Essential Oils for Respiratory Health

Benefits of Inhaling Essential Oils

Physical contact between the essential oil and the internal structures of the respiratory system creates many benefits:

  1. Inhaling essential oils can treat respiratory conditions such as colds, the flu, sore throat, sinus congestion, environmental allergies.
  2. Inhaling essential oils can prevent respiratory infections, since the respiratory system is frequently a “first avenue” of infection.
  3. Inhalation has a direct effect on infection within the respiratory system.
  4. Inhalation has a direct effect on congestion within the respiratory system.
  5. Essential oils can cross into the blood stream from the lungs.  This is a quick way to deliver essential oils to the whole internal system of the body via the blood

Desireable Actions from Essential Oils

What actions and properties do we want from essential oils when dealing with the respiratory system?

  • Decongestant — reduces nasal mucus production and swelling, especially of the sinuses
  • Expectorant — promotes discharge of phlegm and mucous from the lungs and throat.
  • Mucolytic — breaks down pulmonary mucus.  Mucus may narrow or block the airways, making it difficult to breath.  Mucolytic oils help loosen and clear the mucus from the airways so you can expectorate (spit it out).
  • Anti-tussive – help to suppress coughs.  Cough is good to get inflammation and infections out of the bronchial tubes, but if it is annoying then an antitussives may help to get some sleep.
  • Anti-infectious — helps the body resist infective
  • Antibacterial —  destructive to bacteria.
  • Anti-inflammatory — alleviates inflammation.

Which Essential Oils will give us those actions
How do you know which essential oil will give us those properties?   I recommend turning to our friend, chemistry, and choose essential oils from two specific chemical FAMILIES.

Three Things to Know about Chemistry
You only need to know 3 things about essential oil chemistry as it applies to this Teleconference

  1. Every essential oil is made up of molecules
  2. These molecule gives the oil it’s specific activity:  calming, anti-inflammatory, decongestant, mucolytic, etc.
  3. These molecules are grouped into chemical families based on similarities of their activity  (There are exceptions)

There are about 10 chemical families in aromatherapy.  We are going to look at two families, with three essential oils from each:  Ketones and Oxides.

Ketones and Oxides
These two chemical families are great allies for respiratory conditions.  They are both big families which mean you have plenty of essential oils to choose from, and don’t have to keep using the same oils over and over.  This also makes for a great “layering” effect of the essential oils.

About Ketone-Rich Essential Oils

Essential oils containing a significant percentage of ketones are valuable in respiratory infections because they are highly effective mucolytics (help thin and break up mucous) and act as expectorants.

Safety Issues with Ketones
Some ketones have safety concerns, but some are fine.  Camphor is a component that help but can also be a conern.  Be content can be a concern in pregnancy but if you use the oils Iall oils that contain camphor for short periods of time and in small amounts.

A general rule is to use only 1% of Ketones in a 1-ounce blend (5-6 drops in 1 ounce)

Three Ketone Essential Oils

  • Spike Lavender
  • Rosemary ct. Camphor
  • Eucalyptus Dives

Spike Lavender (Lavendula latifolia) my favorite
Spike Lavender is a friend to the respiratory system as well as pain, inflammation and headaches (great for sinus headaches!)   What makes this lavender different from True is a ketone called “camphor” which gives this oil great warming and mucolytic properties,. Because it is still a Lavender, it also offers an antispasmodic and calming effect.

Rosemary ct. camphor (Rosmarinus officinalis ct camphor
Rosemary ct camphor creates circulation and warmth, soothing sore muscles, aches, and pains. This specific Rosemary is great for pain and muscle ache, especially when associated with a cold or flu.  For a cold, try making a cream with other respiratory oils and put it on your chest and upper back throughout the day.  It can be very effective against mucus.

Eucalpytus Dives (Eucalyptus dives)
This is a  unique Eucalyptus oil.  All the Eucalyptus oils are great for the respiratory system, but this one especially great reducing thick mucus that clogs the lungs.  I always recommend it for bronchitis or for congestions that just won’t go away.  This oil is cooling whereas the first two are warming.   I recommend using it in a steam inhalation or adding to a blank inhaler.  You can also put into a chest rub, cream or oil.  It smells great!

