Oils for inhalation

, medical expert
Last reviewed: 31.07.2022

All iLive content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies. Note that the numbers in parentheses ([1], [2], etc.) are clickable links to these studies.

If you feel that any of our content is inaccurate, out-of-date, or otherwise questionable, please select it and press Ctrl + Enter.

Inhalations are part of the therapy for various respiratory diseases, and natural essential oils for inhalation, containing bioactive compounds with medicinal properties, are best suited.

About three dozen essential oils - with proven clinical efficacy - are officially recognized by the European Pharmacopoeia, and these include oils that are often used to treat respiratory diseases, not only in complementary medicine.

Indications for carrying out

The main indications for inhalation with essential oils include colds and flu with cough, rhinitis and sore throat, catarrh of the upper respiratory tract, laryngitis, tracheitis, laryngotracheitis and tracheobronchitis, epiglottitis, pharyngitis, peritonsillar abscesses; inflammation of the paranasal sinuses (sinusitis).

Inhalations with essential oils are used for inflammation of the lower respiratory tract, primarily as an auxiliary method of treating cough in acute and chronic bronchitis and bronchiolitis, as well as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and pneumonia.

Essential oils contain terpenes and terpenoids, sesquiterpene lactones, esters of carboxylic acids, phenylpropanoids and other compounds. The composition of essential oils determines their complex effects: by inhalation - by inhalation - biologically active substances pass through the trachea to the bronchi, and from there to the bronchioles and alveoli of the lungs (where the blood is enriched with oxygen).

So the smallest molecules, easily reaching all parts of the respiratory tract, help fight viral and bacterial infections, relieve inflammation and symptoms such as cough, runny nose and sore throat.

In addition, inhaled essential oil substances can enter the bloodstream and have a calming or tonic effect on the central nervous system.

Oils for inhalation are used for dry cough, runny nose:

Mucolytic and expectorant essential oils for inhalation in bronchitis:  Oils for the treatment of bronchitis .

Relieving inflammation oils for inhalation for the throat are discussed in detail in the material -  The use of essential oils for sore throat .

What oils are used for inhalation?

If the cough is dry, it is recommended to use essential oils of eucalyptus, peppermint, oregano (oregano), tea and clove, basil, frankincense. When the cough becomes wet, oils that act as expectorants will help: Atlas cedar, Scotch pine, medicinal rosemary, peppermint, thyme (creeping thyme), noble laurel, tea tree and the same eucalyptus globular.

Essential oils for nasal inhalation - fir, cedar, cypress, eucalyptus, mint - are not only strong antiseptics, but also work as decongestants, that is, they relieve swelling of the mucous membranes of the nasal cavity. For more details, see -  Treatment of the common cold with inhalations .

Eucalyptus oil  for inhalation is valued for its antiviral and antimicrobial properties and anti-inflammatory activity, which are provided by a cyclic ester - monoterpene 1,8-cineol or eucalyptol (which accounts for 73% of all chemical components of this oil). [1]

Inhalations with this oil relieve and soothe cough in any respiratory diseases. And many experts believe that this is the best oil for inhalation, since not only its ability to relieve bronchospasm and reduce the intensity of inflammatory processes (by blocking pro-inflammatory cytokines) has been proven, but also to destroy the accumulated tracheobronchial secret and cleanse the respiratory system.

