Dr. Axe > Essential Oils
Along with the common cold, the flu and other respiratory conditions typically comes a cough that keeps you up at night and limits your ability to breathe with ease. Although so many people suffer from a cough every year, many aren’t aware of the natural remedies that are truly effective. There are several essential oils for cough that have antispasmodic, expectorant, antiviral and antibacterial properties. Like my recommended essential oils for colds, these oils serve as a safe and effective way to get rid of your cough and other symptoms of a respiratory condition for good.
According to research published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, over-the-counter (OTC) cough suppressants are of no benefit for children and shouldn’t be used by children who are under the age of 6 years old. On top of that, the benefits for adults are likely minimal. Many people turn to codeine to relieve their coughs, but did you know that codeine is a narcotic that can cause withdrawal symptoms like other opiates when it’s overused? Plus, studies show that in adults codeine and antihistamines have no effect on cough.
So many people are desperate to find a more effective remedy for their coughs. Try these essential oils for coughs that work to address the cause of your cough while simultaneously loosening mucus, relaxing your muscles and reducing cough intensity.
The 7 Best Essential Oils for Cough
These essential oils for cough are effective in two ways— they help to address the cause of your cough by killing toxins, viruses or bacteria that are causing the problem, and they work to relieve your cough by loosening your mucus, relaxing the muscles of your respiratory system and allowing more oxygen to get into your lungs. You can use one of these essential oils for cough or a combination of these oils.
Eucalyptus is an excellent essential oil for cough because it works as an expectorant, helping to cleanse your body of the microorganisms and toxins that are making you sick. It also dilates your blood vessels and allows more oxygen to get into your lungs, which can be helpful when you are constantly coughing and having trouble catching your breath. In addition to this, the major component in eucalyptus oil, cineole, has antimicrobial effects against many bacteria, viruses and fungi.
The best way to use eucalyptus oil as an essential oil for cough is to diffuse 5 drops at home, especially right before bed. Eucalyptus can also be applied topically to your chest and neck to reduce cough severity, but only use a very small amount— starting with 1–2 drops. Another great way to use eucalyptus and other essential oils for cough is to prepare a homemade vapor rub that’s made with olive oil, coconut oil, beeswax, peppermint and eucalyptus. Keep in mind, eucalyptus should not be used topically on children under the age of 2 and when it’s being used on children, do a patch test first to make sure they don’t experience adverse skin reactions.
Peppermint oil is a top essential oil for sinus congestion and coughs because it contains menthol and it has both antibacterial and antiviral properties. Menthol has a cooling effect on the body, plus it’s able to improve nasal airflow when you’re congested by unclogging your sinuses. Peppermint is also able to relieve a scratchy throat that makes you dry cough. It’s also known to have antitussive (anti-cough) and antispasmodic effects.
Research conducted on healthy adults shows that peppermint oil relaxes the bronchial smooth muscles and increases ventilation, which is why it’s often used by athletes to enhance their exercise performance. It is these properties that allow peppermint to reduce coughing severity and improve your respiratory rate and ability to breath.
The best ways to take advantage of the many peppermint oil benefits for coughs and respiratory conditions is to diffuse 5 drops at home or work, inhale it directly from the bottle or apply 2–3 drops topically to your chest, back of neck and temples. When using peppermint topically, you can apply it alone, or combine it with coconut oil and eucalyptus oil to create a vapor rub. Remember that a little bit goes a long way, so start with just a few drops when using peppermint on your skin. Plus, don’t get it too close to your eyes or it can cause irritation. Do not use peppermint oil on the skin of children under the age of 2.
Rosemary oil has a relaxing effect on your tracheal smooth muscle, which helps to relieve your cough. Like eucalyptus oil, rosemary contains cineole, which has shown to reduce the frequency of coughing fits in patients with asthma and rhinosinusitis. Rosemary also exhibits antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, so it works as a natural immune booster.
A 2011 study published in Evidence Based Complimentary and Alternative Medicine found that a spray containing eucalyptus, peppermint, oregano and rosemary essential oils was able to improve symptoms of upper respiratory ailments among the 26 participants in the treatment group. By inhaling these oils five times a day for three days, researchers indicate that the participants reported greater improvement in symptoms including cough, sore throat and hoarseness. It only took 20 minutes after inhaling the essential oil spray that the participants noticed an improvement.
To use this essential oil for your cough, diffuse about 5 drops or combine 2 drops with half a teaspoon of coconut oil and rub it into your chest. Rosemary shouldn’t be used on children under the age of 4 and it’s not safe for women who are pregnant.
