We can agree that coughing and chest congestion are two of the absolute worst cold symptoms to deal with. It can be distracting, uncomfortable, and downright painful sometimes! Most of us would probably reach for an over the counter medication to take care of these common symptoms of bronchitis. Still, relief may be found naturally in your essential oil toolkit!
Of course, if your symptoms do not improve or get worse, you should see your doctor as soon as possible. Coughs and chest congestion can be a simple fix or an indication of a much more severe problem, so it is best to make sure you nip it in the bud!
Assuming that everything is all good and you’re just dealing with some uncomplicated bronchitis, we’ll show you some ways that essential oils can provide natural relief that is comparable to and maybe even better than over the counter remedies.
We’ll share some essential oils that can act as expectorants and cough suppressants, then share some of the best essential oils for bronchitis, cough, and chest congestion.
We’ll also go into essential oils that can potentially help with the underlying causes of bronchitis, as well as some methods for leveraging essential oils for bronchitis symptoms. We will finish up by sharing some essential oils and oil blends from popular brands like Doterra and Young Living so that you have a good starting point when you approach this at home!
What is an expectorant?
First things first, what is an expectorant, and how is it related to bronchitis?
Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines an expectorant as “an agent that promotes the discharge or expulsion of mucus from the respiratory tract” . This definition sounds very unpleasant, but it does mean that it can help you get rid of all of that nasty stuff that’s hanging out in your lungs and making you uncomfortable.
Expectorants work by thinning out the mucus that is sitting in your airways so that coughs are more productive and remove more mucus, which theoretically quiets coughing. This doesn’t work for everyone, though, and the side effects can cause further discomfort like nausea and vomiting . If you do choose to go this route, we have some recommendations!
Best essential oil expectorant
Eucalyptus is hands down one of the best essential oil expectorants that can help you with your toughest cough symptoms. It works by helping to cleanse your body of toxins and microorganisms that make you sick by thinning mucus and stimulating the airway to help you get it out. It dilates the blood vessels, which allows more oxygen to get into your lungs. Theoretically, this can be helpful when you are both coughing and maybe also having trouble catching your breath when you’re dealing with bronchitis .
The primary chemical compound that makes eucalyptus an effective expectorant is cineole. Cineole is a terpenoid that occurs naturally in eucalyptus and is considered to be a strong expectorant .
Eucalyptus essential oil can be used as an expectorant for coughs by diffusing five drops of the oil at home. Right before bed is the best time to do this because it can help you sleep easier. You can even fashion eucalyptus oil into a homemade vapor rub! Just mix olive oil, coconut oil, beeswax, peppermint, and eucalyptus to experience the expectorant benefits of this essential oil.
If you do plan on using eucalyptus topically, keep in mind that it should not be used on children under two years of age. Also, it is important to note is that eucalyptus essential oil has created a skin reaction in some individuals, so be sure to do a small patch test before slathering it all over your chest – just in case! Allergic reactions from eucalyptus can be painful, so to avoid any further discomfort, be sure to patch test first!
Essential oil cough suppressant
Endless coughing can frequently be treated with a cough suppressant. Lots of coughing is not great for you and can be irritating to people around and could potentially spread bacteria. Some people choose to use a variety of cough syrups and cough suppressant medications, but these can come with unpleasant side effects as well. Rather than opt for the over-the-counter version, try out rosemary essential oil!
Rosemary essential oil has been shown to relax the smooth muscles that are found in the trachea, which can help suppress frustrating coughing. Similar to eucalyptus essential oil, rosemary essential oil also contains the terpene cineole! This terpene, combined with rosemary’s relaxing effect on your tracheal muscles, makes it a fantastic choice for relieving symptoms .
In one study featuring the tremendous benefits of cineole, all of the patients in the treatment group experienced reductions in their bronchitis symptoms .
Another great attribute about rosemary is that it shows both antioxidant and antimicrobial properties as well as acts as a natural immune booster.
In fact, in one study, inhaling an essential oil blend of eucalyptus, peppermint, oregano, and rosemary essential oils were shown to improve the symptoms of the test group within 20 minutes of it being used ! We’ll touch on some of those other oils later, but we already know about how great eucalyptus and rosemary can be for bronchitis.
If you reach for rosemary the next time you have chest congestion, add about five drops in your diffuser or combine two drops with half a teaspoon of coconut oil, and you then massage it into your chest. Keep in mind with this essential oil as well that it may not be safe for women who are pregnant and children under the age of 4. Always patch test your topical essential oil mixtures to ensure that you do not have an adverse reaction.
