COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is a lung disease that causes chronic airway inflammation and reduced lung function.
Symptoms of COPD include:
- Shortness of breath
- Inability to perform daily activities
- Tightness in the chest
- Chronic cough with mucus
- Frequent respiratory infections
Causes of COPD can include:
- Cigarette smoking
- Chronic exposure to gases and chemicals
- Emphysema (damage of bronchioles)
- Chronic bronchitis
COPD treatment options may include:
- The first step is to quit smoking and stop introducing cigarette smoke into your respiratory system.
- Medication in the form of inhalers (bronchodilators, steroids)
- Antibiotics for infections of the respiratory tract
- Oxygen therapy
- Ventilation therapy
If you or a loved one are experiencing COPD symptoms, then natural healing options like aromatherapy may help increase life quality.
Please note that while essential oils may help improve your symptoms, they will not cure or reverse this condition.
Always consult with your physician or medical professional before using essential oils for COPD.
Essential Oils As Home Remedies
Essential oils (EOs) are highly concentrated plant extracts containing hundreds of active compounds like monoterpenes known for their antioxidant, immune-boosting, and anti-inflammatory properties. (1)
EOs can be used as effective natural treatments for a variety of conditions such as:
Many EOs help support the immune system and are potent antibacterials, antiseptic agents, and natural decongestants and expectorants.
The Best Essential Oils For COPD Symptoms
Eucalyptus oil (Eucalyptus globulus, Eucalyptus radiata)
- Antiviral (respiratory tract)
- Immune system support
- Respiratory system support
When inhaled, the primary active component in eucalyptus essential oil, 1.8 cineole, can provide relief for inflammatory respiratory problems such as rhinosinusitis, bronchitis, asthma, and COPD. (2)
It can also reduce infection-induced mucus secretion. (3)
Cineole has also been shown to have antitussive (anti-cough) properties. (4)
Contraindications: Those with high blood pressure, epilepsy, pregnant and breastfeeding women, children under six years old.
Just a few drops of eucalyptus can help open up the airways and provide temporary relief.
Frankincense oil (Boswellia carterii)
Frankincense’s therapeutic uses include respiratory conditions, coughs, common cold, and bronchitis.
Its vapors open the nasal passages.
Frankincense can stimulate the immune system by fortifying immune cell activity, and one study found it to increase lymphocyte (white blood cell type) activity by 90%. (5)
Contraindications: none known
Peppermint oil (Mentha piperita)
Its active compound, menthol, is a known cough suppressor. (4)
Menthol gives peppermint oil its cooling sensation that can help soothe soreness often associated with a persistent cough.
Peppermint oil also exhibited an antispasmodic effect (suppresses muscle contractions) in the throat area and bronchial muscles, indicating cough suppression. (6)
Contraindications: children under six years old, high blood pressure, pregnant and breastfeeding women.
Tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia)
Australia’s Aboriginal population has used tea tree essential oil for hundreds of years. Aborigines crushed tea tree leaves and inhaled them to treat colds and coughs.
Today, tea tree is a potent antimicrobial agent that protects against bacterial, viral, and fungal respiratory tract infections. (7)
Like eucalyptus, tea tree oil’s vapors open the sinus and nasal passages, reducing respiratory problems.
Studies also indicate tea tree essential oil has a protective effect against the influenza virus (antiviral activity). (8)
Contraindications: Toxic if ingested, may irritate (perform a patch test before)
Lemon oil (Citrus limon)
In aromatherapy, lemon essential oil is traditionally used to soothe sore throats, bronchial conditions, and laryngitis.
D-limonene, one of the active compounds in lemon oil, is a powerful antioxidant that can help with cough-related inflammation.
Lemon essential oil effectively stimulates the lymphatic system, a vital part of the immune system, because it stores and transports white blood cells throughout the body via lymph fluid.
The more lymph can move freely throughout your body, the better your chances of preventing infections, colds, and disease.
