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Cold and Flu Center

Aromatherapy & Steam to Help With Cough

author image Ana Cassis
Ana Cassis began writing professionally in 1995. She has been published in the magazines "Cancunissimo," "Mesa Visions" and in online heath publications. Cassis is a nutrition counselor and herbalist with experience in fitness, nutrition and yoga. She holds an Associate of Arts in architecture from San Diego Mesa College.
Aromatherapy & Steam to Help With Cough
Aromatherapy helps ease coughs. Photo Credit Frau hustet image by R.-Andreas Klein from <a href="http://www.fotolia.com">Fotolia.com</a>

The best way to use aromatherapy when it comes to alleviating a cough is by using steam. A cough is usually present when the lungs, bronchial tubes, larynx or throat are inflamed. Certain essential oils have anti-inflammatory, analgesic and expectorant properties that will stimulate your lungs to expel mucus and fight infection. Steam makes it easy to inhale these oils to get the medical benefits.

Essential Oil Blends

Many kinds of essential oils can help treat coughs. You can use them individually or make a blend for healing.

Lavender essential oil suppresses muscle spasms and has calming properties that will ease your cough. Sandalwood or tea tree are antibacterial and will help eliminate any infection present.

Drying herbs will work best if your cough is mucus congested. Eucalyptus is the best essential oil for congestion, since its main active ingredient, eucalyptol, acts on receptors of the nasal mucosa, clearing the lungs and respiratory tract.

Other essential oils used for coughs include black pepper, because it opens the respiratory passages, and cypress, which helps reduce the accumulation of mucus in the lungs.

Once you choose which oils you want to use, you can boil water, use a vaporizer, take a hot bath or sit in a steam room to generate steam.

Boiling Water

One of the simplest ways to use aromatherapy with steam is by boiling water in a medium-size pan and adding your chosen essential oils to the water.

Use a towel to cover your head as you place your face above the steam rising from the water. This will create a tent over your head that will prevent the steam from escaping too quickly. Take slow and deep breaths through your mouth, allowing the essential oils to reach your lungs.

If the steam feels too hot you can open a side of the tent to let fresh air in or you can simply raise your head to inhale fresh air and then cover it again until the water is no longer steaming.


Breathing steam from a vaporizer can give you lasting relief from a cough since the vapors can fill a room. The best way to use a vaporizer is at night, when you will remain in the same room for an extended period of time.

Place a few drops of the essential oils you have chosen in the vaporizer and wait 10 to 15 minutes for the volatile oils to permeate the room. Keep all windows and doors closed to contain the steam.

You can also use the vaporizer during the day if you plan on spending time in a particular room or office.

Hot Bath

Taking a hot bath with essential oils is an effective remedy for coughs, especially if you are experiencing congestion. Fill your bath with hot water and add five drops of essential oils. The steam from the bath will help loosen mucus and expel uncomfortable phlegm. If your cough is dry, this method will also help moisten your respiratory tract and bring relief to the itchiness you may be experiencing in your throat.

Steam Room

If you have access to a steam room you can add a few drops of essential oils to a moist hand towel and bring it into the steam room. As you inhale the steam, hold the towel close to your face. The steam will make the volatile oils rise from the towel, and you will receive their medicinal properties.

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