Utilizing herbal remedies to cleanse and fortify the lungs has a long history, but the essential oil hype and diffusers that come along with it have made it easier to get the extracts exactly where we need them – inside the lungs.
How Essential Oils Support Lung Health
Essential oils are highly concentrated liquid plant extracts obtained by steam distilling or cold pressing the aromatic material out of the plant. It takes a lot of plant material to make one vial of essential oil, and this is the very reason why they are so potent and powerful. For example, just one drop of peppermint oil is approximately equal to 28 cups of peppermint tea!
The dense concentration of plant compounds in essential oils makes them incredibly healing and medicinal. While we can put essential oils on our skin on different areas of the body, another method of direct application involves the process of diffusing, where the essential oils get dispersed into the air, and eventually, the lungs.
Some of the ways in which essential oils support lung health include the following:
- Boosting the immune system
- Strengthening the respiratory system
- Reducing inflammation of the respiratory system
- Relieving pain
- Opening up the respiratory tract
- Combating allergies that lead to runny noses and persistent sneezing
- Fighting airborne pathogens and infectious pathogens that would otherwise negatively affect the health of our lungs
- Help dislodge mucus and phlegm from the nose, sinuses, bronchi, and lungs
Diffusing essential oils can also help you sleep, relax, and reduce certain food cravings.
What Does The Research Say?
A variety of different studies have been conducted that prove the effectiveness of these oils for lung ailments.
For example, Professor Griffon, director of the French Police Toxicology Laboratory, blended pine, thyme, peppermint, lavender, rosemary, clove, and cinnamon essential oils. He placed several Petri dishes about six inches above the floor and allowed the dishes to collect microbes for twenty-four hours. The next day, he tested them again and found they contained 210 colonies of microbes including several varieties of molds and staphylococci. He added his blend of essential oils to the dishes, and within thirty minutes, only four mold and staph colonies remained (1).
Another study found that after inhaling an aromatherapy oil containing essential oil from sandalwood, geranium and almond oil reduced symptoms of perennial allergic rhinitis. Participants breathed in the essential oils for 5 minutes, twice daily for 7 days. The experimental group showed significant improvement in Total Nasal Symptom Score (TNSS), especially in nasal obstruction. Quality of life, sleep quality, and fatigue level also improved (2).
One study found that the inhalation of lavender essential oil suppresses allergic airway inflammation and asthma (3), while black pepper oil was found to heal many respiratory and lung conditions such as colds, sinuses, asthma, bronchitis and more (4).
Thyme essential oil has also been found useful for healing the respiratory tract. Researchers found that thyme oil has relaxing effects on the respiratory tract, which promotes easy, clear and deep breathing (5).
Eucalyptus is well known for healing a variety of lung issues, and it’s effects are well studied. It has been shown to eliminate various strains of Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pneumonia, and Haemophilus influenza that cause bronchitis, according to research found in the journal Clinical Microbiology and Infection (6).
Other studies have shown that some essential oils (like oregano, thyme, clove, cinnamon, and rosewood) prompted autolysis (self-digestion aka. self-destruction) in Streptococcus pneumonia (a type of bacteria that causes pneumonia and other lung diseases) (7).
Essential Oils That Help with Lung Problems
There are many different essential oils that help with lung problems. Below are just a few:
- Asthma: Clove, peppermint, lavender, eucalyptus, oregano, thyme, frankincense, roman chamomile
- Bronchitis: Lavender, rosemary, eucalyptus, tea tree, thyme, cinnamon
- Allergies: Peppermint, basil, eucalyptus, lemon, tea tree
- Pneumonia: Oregano, thyme, clove, rosewood, cinnamon, peppermint
- Coughs & Colds: lemon, tea tree, peppermint, chamomile, oregano, lavender, eucalyptus
- Breathing Difficulties: Eucalyptus, thyme, rosemary, chamomile, frankincense
- Lung Cancer: thyme, clary sage, frankincense, lavender, myrrh, lemongrass
- Wheezing: Eucalyptus, lavender, roman chamomile, bergamot
How To Diffuse Essential Oils
There are many different ways to diffuse essential oils:
The easiest way would be to put a few drops of essential oils into your palms, rub them together and then inhale through your nose. If your skin is more sensitive, consider putting a few drops of carrier oil like jojoba or almond oil into your palms first before adding the essential oil.
