13 Essential Oils For Coughs, Cold, Congestion & Sore Throat

Susan Patterson
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13 Essential Oils For Coughs, Cold, Congestion & Sore Throat

Instead of needlessly suffering or taking a medicine that comes with a long list of potential side effects, why not use essential oils? There are many essential oils that can help ease a cough, cold, congestion, a sore throat, and sometimes all of the above. The oils are simply a concentrated liquid that contains a particular plant’s chemical properties. Whether massaged into the skin or inhaled, those important compounds cross into the bloodstream to provide beneficial effects, as multiple scientific studies have found.

Keeping essential oils for the respiratory system that contain compounds like decongestants and antiseptics in your home is a good idea as those symptoms can sneak up quickly, and they can make it difficult to sleep, breathe or just function. Plan ahead, and the next time it happens, you’ll be well-prepared.

Essential Oils For Cough

While a cough may not be life-threatening, it can make you miserable, keeping you up at night or interrupting your ability to simply enjoy a conversation. There are multiple essential oils for easing a cough, thanks to their expectorant, antiviral, antibacterial and antispasmodic properties.

1. Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil contains antibiotic, antimicrobial, antifungal, antiseptic, expectorant and antiviral compounds and is often used to help battle a bacterial or viral infection. It has the ability to stimulate the immune system to help lessen the duration of a cough while helping to diminish it at the same time. The naturally invigorating scent of tea tree also works to ease your cough, meaning simply inhaling the aroma can make you feel better, but one of the most effective ways to use it is to combine it with other ingredients and make a chest rub that’s massaged into the chest to provide relief.

Essential Oil Chest Rub

  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup shea butter, at room temperature
  • 10 drops eucalyptus essential oil
  • 10 drops peppermint essential oil
  • 5 drops lavender essential oil
  • 5 drops lemon essential oil
  • 5 drops tea tree essential oil


  1. Melt the coconut oil and shea butter together. Using a hand mixer, whip the coconut oil and shea butter for about 30 seconds. Use a spatula to bring it all back into the middle of the bowl and then add the essential oils.
  2. Whip it again for another minute, then use the spatula to bring it back into the middle of the bowl once again. Whip for another minute and then scoop the mixture into a lidded jar.
  3. Store in a cool, dark place.

To use this rub, apply a small amount to your chest, gently rubbing it in. You can also apply it to your upper and middle back. Re-apply every 2 to 3 hours.

2. Oregano Oil

Oregano oil contains two active ingredients, carvacrol, and thymol, which are known to contain potent antifungal and antibacterial properties. In fact, research has suggested that due to its antibacterial activity, this oil may even be used as a natural alternative to antibiotics that are frequently used for treating respiratory problems. As studies have found that it also offers antiviral action, it can be particularly beneficial for relieving conditions that can lead to a cough. Oregano oil also acts as an expectorant which helps to thin mucus, essential for cough relief.

You can use oregano oil multiple ways, but the most effective may be to diffuse it during the day by adding 3 to 5 drops to your diffuser and then at night, use it as part of a chest rub. Combine 2 to 3 drops of the oil with coconut oil and gently rub it into your chest.

3. Peppermint Oil

Peppermint oil has long been known to offer outstanding medicinal value for treating everything from headaches and depression to a cough. In fact, it’s one of the best essential oils for a cough as it contains menthol and also offers antiviral and antibacterial properties along with antispasmodic and antitussive (anti-cough) effects. It provides a cooling effect for immediate relief of that scratchy throat while reducing the severity of a cough and improving your ability to breathe normally.

You can use peppermint oil like you would oregano, diffusing it during the day and applying it topically at night, combining a few drops of coconut oil to make a chest rub.

Essential Oils For Colds

Essential oils can be used not only to battle the symptoms of a cold but to prevent them from settling in in the first place. The common cold is typically spread through the air and can be the result of more than 200 different viruses that attack the respiratory system. While it’s important to wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, you can use essential oils to help eliminate the spread of germs, as a natural disinfectant to kill them on surfaces like counters and doorknobs, and even the air in every room in your house.

4. Tea Tree Oil

We may have mentioned tea tree oil for treating a cough, but it’s too impressive to not include for colds, too. Tea tree essential oil is great for this purpose due to its powerful disinfecting properties. Add 20 drops of tea tree essential oil to a 16-ounce spray bottle filled with water. Spray and wipe down all surfaces in your home, especially any that may have come in contact with someone who’s been ill. Spray doorknobs, light switches, remote controls, keyboards, bathroom and kitchen fixtures, along with all other objects that are frequently touched and shared among family members.