Contraindications: Non-distilled lemon oil is phototoxic – avoid direct exposure to sunlight at least 12 hours after applying topically, may cause skin irritation (perform a patch test)
Other EOs that may be useful for COPD symptoms are:
- Myrrh oil
- Bergamot oil
- Lavender oil
How To Use Essential Oils For COPD Symptoms
You can diffuse EOs in a diffuser to inhale the active compounds.
Ensure the room where you’re diffusing is well ventilated, and don’t run the diffuser for longer than one hour at a time.
You can also use EOs topically by diluting them with a carrier oil like coconut oil or jojoba oil.
Stick to 2-3 drops of EO per 1 teaspoon of carrier oil.
Soothing Chest Rub Recipe
This homemade chest rub is a non-toxic alternative to the good old fashioned Vicks vaporub. Unfortunately, Vicks contains less than favorable ingredients, including synthetic chemicals and even petroleum.
- ¼ cup cacao butter (carrier oil)
- ¼ cup coconut oil (carrier oil)
- 15 drops Eucalyptus oil
- 15 drops Peppermint essential oil
- 10 drops Tea tree oil
- 5 drops Frankincense
- Slightly melt cacao butter and coconut oil in a small pot.
- Add all EOs and stir well.
- Transfer mixture to small jars or any airtight container with a lid.
- Allow to fully cool off before topically applying to the chest and back as needed.
- Note: Do not apply to nostrils or any area with mucous membranes.
- Pro tip: For a less-fuss, on-the-go application, you can add the mixture to empty lip balm containers and apply directly.
Steam Inhalation Therapy
Another option is to use steam inhalation to get the oils’ vapors deep into your nasal passages, throat, chest, and respiratory system.
Cough With Mucus Blend:
- 2 drops Eucalyptus
- 2 drops Tea tree
- 2 drops Frankincense
- Fill a large bowl or pot with boiling water.
- Add essential oils.
- Place a towel or blanket over you to contain the steam.
- Take deep, slow inhales.
- 3 drops Eucalyptus
- 3 drops Rosemary
- 3 drops Frankincense
- 2 drops Lemon
Add 200 ml of water to your diffuser
Although the safe and mindful use of EOs usually brings little to no side effects, it’s best to proceed with caution, especially for respiratory conditions like COPD.
Using an essential oil diffuser can sometimes irritate airways.
Only use the highest-quality, certified organic, 100% therapeutic grade EOs to get the full medicinal benefits.
Unfortunately, many essential oil products on the market are either diluted or contaminated with toxic chemicals, pesticides, and solvents that can worsen respiratory symptoms.
If you are a COPD patient, consult with your health care provider before using any EOs for your symptoms.
Some EOs may interact with medications, so proceed with caution.
It’s also wise to know the contraindications for each oil you’ll use as many EOs aren’t suitable for babies, young children, pregnant women, and people with conditions like high blood pressure and epilepsy.
Holistic Lifestyle Changes To Better Manage COPD
Making specific lifestyle changes may help reduce the frequency or severity of flare-ups and exacerbations of COPD:
- Quit smoking as a first action and find ways to manage your stress and anxiety, which can worsen symptoms.
- Taking up daily pranayama (yogic breathwork) practice and belly breathing can help lower stress levels, balance your nervous system, lower inflammation levels, and strengthen lung health.
- Regular yoga practice can also help strengthen immunity.
- Follow an anti-inflammatory diet at least 80% of the time.
- Learn to incorporate mindfulness into your everyday life.
- Practice good sleep hygiene habits to get high-quality sleep every night. (This can help lower stress hormones and inflammation. It also strengthens your immune system.)
- Supplementation with Vitamin D3, magnesium, fish oil, CoQ10, and turmeric may also help keep your body and respiratory system strong.
- Invest in a high-grade air filtration system to remove potential irritants and improve air quality at home.