Essential oils for cough and chest congestion
We’ve already talked about rosemary and eucalyptus essential oils, so let’s touch on a few other essential oils that are helpful for bronchitis symptoms such as coughing and chest congestion.
Peppermint essential oil is terrific for coughs because it contains menthol and has antibacterial and antiviral properties. Menthol is helpful because it has a cooling effect on your chest and can improve airflow by unclogging your sinuses when you are congested. Peppermint can additionally help to relieve a scratch in your throat that might be making you cough in addition to bronchitis. It has been shown to have some anti-cough and antispasmodic effects as well, which means that it can keep your chest from getting irritated and causing coughs .
Peppermint essential oil is even used by athletes to enhance their athletic performance because it can also help relax smooth muscle and increase oxygen flow. These two factors coincidentally help relieve cough symptoms and irritation caused by bronchitis .
There are many ways to utilize peppermint for coughing or bronchitis.One of the best ways to use it for these conditions is to put five drops of peppermint oil in your favorite diffuser, inhale it directly from the bottle, or apply some drops of it to your chest, back, or neck to break up congestion. Take caution when using this because it can cause eye irritation, so make sure that you wash your hands after using this oil. It is also important to note that this essential oil should not be used on children under the age of 2 .
Lemon Essential Oil
Lemon essential oil is another essential oil that can support your immune system and even assist with some lymphatic drainage. Draining the lymph system is crucial because it keeps all of the toxins moving out of the body. If it is clogged, it can delay the healing process. The lymphatic system additionally protects the body from outside threats, so it is vital to make sure this system is taken care of. Lemon essential oil can support the lymphatic system overall as well .
In addition to its lymphatic system support, lemon essential oil can also behave as an antibacterial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory agent. These three functions are beneficial if you are dealing with bronchitis.
You can also use lemon essential oil in several ways to relieve your cough symptoms. You can diffuse five drops in your diffuser of choice, and even add it to eucalyptus oil in your diffuser. You can also combine about two drops of lemon oil with a half teaspoon of coconut oil and rub the mixture into your neck to help drain your lymphatic system.
Additionally, you can take lemon essential oil internally. Be sure to use a high quality and pure grade essential oil. You can add 1-2 drops of lemon essential oil to warm tea with honey for a hot drink that is healing and delicious. You can even use lemon essential oil to ward off the possibility of additional infections by using it as a natural cleaning product. To use lemon essential oil for this purpose, add 20 drops of lemon essential oil to a spray bottle filled with water and a small amount of white vinegar. This solution is perfect for cleaning surfaces in your home that might be teeming with bacteria. To learn more about this oil, check out our detailed guide on lemon essential oil.
Oregano Essential Oil
Oregano essential oil is another oil that can help stop symptoms of bronchitis. Oregano essential oil contains the terpenes thymol and carvacrol. These terpenes are most likely responsible for its antibacterial properties. Studies have even shown that thymol could assist with preventing resistance to commonly used antibiotics like penicillin . This is important to note because, as doctors prescribe common antibiotics, bacteria can continue to evolve and become resistant to the antibiotics. This is why it is so exciting to hear that thymol is offering a possible natural way to combat bacterial mutations!
Additionally, due to its potential antibacterial activity, it can be used as a natural alternative to antibiotics that can be used to treat respiratory conditions. Since oregano also exhibits antiviral activity, this makes it even more relevant to use for a condition like bronchitis. A virus usually causes bronchitis, so antibacterial activity might not be super effective in and of itself. Since oregano is both antiviral and antibacterial, we can count on it to help some of the symptoms of bronchitis.
To use oregano oil for your cough, diffuse 3–5 drops in your diffuser of choice. You can also combine 2–3 drops of oregano with equal parts carrier oil such as jojoba or coconut oil for added antimicrobial benefits and apply it to your chest, back, neck, or bottom of your feet.
You can also use it to help prevent getting sick in the first place. To treat bacterial conditions that are leading to a cough, add 1–2 drops to a glass of water twice daily. Take caution that taking oregano internally may interact with certain medications, so if you plan on using oregano oil internally, you should speak with your doctor first. Some sources also recommend only using oregano essential oil for a maximum of 2 weeks .
Tea Tree Essential Oil
The final top essential oil that can help us out with coughing, chest congestion, and other pesky symptoms of bronchitis is tea tree essential oil. The use of the tea tree plant, named melaleuca, goes back to the early days of its native land, Australia. The indigenous Bundjalung people of Australia would crush the leaves of the melaleuca plant and make them into various methods for inhalation to treat respiratory problems .
