You may already be familiar with essential oils from spa days and hot oil massages, or maybe you have a bottle of lavender oil tucked away in your medicine cabinet to relieve stress or help you sleep.
For the uninitiated, a variety of plants native to all regions of the world are prized for their aromas, flavors, and medicinal properties. These plants can be steamed or pressed to release oils full of the very molecules responsible for these unique properties. By applying the oils topically or inhaling their aromas, aromatherapy practitioners may gain a host of benefits that go way beyond the nice scent.
Beyond promoting relaxation, certain essential oils have been traditionally used all over the word to soothe coughs and other respiratory ailments - both temporary infections and chronic conditions. Medical research is slowly beginning to back up these practices with studies demonstrating antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties contained within these plants and their oils. These findings may help explain the positive clinical outcomes physicians have documented when using essential oils to ease respiratory symptoms.
Some examples of essential oils with properties that can support your breathing health:
A fan favorite among aromatherapy practitioners and koalas alike, eucalyptus is thought to calm a dry cough, which is why it’s used in a number of commercial cough drops. The major component of eucalyptus oil is 1,8-cineole, a molecule that has demonstrated antimicrobial effects against tuberculosis, MRSA, viruses, and fungi. On top of that, cineole stimulates the body’s immune response, ramping up white blood cell activity. And beyond infections, it has even shown benefit in treating asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) thanks to its bronchodilating (windpipe opening) and anti-inflammatory properties. These properties also make it a safe and effective treatment for sinus infections before antibiotics. The plant can even relieve muscle pain, a familiar side effect of long-standing coughs.
A whole variety of mint plants produce oils found in decongestant rubs and cough drops. Peppermint essential oil has a cooling effect that greatly improves the sensation of airflow and may soothe an irritated throat. A 2013 study suggests that peppermint oil can relax the throat to ease breathing with a cough.
Extracted from the Boswellia tree, frankincense is often used in incense and probably Christmas pageants. It’s also been traditionally used to soothe coughs and improve symptoms of bronchitis and asthma, which is backed up by studies demonstrating powerful anti-inflammatory properties.
If you think melaleuca, or tea tree oil, has a bit of a medicinal scent, that’s for good reason. This essential oil is loaded with terpinen-4-ol, which minimizes infections with strong antibacterial properties. Tea tree oil has been shown to inhibit the growth of bacteria that cause sinus and respiratory infections, and it has antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties to boot.
A key component of pumpkin spice, cloves are rich in eugenol, a powerful molecule with antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. Clove oil has been the subject of numerous studies demonstrating some efficacy in relieving cough, cold, bronchitis, sinusitis, nasal obstruction, and asthma symptoms.
So why are we talking about essential oils?
It just so happens that many of these oils appear in our awesome breathing-oriented essential oil blends, available in both inhalers for use on-the-go and dropper bottles for your diffuser or topical application.
EternOil is our daily use blend designed to keep your respiratory health up to snuff with essences of eucalyptus, peppermint, cypress, myrtle, camphor, and clove. These oils offer antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, immunity-boosting, and cough suppressant properties thought to protect and maintain your respiratory health from environmental threats. EternOil has a pleasant and refreshing minty scent with a lot of fruity and citrusy notes.
RenewOil packs a punch and is formulated to help get you back to baseline when you’re congested, suffering from allergies, or faced with a head or chest cold. RenewOil is formulated with frankincense, camphor, eucalyptus, bay leaf, tea tree, and peppermint oils for their antimicrobial, decongestant, mucus loosening (sorry), pain relieving, and airway soothing properties. RenewOil has a spirit-lifting aroma full of minty sharpness and woodsy goodness.
Diffuse to use
To gain the benefits of essential oils at home, we recommend investing in a good diffuser. Yes, they often look a bit like Amazon’s Alexa just came back from a yoga retreat, but it’s an effective, hands-free way to fill a room (i.e. entire apartment) with essence. This is also the best way to use essential oils overnight to support your sleep, although you can also achieve the same affect by adding a few drops to a humidifier which you may already be using. Aside from the diffuser, you'll just need essential oil in a dropper bottle.
Throughout the day, particularly if you’re on-the-go or at work or school, it’s great to have an inhaler filled with your go-to essence. Nothing like an asthma inhaler, aromatherapy inhalers are pocket-sizes capsules that enclose a wick saturated with essential oil. Just remove the cap, hold up to your nose, and inhale.
You can also apply essential oils topically to the chest, hands, back, or feet. This can be particularly beneficial with oils with cooling and pain relieving properties. Some concentrated essential oils can cause skin irritation, so be sure to dilute a few drops of essence with a few drops of a carrier oil, like coconut or jojoba oil. This protects the skin without masking the scent.
Hale's final thoughts
It is important to remember that research on essential oils is ongoing, and to date the medical community views aromatherapy as a complementary alternative therapy rather than a first-line treatment for respiratory conditions. Essential oils may help in tandem but should not take the place of modern therapeutics and doctors’ advice.
All the same, essential oils are considered quite safe and are backed by centuries of anecdotal evidence and now decades of modern medical research suggesting effectiveness in supporting breathing health and managing respiratory conditions.
If you're in need of a new tool in your allergy, cold, or asthma toolbox, it may be worth giving aromatherapy a try. In particular, Hale's RenewOil and EternOil blends are a great start as they have carefully balanced scents and will give you exposure to a variety of oils with a number of complimentary properties thought to work wonders for your breathing health.