-inflammatory properties help reduce pain in the sinuses, throat and lungs. This is also true for those experiencing headaches. It can also reduce swelling and help loosen mucus, making it easier to breathe. This in turn may improve sleep which is when the body heals the fastest. Eucalyptus can also decrease muscle spasms and calm spastic coughing.
Not only does it have a direct effect on the respiratory system but it helps out the immune system as well. A study published in the Alternative Medicine Review journal discovered that eucalyptol has an anti-microbial effect which may fight off bacteria that caused the illness in the first place.
Eucalyptus is not only highly recommended for respiratory disorders but is also a top pick for essential oils to keep-on-hand as it is relatively inexpensive and offers a variety of benefits. It repels bugs, disinfects wounds, freshens breath, eases joint pain among many others.
#2 - Peppermint Essential Oil
Like Eucalyptus, a wide variety of studies have been done on the effects of Peppermint. The peppermint plant contains over 40 distinct chemical compounds and possesses a broad range of biological activities on the body such as easing digestive disturbances and improving memory function. And like Eucalyptus, it has a profound effect on the respiratory system.
Peppermint has both anti-inflammatory and analgesic qualities to ease pain throughout the breathing pathways as well as the body. It relaxes muscles and reduces muscles spasms that may be contributing to excessive coughing. A 2014 study published in the Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine showed that Peppermint has a relaxing effect on the airways, specifically the bronchial muscles also known as the windpipe. Peppermint also helps to bring up mucus and other material from the lungs, bronchi and trachea.
Peppermint’s antiviral and antibacterial properties also assist the immune system to fight off invaders that may be causing the illness.
And finally, Peppermint is a tonic, having an invigorating effect on the body and giving you a sense of wellbeing.
#3 - Frankincense Essential Oil
Frankincense has been used in traditional medicine, including Ayurvedic medicine, for centuries to treat a variety of disorders throughout the body. It has been widely used to treat conditions of the respiratory system such as coughs, catarrh, bronchitis, and asthma.
Several studies have now been conducted showing Frankincenses’ positive effect on those suffering with chronic asthma such as improved lung capacity, reduced attacks and inhibiting the production of leukotrienes which cause the bronchial muscles to constrict. One study published in the European Journal of Medical Research in 1998 showed that 70% of participants reported improvements in their asthma symptoms such as wheezing and shortness of breath after a 6 weeks period of daily doses of Frankincense.
Frankincense is also used to reduce pain and inflammation and boost the immune system.
Frankincense has a reputation for reducing stress and anxiety. This is an important point that is often overlooked when we get ill as stress has been well documented as reducing our immune system and impeding our ability to recover quickly
Other Essential Oils That May Help
Eucalyptus, Peppermint and Frankincense are our favorite essential oils for treating respiratory conditions because of their historical reputation, the amount of research conducted on them and their ability to kill several birds with one stone. However, there are many other essential oils that can help you build your immune system and help ease symptoms related to your respiratory system that are worth mentioning.
For instance, Rosemary Oil, like Eucalyptus, contains cineole which may help break up mucus and reduce inflammation.
Geranium Oil has been reported to be an effective cough treatment.
Tea Tree Oil has been used to treat sinus infections, colds and coughs.
Bergamot, Nutmeg and Cypress Oil all contain camphene which offers a cooling and refreshing effect when inhaled and has antioxidant properties which may help to protect cells from damage and ward off harmful germs.
Oregano and Thyme Oil both contain high levels of the compound carvacrol which has been documented as a potent agent in fighting and protecting against harmful viruses and bacteria.
It’s very easy to get your hands on most essential oils. You can purchase them at your local health food store, buy them online, often you can even pick them up at the grocery store. This gives the impression, along with other all-natural products, that they’re safe for everyone in all circumstances. Unfortunately that is not the case. For instance, putting most essential oils directly on the skin can lead to very serious skin irritation. And there are some essential oils that should not be used by pregnant women or small children. Even though you are not ingesting the essential oil orally, it does get into the bloodstream very rapidly through the lungs and through the skin so consideration should be taken if you are on medication. Doing some research on the specific essential oils that you would like to use can help narrow down the ones that are right for you and your family. Consulting your healthcare professional is also a good idea, especially if you have a health condition or are taking medications. And always keep out of reach from children.
Once you have determined which essential oils are appropriate and safe for you, you will have several options for putting them into action.
Warm Steam Inhalant: fill a bowl with hot water and 3-5 drops of essential oil. Place a towel over your head to create a mini steam room and breath in the vapours for 5-10 minutes, taking breaks when necessary.
Chest Rub: mix 1oz/2tbsp of carrier oil such as almond, coconut or grapeseed oil with 8 drops of essential oil in a sealable container (preferably glass). Rub small amounts (approximately 1/4tsp) onto the chest, back, soles of the feet and temples. Store the rest for additional applications.
Warm Bath: mix 3-8 drops of essential oil with 2 cups of epsom salts in a full bath of warm water. This method is not recommended for essential oils that have a cooling effect as it can cause chills.
Compress: put 3 drops of essential oil in 1 cup of water. Soak up the solution with a facecloth and place over the forehead or neck.
Diffuser: though a waterless diffuser would be effective at dispensing the essential oils into your space, diffusers that require water are recommended for respiratory conditions as they help to increase the humidity in the air which is helpful to your respiratory system. This method is especially beneficial if more than one person is unwell. The dosage will be dependent upon the size of the diffuser. Your manual should indicate how many drops are recommended for a full tank of water. You can run your diffuser intermittently throughout the day or during the night or for 10-30 minutes 3 times per day.
We hope you have found this information useful and receive all of the amazing benefits of essential oils. Remember that breathing exercises, getting quality sleep and staying hydrated are also very important steps that you can take to stay healthy and recover quickly when you are unwell. We wish you the best of health!
If you’re in need of a diffuser or would like to purchase essential oils, we’ve got you covered. Check out our selection and receive a 10% discount off your first order!
Medical Disclaimer: This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please consult with your health care professional with any questions that you may have regarding a medical condition or the use of essential oils. As a reminder, this article is for informational purposes only.