Some More Ketone Essential Oils

  • Engelman Spruce – Picea engelmanii
  • Peppermint – Mentha x piperita
  • Rosemary ct verbenone – Rosmarinus officinalis ct verbenone/camphor
  • Sitka Spruce – Picea sitchensis
  • White Spruce – Picea glauca


About Oxide-Rich Essential Oils
The oxide essential oils are easy to recognize by their aroma.  They have a camphor or eucalyptus-like smell. Essential oils high in oxides can be a very powerful aid in all respiratory illnesses because of one specific oxide component called 1,8 cineole.   This one little molecule is a rockstar when it comes to  respiratory system.

Essential oils that have a significant amount of 1,8 cineole have antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial, and expectorant/mucolytic effects.   Research has shown 1,8 cineole to decrease coughing, ease expectoration, and decrease shortness of breath.   It has an anti-inflammatory effect on bronchial asthma.1,8 cineole is an analgesic and anti-inflammatory agent for muscular and respiratory systems.

Oxide Safety Considerations
Care must be taken if using 1,8 cineole with people with asthma as it is possible to set off an attack. This is an individual response to the oil, dose, application, and specific situation. Do not use with infants or children under five years old. If oxidized, it can cause skin irritation and sensitization.

Tonight’s Oxide Essential Oils

  • Saro (Cinnamosma fragrans)
  • Laurel Leaf  (Laurus nobilis)
  • Helichrysum gymnocephalum

Saro ( Cinnamosma fragrans)
Saro is a powerful anti-infectious oil from Madagascar.  You only have to sniff it to understand it is great for the respiratory system.  It is penetrating and clears head congestion.  It is a superb expectorant and highly recommended for sinus infections.  I recommend these oils for steam inhalations with a drop of Tea Tree, as well as in the diffuser.  It has a wonderful aroma.

Laurel Leaf (Laurus nobilis)
I picked Laurel Leaf for tonight for two reasons.  First, it’s a great oil to help alleviate cold and allergy symptoms like sneezing, stuffy head, and general respiratory congestion.   Secondly, because I love the aroma.  It has a lively spicy aroma.  Many of the oils that we’ve talked about so far smell medicinal.  When I smell Laurel Leaf, I want to eat it.  So if you have to diffuse an oil to keep the airborne bacteria away, this one is superb.  Laurel Leafs monoterpene content, combined with the oxide 1,8 cineole, is why it is so helpful for the respiratory systems.  Add it to a chest rub, bath (dilute with the carrier first), room diffuser, or foot soak.

Helichrysum gymnocephalum
Helichrysum italicum
is the essential oil that is well-known for skin and wound healing.   This Helichrysum is a different species.  It grows in Madagascar and has a very high oxide content.   It is analgesic and superb at healing infections.  A great oil to use if someone near you has a cold or flu or you just begin to feel like you’re getting sick.   The aroma is strong, fresh, and penetrating, a bit like Eucalyptus.

Some More Oxide Essential Oils

  • Cajeput – Melaleuca leucadendron var. cajuputi
  • Eucalyptus Globulus – Eucalyptus globulus
  • Eucalyptus Radiata – Eucalyptus radiata
  • Fragonia (TM) – Agonis fragrans
  • Helichrysum bracteiferum – Helichrysum bracteiferum
  • Helichrysum odoratissimum – Helichrysum odoratissimum
  • Kunzea – Kunzea ambigua
  • Laurel Leaf – Laurus nobilis
  • Myrtle – Myrtus communis
  • Niaouli ct 1,8 cineole – Melaleuca quinquenervia ct 1,8 cineole
  • Ravintsara (Ho leaf) – Cinnamomum camphora ct 1,8 cineole
  • Rosemary ct verbenone – Rosmarinus officinalis ct verbenone/camphor

Your Respiratory Health Kit

  • Essential Oils from the Oxide or Ketone Family
  • Hydrosols for gargling (German Chamomile, Peppermint, Sandalwood great for sore throat or laryngitis) and for nasal irrigation with a Neti Pot
  • Blank tube inhalers



  • Bowl and a large towel for steam inhalation
  • Neti pot and saline salt
  • Unscented body butter or shea butter or salve to melt and add essential oils for a chest rub.


Here’s a blog post I wrote about how I helped expedite my own healing from acute bronchitis with essential oils.
Essential Oils for Acute Bronchitis