Lemon essential oil is known for its ability to boost your immune system and support lymphatic drainage, which can help you to overcome a cough and cold quickly. It has antibacterial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which makes it a great tool for supporting your immunity as you battle with a respiratory condition. Lemon essential oil also benefits your lymphatic system, which protects your body from outside threats, by improving blood flow and reducing swelling in your lymph nodes.
There are a few ways to use lemon essential oil to relieve your cough. You can diffuse 5 drops at home or work, and even add it to eucalyptus oil in your diffuser. You can also combine about 2 drops of lemon oil with a half teaspoon of coconut oil and rub the mixture into your neck to help drain your lymphatic system.
To use lemon essential oil internally, add 1–2 drops of a high quality, pure grade oil to warm water with honey or a glass of water. In an attempt to relieve your cough, you have to think about what’s causing it in the first place. Using lemon essential oil to kill toxins or bacteria in your home can be very helpful, so make your own natural cleaning product by adding about 20 drops of lemon essential oil to a spray bottle filled with water and a little bit of white vinegar. Use this combination to clean the surfaces in your home, especially your kitchen and bathroom.
Two active ingredients in oregano oil are thymol and carvacrol, both of which have powerful antibacterial and antifungal properties. Research suggests that because of its antibacterial activities, oregano oil can be used as a natural alternative to antibiotics that are often used to treat respiratory conditions. Oregano oil also exhibits antiviral activity, and because many respiratory conditions are actually caused by a virus and not bacteria, this can be especially beneficial for relieving conditions that lead to a cough.
To use oregano oil for your cough, diffuse 3–5 drops at home or work. You can also combine 2–4 drops of oregano with equal parts carrier oil (like coconut oil) and apply it to your chest, back or neck or bottom of your feet. To treat bacterial conditions that are leading to a cough, add 1–2 drops to a glass of water twice daily. Because taking oregano oil internally may interact with certain medications, I advise that you speak to your health care provider before using it. I also recommend using oregano oil internally only for a maximum of two weeks.
There’s not enough research to suggest that using oregano oil is safe during pregnancy, so I advise using caution and speaking to your healthcare provider first. I don’t recommend giving oregano oil internally to children under the age of 5. To use oregano oil on children, simply dilute 1 drop with a teaspoon of coconut or olive oil and rub it into the soles of their feet.
6. Tea Tree
The earliest reported use of the tea tree, or malaleuca plant, was when the Bundjalung people of northern Australia crushed the leaves and inhaled them to treat coughs, colds and wounds. One of the most well-researched tea tree oil benefits is its powerful antimicrobial properties, giving it the ability to kill off bad bacteria that lead to respiratory conditions. Tea tree has also displayed antiviral activity, making it a useful tool for addressing the cause of your cough and working as a natural disinfectant. On top of that, tea tree oil is antiseptic and has an invigorating scent that helps to clear congestion and ease your cough and other respiratory symptoms.
To use tea tree for your cough, diffuse 5 drops at home or work, inhale it directly from the bottle, or dilute 1–2 drops with a half teaspoon of coconut oil and rub it into your chest and back of your neck. Tea tree oil is not for internal use and it shouldn’t be used during pregnancy.
Frankincense (from trees of theBoswelliaspecies) has traditionally been touted for its positive effect on the respiratory system; it has traditionally been used in steam inhalations, baths as well as massages to help relieve a cough, in addition to catarrh, bronchitis and asthma. Frankincense is considered gentle and is generally well-tolerated on the skin on its own, but when in doubt, always dilute with a carrier oil.
It’s important that your essential oils for cough are 100 percent therapeutic grade oils, especially if you are using essential oils internally. You should also become familiar with essential oil safety, especially if you are pregnant, caring for a child or planning to use the oils internally.
Of these sevenessential oils for cough, eucalyptus, rosemary and tea tree should not be used during pregnancy. If you are pregnant and planning to use oregano oil, use caution and speak to your health care provider beforehand. When using essential oils for cough to soothe your child, it’s best to diffuse eucalyptus, peppermint, lemon, oregano and tea tree from a distance. If you use these oils on your child’s skin, always use a carrier oil and only very small amounts of the essential oil. Plus, do a patch test first.
Essential Oils for Cough: Key Points
- Dealing with a cough can keep you up at night, make it difficult to get through your workday and reduce your ability to breathe easily. Many people turn to over-the-counter cough suppressants, but research shows that they are of no benefit for children and the benefits for adults are likely minimal.