The basis  of peppermint oil  is terpenoids menthol and menthone (in total - 65-87% of the composition); there is also 1,8-cineol (5-12%). Menthol, when inhaled, creates a cooling sensation that can soothe a scratchy and sore throat and relieve nasal congestion. Peppermint oil for inhalation helps in the fight against viral infection, improves the mucociliary clearance of the respiratory tract and relaxes the muscles of the windpipe, making it easier to breathe when coughing. Menthone (terpene ketone) neutralizes the action of free radicals, that is, it is an antioxidant. [2]

Tea tree oil  for inhalation with a sore throat or cough is not much inferior to eucalyptus oil (although it contains 4.5 times less 1,8-cineole), and in terms of antiviral and antibacterial activity it far exceeds mint oil, since it contains almost 30 % terpinen-4-ol. [3]

In acute bronchitis with an unproductive cough, fir oil for inhalation weakens its attacks, and with a productive cough, it facilitates sputum discharge and relieves bronchial spasms. [4]

The essential oil of Atlas cedar, used for inhalation during coughing, helps to thin sputum, and with a runny nose - a thick nasal secret. A similar effect, due to the high content of 1,8-cineol (almost 45% of the total composition), has rosemary essential oil.

Like the plants themselves, essential oils of oregano and thyme contain powerful antibacterial components - the phenol-derived terpenes carvacrol and thymol. Many herbal cough remedies contain extracts of these medicinal herbs.

Sage essential oil for inhalation, containing about 15% eucalyptol, as well as thujone (22-60%), alpha-pinene, borneol and camphor, is an effective expectorant. However, the predominance of the monoterpene ketone thujone, which negatively affects the central nervous system, limits the use of this essential oil, as it can cause convulsions. Therefore, this oil can only be used for so-called cold inhalations, when a few drops of oil are dropped onto a swab and its vapors are inhaled. [5]

A mixture of essential oils of the Olbas trademark and its synonym (produced in the Russian Federation) - Dyshi oil for inhalation - contains oils of peppermint, eucalyptus, juniper, clove, cajeput (a type of tea tree) and gualteria, as well as L-menthol. The oil is intended for the prevention of respiratory infections: it is used by cold inhalation. The instructions for Dyshi oil indicate that it can be used by children from 12 months of age, however, clove oil is contraindicated for children under two years old, and peppermint oil and L-menthol - up to five years.

Some sources recommend the use of sea buckthorn oil for inhalation for sore throats, but this oil is not an essential oil and does not contain volatile volatile compounds (it contains omega fatty acids and carotenoids). It is more rational to lubricate inflamed tonsils with this oil. Read more -  Sea buckthorn oil for angina . [6]

Peach oil for inhalation is no less problematic to use - for the same reasons, but it can be used to lubricate the nasal passages with dry nasal mucosa or to soften crusts in the nose with a runny nose in children. [7]

Oils for inhalation during pregnancy

Essential oils for inhalation such as juniper, clove and cajuput are contraindicated for pregnant women. In addition, oils of peppermint, oregano, thyme, sage, fir, cedar, tea tree (due to the hormonal effect and neurotonic effects), cypress (in the first half of gestation) are not used during the period of bearing a child.

More information in the material -  Inhalations during pregnancy .

The list of essential oils that are contraindicated for lactating women is a little less, but it should be remembered that sage essential oil reduces lactation.

Oils for inhalation for children

The ability to use oils for inhalation for children depends on their age, since the lobes of the lungs continue to grow until the age of three, and the bronchopulmonary system is fully formed only by the age of seven.

Essential oils are extremely potent substances and their use in children requires special care. For safety reasons, it is contraindicated to use eucalyptus oil for inhalation - until the age of one year (in some recommendations, even up to three years); up to two years - cloves; up to three years - fir; up to five years - thyme oil; up to five years - mint and rosemary oil; tea tree oil - up to 10 years, and oregano and cedar oils - up to 12 years of age.

How to inhale with essential oils

The medicinal properties of the substances contained in the molecules of essential oils appear during evaporation, therefore hot steam inhalations are carried out

Between the intake of food and medications and the beginning of the procedure, a two-hour interval should be observed. All preparation consists in filling the container with hot water (for adults t + 60 ° C, for children t + 40 ° C), adding an appropriate number of drops of essential oil to it and then inhaling the vapors (tilting your head over the container and covering it with a towel). When coughing, inhale through the mouth and exhale through the nose; with rhinitis, the opposite is true.

