Long before over-the-counter and prescription medications were available, traditional healers used natural oils to relieve the symptoms of colds, flus and other respiratory congestive disorders. Aromatherapists and other natural therapists have preserved their wisdom and added even more to our natural pharmacopoeia. These are some of the best, according to the experts.
Indigenous to Australia, many eucalypti contain natural oils that are ideal for relieving congestion. In fact, eucalyptus oil is the main ingredient in dozens of popular over-the-counter remedies. The active ingredient in eucalptus is eucalyptol, which is said to have expectorant, antiseptic and antibacterial properties. Both inhalants and topically applied balms can effectively relieve congestion, but many natural therapists recommend a steam treatment for best results. Aboriginal Australians used eucalyptus to treat fever, so it may be just what's needed to relieve the symptoms of a cold or flu accompanied by a mild fever.
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is another traditional Australian remedy for numerous ailments. Like eucalyptus oil, tea tree oil has been adopted as a natural treatment worldwide. Indigenous Australians have used it for thousands of years for the treatment of cuts and wounds as well as for relief from respiratory infections. The healing potential of tea tree oil was not lost on Australia's European settlers, either. In fact, it was included in the first aid kits of Australian soldiers during WWII. Like eucalyptus, tea tree oil can be used in a steam inhalant to relieve congestion. A few drops in a hot bath can also be used.
Native Americans used pine oil in much the same way indigenous Australians used eucalyptus and tea tree oil. Like our Australian essential oils, pine oil contains antiseptic, antibacterial and expectorant properties. It is sometimes used together with eucalyptus and tea tree oil in topical treatments for relief from chest congestion.
Lavender Essential Oil
Milder than eucalyptus or tea tree oil, lavender essential oil is often used by aromatherapists for relieving congestion as well as relief from the mild depression that can accompany a cold or a flu.
Other natural oils that can relieve congestion include thyme, peppermint and rosemary. However, these oils should be used with care or under supervision. Peppermint contains menthol, which can be harmful or even fatal to infants and young children. Some people tolerate thyme well, while others may have adverse skin reactions. Thyme and rosemary are not recommended for people with high blood pressure and rosemary is not recommended for pregnant women.
Natural oils, like all medications, should be used with care, especially if you are preparing home-made steam inhalants or balms. Essential oils should not be applied directly to the skin. Undiluted, they may cause skin irritation or other problems. It's best to use aromatherapy products and essential oils that have been prepared by professionals. That way, you know you are getting the best natural oils prepared as they should be for optimum health benefits.