Tea tree is commonly known as an antimicrobial essential oil. Research is abundant, but it is still not clear precisely on what components of the tea tree oil make it so powerfully antibiotic . Tea tree is also potentially antiviral, so it may be able to treat the root cause of bronchitis and other respiratory infections. There is not much research that confirms the antiviral qualities of tea tree, but it can still help prevent further infection by being antibacterial. The refreshing scent of tea tree essential oil may also be helpful when you are dealing with some chest or coughing. Like peppermint, its strong smell may be able to open up airways, making it perfect for helping out with these respiratory conditions .
If you want to give tea tree a try for your cough, try to diffuse five drops in your favorite diffuser, inhale it directly from the bottle, or dilute 1–2 drops with a half teaspoon of your favorite carrier oil and massage it into your chest and back of your neck. Make sure you to do a patch test before using tea tree oil on your skin because some individuals have experienced an adverse reaction when using this essential oil.
Essential oils: Are they a natural cure for bronchitis?
In short: no. Essential oils can help with the symptoms of bronchitis, but they do not cure bronchitis itself. This is because a viral infection typically causes bronchitis, and we know that viruses cannot be cured. When we face a viral infection, the best thing to do is to take care of the symptoms as we wait for the virus to take its course. Even the prescription medications used to assist with bronchitis are only good for the symptoms like coughing and shortness of breath.
You may have noticed that some of the essential oils above are said to have “antiviral activity.” Still, it is not well-researched what the actual application of the suggested antiviral activity is. For now, we are not able to cure viruses using essential oils or other drugs and should focus our efforts on relieving the symptoms we have and preventing future or further infection.
Essential oils to diffuse for cough
For bronchitis, it is usually recommended to either diffuse the oils or apply them topically. Here are some oils that you might want to try for diffusion.
Peppermint, eucalyptus, oregano, etc.
In addition to the oils we discussed above, you may also consider an essential oil blend to diffuse. Doterra’s On Guard is a popular option for preventing additional infections as well as Young Living’s Thieves essential oil blend. Pretty much every essential oil company has some iteration of this immune defense blend, so you can be sure to find something that works for your preference and budget. Try these out in addition to the essential oils we recommended above for an extra punch.
Try this diffuser!
This essential oil diffuser has great reviews on Amazon and is an ultrasonic diffuser so it adds humidity to the air as well. This diffuser not only looks classy, it also has several different mist modes so you can regulate how much moisture you want to put into the air. It also has an auto shut off feature and LED lights, making it the perfect addition to your decor as well as a way to diffuse healing essential oils into the air.
Humidifier for bronchitis
Sometimes dry air is not helpful when we are already dealing with excessive coughing from bronchitis. There are specific essential oil diffusers such as the one listed above called ultrasonic diffusers that can assist with adding moisture to the air in addition to the healing benefits of your essential oils.
How to use
Ultrasonic or humidifier type essential oil diffusers typically have some kind of container to hold water that is then turned into a steam or mist. Some models have a separate area for the essential oils, but in most ultrasonic diffusers the essential oils are added directly to the water.
How to tie in with essential oils
For any of the essential oils that we discussed, five drops are plenty in a standard diffuser for each of the oils that you may choose to use. One popular mix is eucalyptus, lemon, and rosemary. But feel free to use any combination of oils that works for your specific needs.
Essential oil highlights
Doterra oils for cough
Some individuals turn to different combinations of essential oils prepared in various methods that are referred to as “bombs.” One such bomb for cough suppression utilizes Doterra’s Easy Air and On Guard blends along with peppermint, eucalyptus, lemon, and basil. A whopping 20 drops of each of these oils are used and mixed in with your favorite carrier oil to relieve chest congestion and suppress coughs.
Doterra sinus bomb
The sinus bomb is another such combination of essential oils from Doterra. Some variations appear in search results, but the main ingredients appear to be peppermint, lemon, oregano, and melaleuca. Two drops of each of these can be diffused together for relief from severe cough symptoms.
Young living flu bomb
There are a few different variations of the Young Living flu bomb. One involves two drops of frankincense, four drops of melaleuca, two drops of lemon, three drops of oregano, and four drops of thieves. This is taken in capsule form along with olive oil. The second recipe involves 40 drops of lemon, 20 drops of frankincense, 20 drops of thieves, 20 drops of peppermint, and 20 drops of melaleuca. Grapeseed oil is used as a carrier for a topical application of the flu bomb.
Doterra cold bomb
We hope you try out one of these recipes when you are battling bronchitis or even a simple cold.