The duration of the procedure, which is carried out once in laziness, for adults should be no more than five minutes, for children under seven years old - two minutes, under seven years old - one minute. And the course of treatment should not exceed three to five days (depending on the condition and recommendations of the doctor).

A single dose of essential oil added to water (based on one glass) is given in their instructions and is usually: for eucalyptus oil - 4/2 drops (adults / children); fir or cedar oils - 4/2; tea tree or thyme - 2/1; peppermint oil - 3/2; oregano -2/1; cypress - 2/1.

Despite all the primitiveness of this "technology", it is effective, although it is certainly more comfortable to do such procedures using an inhaler.

By the way, the inhaler for essential oils must be steam or thermal evaporation, as well, or it can be a Makholda inhaler, designed for such procedures.

Experts advise to beware of incompetent recommendations to use essential oils for a compressor or ultrasonic nebulizer: they are not suitable for inhalation with essential oils, since the evaporation of volatile substances does not occur. Read more in the publication -  Inhalations for bronchitis with a nebulizer , as well as in the material -  Inhalations for colds .

To disperse essential oils in indoor air (so that they can be freely inhaled), there are household hot diffusers (which heat the oil, releasing its active ingredients) and cold diffusers - electro-pneumatic devices such as the Nebulizing Essential Oil Diffuser.

Contraindications for carrying out

Inhalations with essential oils have contraindications:

  • increase in body temperature;
  • hypersensitivity of the body and a history of allergies;
  • nosebleeds;
  • coughing up bloody sputum;
  • cardiological and pulmonological diseases of a chronic nature;
  • post-stroke state.

Inhalation is contraindicated:

  • with eucalyptus oil - for bronchial asthma, whooping cough, high blood pressure, diseases of the liver and biliary tract;
  • with mint oil - for bronchospasm, asthma and sleep disorders;
  • with fir oil - for stomach ulcers, angina pectoris, inflammation of the kidneys, epilepsy;
  • with tea tree oil - with hypotension and disorders of the autonomic nervous system, as well as with hormone-dependent tumors;
  • with cedar oil - for nephritis and neuroses;
  • with sage oil - with a very strong cough, kidney problems and epilepsy;
  • with oils of oregano and thyme - with cardiac arrhythmia and myocardial ischemia.

Consequences after the procedure

Most essential oils are rapidly absorbed after inhalation, can cross the blood-brain barrier and interact with receptors in the CNS and then affect other functions. Although, according to experts, accelerated metabolism and a short half-life of active compounds of essential oils minimize the risk of their accumulation in the tissues of the respiratory tract.

Negative consequences after the procedure - if essential oils are used improperly - can occur in the form of headache, nausea, irritation of the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract and allergic reactions, bronchospasm and an asthma attack, as well as the development of a sedative effect.

Dangerous respiratory complications are possible after a procedure using peppermint oil in the inhalation treatment of upper respiratory catarrh or bronchitis in children. Also, problems with breathing and the central nervous system in children can be caused by inhalation of eucalyptus oil.

Care after the procedure

After inhalation with essential oils, rinse your mouth well with warm water and wash your face.

Eating is possible no earlier than an hour and a half after inhalation. Also, during the same period of time, it is not recommended to drink water, talk loudly (straining the vocal cords), exercise and walk (in cool weather).

Despite the positive reviews about the high efficiency of such procedures, it is necessary to resort to the use of essential oil for inhalation after consultation with a doctor and according to his prescription.  

Translation Disclaimer: The original language of this article is Russian. For the convenience of users of the iLive portal who do not speak Russian, this article has been translated into the current language, but has not yet been verified by a native speaker who has the necessary qualifications for this. In this regard, we warn you that the translation of this article may be incorrect, may contain lexical, syntactic and grammatical errors.

You are reporting a typo in the following text:
Simply click the "Send typo report" button to complete the report. You can also include a comment.