Runny nose? Watery eyes? Sinus congestion? Contrary to popular belief, allergies can be a year-round pain and may not be limited to a particular season, like spring. But allergy sufferers know this all too well. If allergies keep you from living the life you want and over-the-counter products don’t seem to do the trick, then maybe the ancient practice of aromatic plant medicine will help you breathe better than ever before.
There are many key oils with an affinity for the respiratory tract (lavender, tea tree, and rosemary, to name a few); however, some may not be familiar to those who aren’t immersed in the world of aromatherapy. When looking for aromatherapy oils to treat seasonal allergies, it's helpful to search for oils that are antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, astringent, and antitussive (aids with coughing). For ideal healing, identify your needs and symptoms and see what essential oil fits your profile!
Hailing from the myrtaceae family, eucalyptus radiata has a less aggressive scent than blue gum eucalyptus, so you can use low dilutions for children and the elderly. This immune-enhancing essential oil is an upper-respiratory tonic that can help alleviate sinusitis (sinus infection). Fun fact: The plant is also known as the narrow-leaved peppermint!
How-to: No time to waste and need a quick remedy? Take 2 tablespoons of pure almond oil or olive oil and mix 4 to 5 drops of eucalyptus essential oil into it. Rub this blend on your throat, cheeks, neck, back, and temples to relieve congestion. Cover yourself up with a T-shirt after applying the massage oil for best results.
Got postnasal drip? The average person produces 1 to 1.5 mL of mucus a day, and that’s healthy since it protects our bodies by trapping foreign objects. But too much of it can leave you feeling stuffy and uncomfortable, so rosalina (known as the lavender tea tree) can help as a calming central nervous system tonic.
How-to: Just add a few drops of rosalina to your bathwater and let it work magic on you. The moist air you inhale helps heal sinus and chest congestion, loosen the mucus, unblock nasal pathways, and cleanse the body of microbes.
Having difficulty breathing? Green myrtle will increase your uptake of oxygen. Known as an herb of protection that wards off the "evil eye," green myrtle is gentle and can be used to help quell asthma spells. It's also a powerful anti-catarrhal (helps the body remove excess mucus), antispasmodic, and expectorant.
How-to: Make a DIY chest balm with either ½ a cup of coconut oil or ½ a cup of shea butter. Mix the primary ingredient with about 2 teaspoons of almond oil and 10 drops of green myrtle oil. Massage this on your chest, on your neck, temples, and behind the neck for instant relief. Always cover yourself after applying a balm.
A balsamic, calming scent, frankincense is great for watery eyes or if you are looking to dry out your nasal passages and excessive mucus. It soothes the nervous system and has historically been the oil of choice when one needed a Band-Aid and help with poison ivy. Try mixing it with rosalina before sleeping—I'm a big fan of this calming, clearing combo!
How-to: All you need is a few tissues! Just put a few drops of earthy frankincense directly on your tissue and inhale every now and then. To sleep peacefully and breathe better at night, put a few drops of the oil on your pillow.
If you have strong allergies, German chamomile is worth exploring. In ancient times, it was used for colic, indigestion, insomnia, and toothaches. Nowadays, this greenish-blue powerhouse is an antispasmodic, carminative, and wound-healing essential oil—essential when allergies are getting the best of you.
How-to: Create a therapeutic steam of chamomile oil, and add 4 to 5 drops of the oil to a steamer or big bowl. Cover the lid and place a towel on your head, covering the steamer, or just sit over a bowl for 5 to 10 minutes.
Breathing techniques to open the nasal passages.
While these essential oils are extremely powerful with just a sniff or dab on the wrists and inhalation, there are ways to get more out of the experience. Firstly, diaphragmatic breathing can be effective to help open the nasal passages and get the most benefit from aromatherapy—the diaphragm is the most efficient breathing muscle and it sits right at the base of the lungs.
Before engaging in diaphragmatic breathing, place your index and middle fingers between your cheekbone and teeth bones (on both sides of the face)—this will help open the nasal passages by acupressure. Another one of my go-to techniques for easier breathing is nadi shodhana, aka, alternate nostril breathing.
- Take your right hand; bring your pointer finger and middle finger to rest between your eyebrows. Close your eyes and take a deep breath in and out through your nose.
- Then, close your right nostril with your right thumb. Inhale through the left nostril slowly. Close the left nostril with your ring finger so both nostrils are held closed; retain your breath at the top of the inhale for a few seconds.
- Open your right nostril and release the breath slowly through the right side; pause briefly at the bottom of the exhale. Take about 3 to 5 breaths alternating nostrils and feel your nervous system rejuvenate.