5. Lemon Essential Oil

Lemon is a fabulous cure-all essential oil – not only is it highly effective for reducing cold symptoms due to its antibacterial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, it can help to fight fatigue as an energizing oil. If you don’t have lemon essential oil you can use lemons in much the same way as the essential oils is found right in the rind of the fruit. Cook the lemon with the rind in a pot of boiling water and allow the steam to waft through the room.

You can also help fight those cold symptoms and accompanying fatigue by combining four drops each of lemon essential oil, tea tree essential oil and lavender essential oil with four teaspoons of coconut oil to create a massage blend. Gently massage it into your chest, neck or temples for relief.

6. Lavender Essential Oil

Lavender essential oil has been a popular scent for centuries thanks to its refreshing aroma and its long list of potential medicinal abilities. Its stems and leaves provide camphoraceous notes which are generally softened from the floral sweetness. The oil is especially useful for respiratory ailments, including colds. It can also help to alleviate breathing problems when phlegm gets trapped in the sinuses and lungs.

While it can be very helpful simply added to a diffuser to allow you to breathe in the healing scent, you may want to use it as part of this excellent cold calming blend. The lavender will help to battle a virus or bacteria while promoting relaxation at the same time, while eucalyptus can help get rid of that hard-to-breathe feeling and thyme is a strong antiviral. Using it at bedtime is a great way to ease symptoms so that you can get a better night’s rest. Combine 2 drops of lavender essential oil with 1 drop thyme oil, 4 drops eucalyptus oil and 1 tablespoon of coconut oil in a clean, dark-colored jar. Rub about a teaspoon-sized amount across your chest.

7. Thyme Essential Oil

Thyme offers antiviral, antimicrobial and decongestant properties and also has the ability to ease fatigue, relieve stress and acts as an antidepressant, all of which come together to make it ideal for fighting off cold systems. To use it, try the steam inhalation method which will allow the oil’s vapors to cleanse the airways. Add a few drops of thyme essential oil to hot water that’s steaming, but not boiling. Lower your face over the bowl and use a towel, draping it over the back of your head and covering the sides of the bowl to trap the steam. Close your eyes and deeply inhale for several minutes for relief.

Essential Oils For Congestion

Most of us are familiar with the woes of congestion, which can also include sinus pressure, a nose that drips like a faucet, extreme pressure, and even pain. What we often refer to as a “stuffy nose” is actually inflammation in the sinus cavity or mucous membrane that causes a partial or total blockage in the passageways responsible for carrying air to the nose. More often than not, that stuffy feeling quickly turns to heavy congestion and pressure in the forehead, between the eyes and sometimes in the jaw, or behind the ears.

Thankfully there are several essential oils and various delivery methods that can be used for relief.

8. Frankincense Essential Oil

Frankincense essential oil offers powerful healing and rejuvenating properties. It contains a number of compounds that make it ideal for treating congestion, including antiseptic, astringent, anti-inflammatory and expectorant properties. It can also help reduce that inevitable anxiety that comes with having to take a day off of work. One of the best ways to use it is to take a hot bath after adding 2 drops of frankincense, 2 drops of orange and 1 drop of eucalyptus essential oils to the water. The steam will act as a decongestant and also help to soothe any aches and pains.

9. Cedarwood Essential Oil

If your body is producing excess mucus due to inflammation or a sinus infection, cedarwood essential oil can help as its cool aroma serves to loosen mucus and phlegm so that the respiratory system can function like it should. It offers potent anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and antiviral properties that have been used for centuries to treat congestion and other respiratory problems. Using cedarwood essential oil at bedtime is a great way to get a good night’s sleep.

By rubbing a couple of drops diluted in a carrier oil onto your chest and throat, and one just above your upper lip will help you breathe better so that you can rest. When you’re in a hurry, bring a bottle of this oil with you and take a deep whiff whenever congestion gets to be too much. Using it regularly will help to reduce the duration of your symptoms while enhancing the health of your respiratory system.

10. Eucalyptus Essential Oil

The primary component of eucalyptus essential oil is eucalyptol, a minty fragrance frequently used in cough drops and syrups as it’s outstanding for relieving sinus congestion as well as a cough, blocked air passages, and all sorts of other respiratory troubles. It contains antispasmodic properties that will help get rid of phlegm and mucus, while its antimicrobial, antibacterial and antiviral properties work to battle microbes that can cause a cold.

