Essential Oils for Congestion

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Essential Oils for Congestion

writtenByWritten by: PlushCare Content Team
PlushCare Content Team

PlushCare Content Team

The PlushCare Content Team delivers high-quality, medically-reviewed healthcare content as part of our mission to help all people live longer, healthier and happier lives.

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July 8, 2021 Read Time - 6 minutes

Feeling congested can be uncomfortable and even painful at times, not to mention the annoyance of a constantly runny nose.

There are many methods to treat congestion that help relieve symptoms and get you feeling better again.

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Essential Oils for Sinus Congestion

Essential oils for sinus congestion can be a great natural alternative to over-the-counter and prescribed medicines.

There are many reasons why you may prefer a natural remedy such as essential oils to a synthetic medication, including:

  • Multiple health conditions – Some people are afflicted by multiple health conditions and therefore take other medications. These medications may not mix well and could potentially be harmful when combined with over the counter decongestants. In this case, essential oils are the safer choice for symptom relief.
  • Negative side effects – Many prescribed and over-the-counter medications for decongestion have side effects. These affect everyone differently and some people may struggle more than others. For those who experience negative side effects from synthetic decongestants, essential oils can be a great option. Some common side effects of decongestants are drowsiness, headaches, restlessness, high blood pressure and rapid heart rate.
  • Pregnancy – Some pregnant women may be recommended or want to use more natural treatments for the duration of their pregnancy. Small amounts of essential oils can help relieve symptoms without putting unnecessary chemicals into the bloodstream that eventually reach the fetus. Always be sure to talk with your doctor before using essential oils to make sure they will not harm you or your baby.
  • Antibiotic allergies – Some people have allergies and experience negative side effects of antibiotics. Others may feel that they have been overprescribed antibiotics and avoid taking them when possible. Essential oils for congestion can be a good alternative for those who prefer to not take antibiotics, for whatever reason.

What Causes Congestion?

If you decide to try essential oils for congestion, it is important to know the specific causes of congestion to determine which essential oils will work best.

Causes of congestion include:

Other causes of congestion, such as a deviated septum, will not respond to essential oil treatment. It is important you talk to your doctor to ensure your case of congestion can be alleviated by essential oils.

Most of the essential oils for congestion have antibacterial, antiseptic, and anti-inflammatory properties. As a result, they can be great at reducing and even eliminating symptoms such as:

  • Congestion
  • Inflammation
  • Coughing

Congestion Symptoms

Sinus congestion is often a symptom of another health problem, such as allergies or the common cold. Sinus congestion symptoms include:

  • A stuffy or runny nose
  • Sinus pain
  • Mucus buildup
  • Swollen nasal tissue

Home remedies, including essential oils for congestion, can help relieve symptoms and alleviate sinus congestion. However, chronic or recurring congestion may require medical attention.

Meanwhile, others may experience chest congestion due to bronchitis or the common cold. 

Symptoms of lung congestion include:

  • Coughing with clear, green, or dark yellow mucus
  • Chest tightness
  • Body aches
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Shortness or breath or wheezing
  • Sore throat

While the majority of chest congestion symptoms typically fade in a few days, a cough can last longer as your bronchial tubes recover.

What Is the Best Essential Oil for Congestion?

The best essential oils for congestion (chest and sinus) are:

  • Tea tree oil – Also known as melaleuca, tea tree oil has antiseptic, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties. Tea tree oil can help effectively your nasal passage by reducing swelling and fighting bad bacteria.
  • Eucalyptus oil – As a natural cough suppressant, eucalyptus oil also has been shown to fight bacteria and does not contain antibiotics. It can help with decongestion by reducing the negative bacteria and other microbes in the nasal passage.
  • Oregano oil – As one of the best oils for chest congestion and bronchitis treatment, organo contains carvacrol, a phenol anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory that alleviates congestion.
  • Thyme oil – Thyme helps clear mucus from the nasal passage and alleviates the symptoms of chest congestion. Thyme is an effective alternative treatment for asthma, bronchitis, and sinus pain.

What Essential Oil Is Good for Colds and Congestion?

The best essential oils for colds and congestion are eucalyptus, chamomile, peppermint oil, which help open the airways and alleviate congestion. 

Eucalyptus and peppermint oil help relieve sinus and chest congestion, clear the nasal passages, and promote sinus drainage. Research has also demonstrated that chamomile oil can effectively reduce cold and flu symptoms.

Does Peppermint Oil Help with Congestion?

Yes, peppermint oil can help provide immediate relief. Because peppermint oil is composed of menthol, it provides an instant cooling sensation.

With that said, peppermint oil does not help fight bacteria or reduce swelling. Therefore, it is not a long-term solution for congestion.

How to Use Essential Oils for Congestion

Essential oils are most effective for congestion when inhaled. The best way to do this is to put 3–7 drops in boiling water and inhale the steam. You can also inhale right from the bottle.

Essential Oil Warnings

While essential oils can be an effective natural remedy for congestion, they’re not for everyone. Before purchasing or using essential oils, be sure to consider the following:

  • Potency – Because essential oils are potent, avoid taking essential oils by mouth or using a concentrated amount. You can dilute essential oils with carrier oils such as castor oil and avocado oil.
  • Quality – Always buy essential oils from a trusted source. Essential oils stored in plastic bottles can increase the risk of contamination and decrease the oil’s shelf life.
  • Pregnancy – If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, talk to your doctor before using essential oils for chest congestion or nasal congestion.

“Essential oils and aromatherapy are highly individualized and can affect everyone differently,” according to Michele Mac, LMT, CPMT, a licensed massage therapist at Ohio State Integrative Medicine. “Know that if there is a single oil that is not appropriate for you, there are several more that can be used with the same benefits.”

  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.


Get Nasal Congestion Treatment Online

Experiencing symptoms of congestion? Book an appointment with a PlushCare physician and get a treatment plan today.

Read More About Congestion


PlushCare is dedicated to providing you with accurate and trustworthy health information.

Mayo Clinic. Nasal congestion in adults. Accessed on April 16, 2021 at 

Cleveland Clinic. Nasal Congestion. Accessed on April 16, 2021 at 

Ohio State Medical Center. How and why to use essential oils. Accessed on April 16, 2021 at

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

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