Sinus congestion can be a sideliner, because there’s little more frustrating that struggling to breathe, especially when you’re sitting behind the dugout at your son’s Little League game or sniffing through your daughter’s first dance recital.
Congestion occurs when inflammation causes the walls of the nasal cavity to swell, filling the space, and it can be caused by any number of things, including:
- Hay fever or other allergic reactions
- Cold or flu
- Environmental irritants
- Nasal polyps
- Deviated septum
- Cigarette smoking
- Exposure to dust or chemical irritants
- Chronic sinusitis
Whether your congestion is the result of a cold or flu (stay at home, please), a sinus infection, or allergies, you already know that the over-the-counter options are tough pills to swallow thanks to unwelcome side effects – or the third degree at the pharmacy when you try to purchase pseudoephedrine, which is apparently one of the main ingredients required to cook methamphetamine.
All of this gives natural remedies infinite appeal.
We know that nature offers a wealth of homeopathic remedies to ease ailments, which is why natural treatment options such as essential oils – and time spent taking in nature – are part of many people’s healthcare regimens.
That’s true of sinus congestion, as well.
There are several essential oils that naturally help open airways, easing the stuffiness that makes congestion such an unbearable condition.
One of our most popular MONQ blends, Relieve, features a scientifically-formulated blend of essential oils including ginger, spikenard, and helichrysum, which along with several other complementary oils help ease congestion and the pain associated with it.
There are other essential oils that contain compounds that can help open airways and relieve congestion, including the following power-packed options.
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Peppermint essential oil. Peppermint is one of the main ingredients in our nature-inspired blend Mountain, which easily brings to mind the fresh, clean air we breathe in while standing on the rocky ledge of a mountain peak.
Rich in menthol, peppermint acts as an anti-inflammatory, helping to open closed nasal passageways so you can breathe a little bit easier, even if those mountains are found only in your imagination.
Menthol also makes peppermint oil a wonderful expectorant, helping to loosen the mucus that helps cause congestion.
A 2008 study from German researchers that appeared in the American Journal of Rhinology found that menthol relieves inflammation for easier breathing and less congestion.1
Oregano essential oil. While oregano essential oil is an expectorant, that’s not the only way this powerful essential oil fights congestion. Oregano is rich in the compounds thymol and carvacrol, two antibacterials that can target the cause of congestion if it is the result of a cold or flu.
Carvacrol is especially potent, and it can break down the walls of bacteria cells, effectively killing them while creating an environment more conducive for healing.
Oregano essential oil also contains rosmarinic acid, which gives the oil its ability to act as an expectorant.
A 2011 study from researchers in Israel that appeared in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary Alternative Medicine found that oregano essential oil was among those that helped ease congestion associated with upper respiratory infections.2
As an added benefit, oregano also offers vitamin C, which helps encourage the production of collagen, which helps damaged tissues heal after an extended bout of inflammation.
Tea tree oil. Tea tree essential oil is one of those powerhouse oils that can clear up acne, erase the itch of an insect bite and help fight off the bacteria associated with an upper respiratory infection, relieving the accompanying congestion.
In 2006, Australian researchers looked at the effects of tea tree essential oil in a report appearing in the American Society for Microbiology journal Clinical Microbiology Reviews and found that the cineole in the oil not only helps relieve the pain associated with congestion, it also acts as an expectorant, helping to relieve unwelcome congestion.3
Nerolina essential oil. Harvested from an evergreen native to Australia, nerolina has been shown to have both decongestant and expectorant benefits, making it a welcome addition to your aromatherapy collection.
Like tea tree oil, nerolina contains cineole, which helps ease breathing by opening the airways, offering fast relief from congestion.
Even More Oils
Eucalyptus essential oil. The aroma of eucalyptus leaves is so distinct that we know it immediately. You know when it is in a craft store, which often carries the decorative leaves.
Eucalyptus contains cineole, which acts as an expectorant according to the National Library of Medicine. It helps ease the inflammation that keeps nasal passages swollen.
The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy says cineole also has analgesic benefits. This means it can erase the pain of sinus headaches that often accompany congestion.4
Essential oils high in cineole, such as eucalyptus, have antibacterial properties to fight off whatever agents are triggering the congestion. They also are anti-inflammatory, which helps open airways by reducing the swelling of nasal passages.
Helichrysum is also rich in cineole.
Niaouli essential oil. Also high in cineole, niaouli, derived from an evergreen, is an excellent essential oil to ease congestion. It works especially well when that congestion is associated with sinusitis. It has a slight camphor aroma, and it also acts as an analgesic. This means it can ease the headaches that often accompany congestion. It can also help fight bacteria that may be the root cause of the congestion.
TIP TO USE: Any of the essential oils can be used along with steam to help break up congestion. Fill a sink or bowl with boiling water and add a few drops of your favorite essential oil. Place a towel over your head to capture the steam, and breathe it in, taking slow, regular breaths, for about 10 minutes, or until the water has cooled.
While my mother was given a shot of kerosene for every ailment when she was a child (yes, you read that right. No slathering of Vicks for her), there are plenty of more pleasant and less potentially deadly home remedies to try when congestion is making your life miserable.
Some congestion-easing remedies that don’t involve a trip to the pharmacy include:
- A Neti pot. Many people swear by the Neti pot, which uses water to clear clogged nasal passages. Mix two cups of warm distilled water with one teaspoon of non-iodized salt. Pour the mixture into one nostril, allowing it to drain through the other.
- Honey. While the idea that eating local honey can control allergies is a controversial one, honey can help ease congestion. Mix it into a cup of your favorite tea – mine’s Earl Grey – with a squeeze of lemon juice.
- Garlic. Even garlic lovers might have trouble with this remedy. Nutrient-dense garlic, when eaten raw – try two or three cloves – can help open nasal passages, relieving congestion almost instantly. This is a remedy you might want to try while alone.
These natural remedies and others can help ease sinus congestion and make your day brighter. The next time you feel under the weather, look no further than your home and local market for natural relief.
Photo credits: Emilyfrost/shutterstock.com, nullplus/shutterstock.com