- Instead, using essential oils for cough is a safe, low-cost and effective way to relieve your symptoms and address the cause of the cough. The top seven essential oils for coughs include:
- Tea Tree
Peppermint, eucalyptus and lavender are among the essential oils that are beneficial for coughs and sore throats. Eucalyptus has decongestant effects for respiratory treatment, while peppermint helps soothe throat irritation and minimize coughing.How do you use frankincense oil for a cough? ›
Frankincense- Helps with asthma, bronchitis and extreme coughing. It helps to break down mucus deposits within the respiratory tract and sinuses. As a result, it breaks down congestion. Furthermore, place a few drops into your diffuser and use deep belly breathing to help the oil work.How do you get rid of a cough fast? ›
- Take an Expectorant. ...
- Reach for a Cough Suppressant. ...
- Sip a Warm Beverage. ...
- Step Up Your Fluid Intake. ...
- Suck on Hard Candy. ...
- Consider a Cough Medicine Formulated for Nighttime Use. ...
- Have Some Honey. ...
- Zap Your Cough With a Vaporizer.
Frankincense is derived from a tree in the genus Boswelli. Commonly present in perfumes and incense. Traditionally frankincense has been used due to its effects on the respiratory system and has been used to help relieve coughs, catarrh, asthma and bronchitis.How do I stop coughing at night? ›
- using a humidifier.
- reducing exposure to allergens.
- managing acid reflux, asthma, and other underlying conditions.
- drinking honey and lemon.
- using medications, including herbal preparations.
- salt water gargle or saline irrigation.
- raising the head.
- quitting smoking or avoiding tobacco smoke.
- Avoid known triggers. ...
- Gargle with salt water. ...
- Drink lots of water. ...
- Consume honey. ...
- Suck on cough drops. ...
- Use a humidifier. ...
- Take a hot shower. ...
- Try over-the-counter (OTC) medicines.
Eucalyptus essential oil can be used to calm a cough in several ways. A person may want to try: adding a few drops of eucalyptus oil to 1 ounce of carrier oil and rubbing the mixture onto the chest and throat. diluting eucalyptus oil in boiling water and inhaling the steam.Where do you put oil for a cough? ›
Massaging the throat and chest with essential oils feels oh so good and, when you're looking for a natural at-home regimen, can relieve symptoms of cough and cold. Cedarwood and Frankincense are often used as a chest rub. Cypress, Peppermint, and Helichrysum are also popular choices to use during a soothing massage.Where do you rub peppermint oil for a cough? ›
the common cold and cough. It is often included as an ingredient in natural chest rubs to help with congestion. Massage 2-3 drops (along with a carrier oil) onto chest or drop into a humidifier to help clear sinus and lung congestion.Which drink is best for cough? ›
Ginger tea is not only easy to make, but it is also one of the best. Ginger is known to relieve cold and cough because of the bioactive compounds in it. These phytonutrients, gingerols, and shogaols reduce the risk of viral infections and can help prevent severe cold and cough.
Dozens of conditions can cause a recurrent, lingering cough, but the lion's share are caused by just five: postnasal drip, asthma, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), chronic bronchitis, and treatment with ACE inhibitors, used for high blood pressure and heart failure.Why am I coughing nonstop? ›
While it can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint the problem that's triggering a chronic cough, the most common causes are tobacco use, postnasal drip, asthma and acid reflux. Fortunately, chronic cough typically disappears once the underlying problem is treated.Can I mix peppermint and eucalyptus oil? ›
These two stimulating essential oils work with powerful synergy to invigorate the senses, found in many pharmaceutical products to alleviate the symptoms of colds, clearing airways and purifying the air around you.What does frankincense oil do to the brain? ›
Frankincense Essential Oil
It is believed to help reduce stress, improve sleep quality, and enhance cognitive function. Studies suggest that frankincense can also reduce inflammation related to brain injury.
It also may kill some viruses and fungi. Studies in animals and test tubes show that eucalyptus oil acts as an expectorant, meaning it helps coughs by loosening phlegm.What stops coughing naturally? ›
- Drink plenty of water. ...
- Eat a spoonful of honey. ...
- Have some herbal tea. ...
- Gargle some salt water. ...
- Eat a slice of pineapple. ...
- Reduce inflammation with ginger. ...
- Have a warm turmeric drink. ...
- Add probiotics to your diet.
For a Cough
Not only will this keep your throat moist and comfortable, it will help keep you hydrated. Drink warm beverages, like tea or broth. These heat up the airways, keep you hydrated and break up any mucus you might have in your throat and upper airway. Try a teaspoon of honey in hot tea or hot water.
Lemon oil does not only smell refreshing, but the D-limonene in its composition is a vasorelaxant, helping your blood vessels relax and create better blood circulation throughout the whole body. Mix a few drops of almond oil and lemon essential oil. Then rub it on your chest and neck to help you with your cough.