Certain essential oils are naturally anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial, which means they can sometimes offer welcome alleviation from specific symptoms. The best essential oils for colds and congestion shouldn't be used to replace prescription medicine, but they may be able to offer emotional and physical relief when used for supplementation.
For more advice on how to safely use essential oils for colds and congestion symptoms, I reached out to Dr. Celine Thum, medical director at ParaDocs Worldwide INC. According to Dr. Thum, it’s best to first seek medical attention when you're sick. “Always make sure to tell your doctor if you plan on [using] homeopathic therapies for symptom relief, like essential oils,” she advises.
As a certified aromatherapist, safety is my number-one priority when suggesting essential oils — the reason being that these plant extracts are actually incredibly potent. None of the essential oils on this list should be inhaled by infants, elderly persons, or nursing mothers. “Some oils have active ingredients that may be too much for children or unsafe for developing fetuses,” Dr. Thum explains.
When choosing an essential oil, you should consider your medical history and allergies. Keep in mind that some of the chemical constituents found in the plant are also likely to exist in essential oil form. Also keep in mind that if an oil or blend is not pure, the additives and pesticides may also be concentrated.
Next, consider which symptoms you are trying to relieve. If you're congested, it usually means there's a build-up of mucus. In that case, you'll want an essential oil that acts as an expectorant like eucalyptus oil. If you're looking for fever-relief, you can try lemongrass oil because it's analgesic and anti-inflammatory. For those looking to improve their mood more-so than their physical symptoms, there are also oils that can help you feel more energized and focused (like ginger and rosemary).
Now that you have some safety and background information, take a look at some of the best homeopathic remedies for colds and congestion.
1.The Best Essential Oil For Sinus Congestion
A refreshing, light scent that will open up your mind and your nasal passage, eucalyptus essential oil is an amazing aid for congestion. Being an expectorant, it’s going to break up mucus and finally give you the disgusting results you’re craving when you blow your nose. Interestingly enough, it may make you pee, which is a good thing, because this essential oil is antiviral and antibacterial, so it helps stimulate circulation and detox the body. People feeling cloudy-headed will particularly enjoy that eucalyptus balances energy, aids in concentration, and cools down both the mind and body.
2. The Best Essential Oil To Reduce Fevers
Uplifting from head to toe, lemongrass essential oil can reduce symptoms of the common cold in many different ways. It's nicknamed fever grass because it’s an antipyretic used in Ayurvedic medicine to reduce fevers and induce sweating. A natural analgesic, it can also be used to reduce muscle aches and pains, which is excellent for people who are experiencing cold symptoms throughout their entire body. It’s also great at lifting fatigue with its refreshing, citrusy scent that helps reduce painful headaches. Lemongrass is a great way to stimulate your immune system when taking over-the-counter medicine that merely covers up the effects of the common cold.
3. The Best For Stimulating Blood Flow
Known for its innate ability to stimulate the digestive and respiratory system, peppermint essential oil is a wise choice when you feel yourself getting sick. The potent presence of menthol is one of the reasons it’s commonly used in OTC medicines, and you can go straight to the source by breathing in the essential oil. Since the nervous system reacts to menthol, peppermint can be used as an effective pain reliever by reducing inflammation and stimulating blood flow. The oil plays with our natural receptors that feel and detect temperature change, which offers the familiar cooling effect of a peppermint candy ... without the sugar.
4. If You're Looking To Feel More Alert
Ginger essential oil is an excellent way to support the body through cold season and you won’t find the same results by snacking on ginger chews. The essential oil promotes clarity, will, and strength in the mind — all the things you need to help you get out of bed when you're not feeling well. Known for its stimulating effects on the mind and the digestive and respiratory systems, it’s an effective digestif that relieves constipation, vomiting, and drug-induced nausea as well. Being an antibacterial analgesic, it can also reduce fevers and sore throats and break up congestion.
5. The Best To Stimulate Your Immune System
Since this skin-friendly plant is potent in aroma and therapeutic properties, it can do wonders for the body (internally and topically) in essential oil form. Popular for its antibacterial, antiviral, and antimicrobial properties, it can rapidly treat cold sores when used topically: By diluting tea tree oil with jojoba oil and applying it with a cotton ball to the affected area, it can reduce inflammation and stimulate the immune system. Tea tree oil has antibiotic and antispasmodic properties as well, so through inhalation it can also soothe sore throats and break up congestion. When using essential oils topically, always do a test patch on the inside of your elbow and make sure you’re getting a pure product, like this one from Aura Cacia, that’s safe for topical use.
6. For Sleep And Relieving Runny Noses
A great way to loosen up is congested airways is by breathing in the woodsy, musky scent of cedarwood essential oil. It’s an expectorant known for its ability to loosen phlegm, but shouldn’t be confused with a stimulant for the respiratory system because it’s also a sedative that reduces runny noses, coughing, and watery eyes. And since it’s also a diuretic, it helps remove toxins from the body through urination. Like many essential oils extracted from trees, this one has a calming effect on the mind and produces a lovely neutral scent that can help you sleep. Keep in mind, there are different types of cedarwood trees that have similar characteristics; this one by Plant Guru comes from the Atlas tree, which is exactly what you want to treat the effects of a cold.
7. The Best Essential Oil To Help You Focus
If you’re looking for a solid source of energy, make sure you have rosemary essential oil on hand to keep you focused while you push forward. It stimulates the mind as well as the immune system, while also supporting respiratory infections and illnesses. Antibacterial with a gentle, minty scent, this is an excellent mucolytic essential oil that breaks up sinus, lung, and circulatory congestion. A pure, undiluted form like this one works especially well in a diffuser — keep it going when you're having trouble concentrating on your work.
8. For Easing Stomach Pain
The flu is no joke, and it certainly can’t be treated with essential oils, but once you’ve sought help from a doctor you can aid in your own self-care by breathing in sweet fennel essential oil. Known to ease symptoms of bronchitis and the flu, this anti-inflammatory essential oil helps flush out impurities, promotes gastrointestinal mobility, reduces abdominal pain, and constipation — symptoms that go hand and hand with the flu. This is a great oil to pick up if you find over-the-counter pain relievers wreak havoc on your stomach.
Also Great: These Convenient Inhalers For Portable Aromatherapy
These inhalers are a super convenient way to breath in essential oils on-the-go. Just put a few drops of the essential oil of your choice into a bowl and place the wick in the liquid. Let it roll around before immediately inserting it into the tube and then seal it shut — just make sure the cap is always tightly screwed on when you're not using it. Thirty drops is standard for inhalation, but of course, that all depends on you and the essential oils you choose. If you’re unsure, start off with a lesser amount and you can always add more. The best part is, this inhaler can keep essential oils fresh up to a year.
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This post was originally published on 2/13/2018. It was updated on 6/24/2019. Additional reporting by Maria Cassano.