You can also inhale by putting 10-15 drops of your essential oil of choice into a glass pot and add 2-3 cups of water. Let it come to a boil, and cover with a lid. Turn off the burner, remove the lid, and then bend your head over the pot with a towel covering your head. Breathe in the steam and hold your breath for a few seconds, then exhale. Do this three to five times in a row.
You can also purchase a diffuser, which isn’t that expensive if you look online (under $20). With a diffuser, you add a little bit of water with a few drops of essential oils. When you turn on the machine, the diffuser pushes the tiny essential oil particles out in the air and spreads them around. When you breathe in, you in turn, inhale them.
How To Clean Your Diffuser
If you want to freshen your diffuser or clean it out from a previous days’ worth of oil, it can be done in just a few minutes. Please reference the video below, or follow the instructions on your diffuser.
Cleaning your diffuser at least once or twice a month is highly recommended to prevent scumming along the edges of the diffuser.
Before using essential oils, make sure that they are 100% pure high-quality essential oils from a reputed herbalist or company. Aroma Foundry, Mountain Rose Herbs, Edens Garden, Young Living Essential Oils, and DoTerra are great companies that I recommend.
It is also advised to perform a patch test by applying 1 drop of essential oil in 1 tsp. carrier oil. Put on a small area of your arm, and wait for 1-2 hours. if you notice any allergic reactions, immediately wash the area with soap and warm water and do not use that essential oil.
Keep essential oils away from your children and pets. Cats are particularly sensitive to essential oils that contain polyphenolic compounds because they interfere with their liver detoxification processes. So if you have cats use extra caution around essentials oils like cinnamon, tea tree, thyme, birch, wintergreen, clove, frankincense, peppermint, lemon, lavender, and oregano.
There are also certain essential oils that should not be used for or around dogs including anise, clove, garlic, horseradish, juniper, thyme, wintergreen, and yarrow. These essential oils can trigger a range of issues from allergies and skin sensitivities to interference in their natural body processes.
Emily Williams says
DO NOT put undiluted essential oils directly on your skin!!!
"Using essential oils in full strength is called ‘neat’. When neat oil is applied directly to skin, it is impossible to guarantee safety. The concentration of ingredients is simply too high, tempting allergy or even toxicity. You don’t want to become allergic, so treat essential oils with respect. It is recommended to not formulate products containing essential oils with more than a 2% concentration. Many natural skin care companies dilute the oils with other botanical ingredients to reduce concentration." -Dr. Cynthia Bailey
Essential oils can be wonderful but – as with all things – know the proper way to use them.
Arlene L Candy says
I love essential oils. But with all the concerns with vaping in the news lately, could breathing in the “oils” in essential oils cause lung problems? If not, why?
Carly Fraser says
Hey Arlene. If you’re purchasing clean essential oils that are extracted in good ways, then there is no real cause for concern. Most of the vaping problems come from solvent, flavorings and diluting agents in the vape “pods” that can be purchased to vape with. Very different scenario there. Lots of the vaping devices are also made with poor materials that irritate the lungs.
This is not to dispute or disagree with Carly’s statement above regarding vaping pods or e-juices. It is in addition. One of the main causes of lung damage due to vaping was found to be Vitamin-E Acetate in the pods & e-juice. The company bearing most of the focus of this issue is a federally approved company selling approved products with approved ingredients. We’re not talking about a back alley or black market distributor here. The company is Juuls. Surely there are others whose products contain the same ingredients. When Vit-E Acetate is heated it becomes vapor & is inhaled with other e-juice components. It has been determined that when the vapor settles in the lungs it cools & solidifies back into a thick oil coating the lungs. This causes severe, & as of this date, irreversible damage. (sans lung transplants).