You can use eucalyptus essential oil multiple ways, including adding it to a diffuser to clear nasal passages while eliminating harmful airborne bacteria. Relieve sinus congestion by adding 3 drops to hot but not boiling water and inhale the steam. Use a towel to prevent the steam from escaping and close your eyes while your face is over the water to prevent irritation as the fumes can be powerful. You can also add 2 to 3 drops to a tablespoon of coconut oil and apply it as a chest rub to relieve upper respiratory congestion.

For an extra powerful vapor rub for stubborn congestion, follow this recipe:

Essential Oil Vapor Rub Recipe

  • 3 drops eucalyptus oil
  • 3 drops frankincense oil
  • 6 drops cedarwood oil
  • 6 drops lemon oil
  • 2 tbsp shea butter


  1. In a double boiler (or a stainless steel bowl set in a pot of boiling water), slowly melt the shea butter.
  2. When the butter has completely melted, remove from heat and then stir in the essential oils.
  3. Transfer the mixture to a dark-colored container with a lid and store in a cool place when not in use.

Essential Oils For Sore Throat

A sore throat is most often caused by the flu or a cold, though it can also be the result of allergies, smoking, acid reflux or more obvious illnesses like strep throat and tonsillitis. A common sore throat is caused by a viral infection, but strep throat, which can be extremely painful, is a bacterial infection. No matter what the cause of your sore throat, essential oils can help. Of course, it’s also important, as it is with any of the ailments we’ve mentioned, to take in plenty of liquids, get the nutrition your body needs and sufficient rest as well.

11. Clove Essential Oil

Clove essential oil is not only excellent for strengthening the immune system, it’s great for relieving the pain of a sore throat, thanks to its antiviral, antimicrobial, antiseptic, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. A study published in Phytotherapy Research found that the oil offers antimicrobial activity against a significant number of multiresistant Staphylococcus epidermidis. The potent medicinal properties of clove essential oil along with its ability to detoxify the blood helps to increase resistance to a host of different diseases and illnesses, including a sore throat.  The oil also provides an anaesthetic effect for pain relief while its anti-inflammatory action and eugenol compounds help to reduce swelling.

To get relief with clove essential oil, dissolve one teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water and then add 3 drops of the oil. Gargle with the solution two to three times daily, until your sore throat has healed.

12. Juniper Berry Essential Oil

Juniper berry has a sweet, woodsy aroma that’s often used in aromatherapy blends and household cleaning products, but one of the best uses is for treating a sore throat, as well as fatigue, muscle aches, and respiratory infections. It works as it contains nearly 90 different active compounds, including antibacterial properties and powerful antioxidants. It can also take away the urge to cough, which can also work to relieve pain, preventing further types of abrasive activity in the respiratory tract.

Both inhaling the aroma and applying juniper berry oil topically is a great way to eliminate a sore throat as quickly as possible. Add a few drops to a diffuser, and then combine 2 drops of juniper berry essential oil to a tablespoon of coconut oil and apply it to your throat.

13. Ginger Essential Oil

While ginger is most well-known for soothing a nauseous or upset stomach, it’s also a great oil for relieving the pain of a sore throat due to its anti-inflammatory properties, per Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects 2nd Edition. Ginger has been used for centuries and plays a very important role in Ayurvedic medicine. It contains more than 115 chemical components, though its primary component is gingerols which offer the most important anti-inflammatory and antioxidant action in ginger essential oil. It’s known to strengthen the immune system, cleanse the lymphatic nodes and respiratory tract as well as to kill off harmful microbes.

Make a potent sore throat eliminator using the following recipe:


  • 3 drops ginger essential oil
  • 2 tbsp raw honey
  • 8 ounces hot water
  • Dash of cayenne pepper


  1. Combine ginger essential oil with raw honey.
  2. Add hot water and the dash of cayenne pepper; stir.
  3. Gargle with the solution every 2 to 3 hours until a sore throat has dissipated.

Where To Buy Essential Oils

In order to experience the true benefits of the above essential oils, it’s imperative to choose 100% pure oils free of additives and adulterants.

Our top choice for high quality essential oils is Plant Therapy Essential Oils. Plant Therapy offer a huge selection of oils (including every oil mentioned in this article), each oil is 100% pure, natural and of the highest qualtiy and available at an affordable price with free shipping and free returns for up to 90 days.

Browse their selection of essential oils and order any that you’d like to add to your collection from this page on their official website. 

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