Essential Oils For Coughing: How To Use Them For Relief

Cold and flu season feels like it becomes longer and longer every year. And with the COVID-19 pandemic adding new infections to the population, wellness strategies to preserve your immune system and remedies for common symptoms are more necessary than ever.

Runny nose, nasal congestion, and sore throats are common symptoms of these illnesses, and they are all very irritating. There is nothing worse than not being able to taste or smell due to congestion or having to smile through the pain of an achy throat. But one of the most uncomfortable symptoms of the common cold is the embarrassing, painful, and annoying cough.

There are many over the counter medications and cough suppressants that can help to alleviate cough and sore throat, but they can be expensive, and their ingredients are often a mystery. Surprisingly, essential oils can provide the same benefits as cold medicine, as well as a multitude of even more positive benefits when used as natural remedies.

Let’s look at a few of the best essential oils to help clear up a cough.

What Causes A Cough?

Despite its annoying nature, a cough is actually a vital tool that your body uses to help fight disease and infection. Coughing expels mucus and foreign particles from the upper respiratory tract, protecting the lungs from infection and inflammation. This is why when water goes down the “wrong pipe” and you cough, it’s to prevent this foreign substance from entering your lungs through the airway.

When you have a cold, coughing happens involuntarily due to irritation in the larynx or your voice box. This is what causes that nagging cough during allergy season and flu season that seems to never end. It’s annoying, but it is a necessary defense against diseases that your body is able to produce. Chest congestion can be harder to get rid of, but it follows the same premise. 

Although there is really no cure for the common cold, there are a ton of options that you can use to help make your cough less painful and less repetitive. Essential oils are great tools at your disposal to quickly clear up coughs, in much the same way as taking an expectorant or decongestant would.

What Essential Oils Should I Use For a Cough?

Essential oils are made from compounds that come from plants. They are all-natural and organic, so you can feel good about using them and not worry about inhaling dangerous chemicals. Every oil has a slew of positive uses that make them popular for cough and cold remedies.


The eucalyptus plant is a renowned essential oil purely for its natural, soothing aroma. But it is also recognized for its ability to help clear up coughs and sinus infections. Tea tree oil has similar antibacterial features, so it may be worth investigating which of the two you prefer. 

Popular cold remedies such as chest rubs contain eucalyptus oil because of its ability to treat respiratory ailments. One study suggested that it can help cure bronchitis, sinusitis, and pharyngitis because of its immune-enhancing effects. It is even being investigated as an anti-tuberculosis medication because of its ability to relieve nasal and throat congestion, although none of these benefits have been proven.

Some cough drops and cold medicines contain eucalyptus, but it is often unpleasant to ingest. One of the best ways to feel the benefits of eucalyptus is by using an essential oil diffuser. A diffuser will turn the oil into a fine mist that evaporates throughout your living space, filling the air with this decongesting, soothing aroma that can last for hours. You can also up the intensity of this method by supplementing it with steam inhalation. Start by boiling water, and then place a few drops of essential oil into the container. Being careful not to burn yourself, inhale the steam coming out of the container. 

Diffusers are a must-have for anyone who is looking to begin utilizing essential oils in their lives, as they are easy to use and clean but provide wide-ranging benefits. Most are even equipped with LED lights that look just as relaxing as the mist feels.


Cinnamon is a staple for cooking and baking, and there is no better scent than a fresh cinnamon stick. This makes cinnamon essential oil great for aromatherapy. But you may be surprised to learn about the benefits that this product can have for your cold and flu symptoms.

Cinnamon has a history of helping to treat bronchitis, as it is an anti-inflammatory agent. It is also antimicrobial and may have antiviral effects, so it can help to eliminate airborne pathogens if you put a few drops into a diffuser. It’s also been proven to stimulate circulation, improve digestion, and protect against insects.

You can put a few drops of cinnamon into your next hot bath to allow the steam to naturally diffuse the scent into your bathroom air. Just combine it with a carrier oil, such as coconut oil or grapeseed oil, to ensure that the cinnamon won’t irritate your skin. You could even incorporate it into a DIY bath bomb to spruce up your next self-care day.


