The 8 Best Essential Oils For Colds And Congestion

Amazon / Bustle

One of the fastest ways to reap the benefits of essential oils is by breathing them in through your nasal passage. By inhaling the best essential oils for cold and congestion, you can actually experience both emotional and physical relief from common symptoms and stressors associated with being sick.

It should go without saying that essential oils shouldn't be used to replace prescription medicine, which is something most aromatherapists would never recommend doing. According Dr. Celine Thum, medical director at ParaDocs Worldwide INC., it’s always best to seek medical attention if you’re sick. “Always make sure to tell your doctor if you plan on [using] homeopathic therapies for symptom relief, like essential oils”, Dr. Thum advises.

As a certified aromatherapist, safety is my number one priority when suggesting essential oils to aid in treating colds and congestion — 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, consider your medical history and any allergies, because some of the chemical constituents found in the plant are also likely to exist in essential oil form. Another interesting fact about essential oils is that opposites attract. If you can’t stop coughing, an expectorant (something that clears the airways of mucus) may not actually be the thing to help, but a suppressant will. On the other hand, when your body's producing too much phlegm, an expectorant (like eucalyptus) can be beneficial. This is because an expectorant makes you cough: When you're congested, it means that there's phlegm that's stuck and needs to come out, so you want to cough it up. When you have a chronic, dry cough, you want to do the opposite and use something that stops it.

Now that you have all of the background information, let's geek out on some of the best homeopathic remedies for colds and congestion.

1To Aid With Congestion And Concentration: Eucalyptus Essential Oil

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.

2To Reduce Fever And Muscle Pains: Lemongrass Essential Oil

Uplifting from head to toe, lemongrass essential oil can support 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.

3To Cool Off And Stimulate Blood Flow: Peppermint Essential Oil

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.

4To Help You Get Out Of Bed: Ginger Essential Oil

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.

5To Remedy Cold Sores And Stimulate Your Immune System: Tea Tree Essential Oil

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.

6To Stop Runny Noses And Help You Sleep: Cedarwood Essential Oil

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.

7To Break Up Lung Congestion And Help You Stay Focused: Rosemary Essential Oil

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.

8To Ease Stomach Pain: Sweet Fennel Essential Oil

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.

9To Sniff Your Essential Oils Privately: These Convenient Inhalers

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 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.

Bustle may receive a portion of sales from products purchased from this article, which was created independently from Bustle's editorial and sales departments.