Geranium is one of the forgotten essential oils because most people do not even know what it is. However, this is a great oil to have in your arsenal, as it is perfect for relieving that nagging cough.

Geranium contains a substance called citronellol, which has been shown to be effective in reducing allergic reactions. If you have fall allergies or a pet that makes you cough, you can put a few drops into an oil diffuser and feel some relief. It has also been shown to help reduce congestion associated with bronchitis and other respiratory tract infections.

This essential oil has a fresh, floral scent that can help to relieve anxiety and stress as well. And especially if you suffer from allergies, you may want to consider putting a few drops into an air humidifier. This will help to provide moisture to the air and purify any pathogens that might be causing your cough.

You can try this ultrasonic cool mist humidifier, especially because it comes with an essential oil tray that is specifically designed for you to combine the benefits of a humidifier with the positive aspects of essential oils. This can last for up to 50 hours, making in an unstoppable force in combating the common cold, flu, or asthma.


Like cinnamon, nutmeg is a popular spice used in cooking and for beverages. But this has some great benefits for breaking up your cough.

It has anti-inflammatory properties that make it great for fighting off respiratory infections, as well as antioxidants that can fight acne and improve your skin. This would be a great one to drop inside your next bath, as it could provide relief to your body both internally and externally.

Also, you can use nutmeg with cinnamon together to create a fantastic fall aroma that would combine both of their amazing benefits. You can combine essential oils in whatever fashion you desire, so have some fun experimenting to see what works best for you!

Other oils that may be worth considering include: 

  • Peppermint oil: Peppermint essential oil can help when you have a cough or buildup of mucus, thanks to the menthol found in it.
  • Frankincense oil: This oil has long been revered as a natural remedy, thanks to its aromatic properties. 
  • Rosemary oil: This oil, in particular, may help with the hoarseness that can come along with a cough. 
  • Oregano oil: Oregano oil is more than just a delicious scent. The presence of carvacrol may help fight off germs. 
  • Bergamot oil: This oil contains camphene, which may help to loosen congestion.

Dos and Don'ts Of Essential Oils For Cough

Inhaling essential oils through mists, such as from a diffuser or humidifier, are some of the best ways to appreciate what these compounds have to offer. These don’t require too many droplets either, so your tinctures can last for a long time. Some essential oils can also be combined with carrier oils to be applied to your skin, providing immediate relief for acne and other skin ailments. Do some research before doing this, just to be safe.

You can also have a lot of fun experimenting with different combinations to experience multiple positive effects at once. As previously mentioned, cinnamon and nutmeg is a great combo, but you could pair eucalyptus with peppermint for an invigorating, soothing sensation. Or maybe you could even try lavender essential oil with geranium for a calming floral aroma. The key is to keep trying different combinations until you find one that works for you.

One thing to be wary of that essential oils cannot be ingested directly. It may seem like a great way to instantly relieve a cough would be to swallow a few drops of eucalyptus or cinnamon oil. However, these oils are highly concentrated and can cause irritation and negative side effects if ingested. There are exceptions, so do some research or talk to a doctor beforehand. 

With that said, ingesting these oils eliminates the aromatherapeutic properties that essential oils can have. This is why putting them into an oil diffuser, or a humidifier is a prime option.


During allergy season and cold season, that annoying cough can ruin our day before even getting out of bed. Instead of using over the counter medications that are unpleasant to consume and often expensive, you should consider using essential oils to achieve the same effects. It is important to note, however, that these remedies are not meant to replace medical advice but are rather a natural way to supplement actual medical care. 

Oils such as eucalyptus and cinnamon have anti-inflammatory properties that make them perfect for clearing up the mucus in your respiratory system. They can also help to clear out your sinuses if your cough comes with a runny nose. Other oils like nutmeg can even help to fight against allergic reactions.

Essential oils are essential for good reason, and using them with a diffuser or humidifier can provide countless benefits to your daily life.


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