Have you ever had trouble breathing? It can be scary, but it’s actually a common complaint, even in relatively healthy people. In this article, you’ll discover eight essential oils to help you breathe better.
But first, let’s talk about breathing difficulties. What causes them? What are the signs that a person is experiencing breathing difficulty? How do you prevent or treat them?
- 1 Breathing Difficulty: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments
- 2 Effective Essential Oils for Breathing Difficulties
- 3 Aromatherapy Blends for Better Breathing
Breathing Difficulty: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments
It’s just normal to be out of breathe sometimes. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re sick. When you’re doing light to intense physical activities, like walking up the stairs or exercising, you can feel short of breath after.
However, it’s also possible that it could be a symptom of a serious health issue, especially if it happens suddenly or becomes severe. The Cleveland Clinic Center estimates that out of four people who visit the doctor, there’s one who has a breathing problem. 
What does “breathing difficulty” really mean? There’s no fixed definition, but here are some signs and symptoms that suggest a person with a breathing problem requires prompt medical attention:
- Shortness of breath
- Continuous, high-pitched, whistling sounds when breathing out
- The heart is racing, pounding, or skipping a beat
- Fast, shallow breathing
- Feelings of being suffocated
- Coughing with a slight wheezing
- Chest pain
So, what causes breathing problems? There’s a long list of diseases and disorders that can affect our breathing. Here are some of them :
- Heart failure
- Severe blood loss
- Muscular and nervous system problems
- Low blood pressure (below 90/60 mmHg)
- Interstitial pulmonary fibrosis
- Pulmonary embolism
- Breathing in fumes or particles suspended in air that can obstruct the airways
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- Common respiratory infections, like the flu, the common cold, and sinusitis
- Hiatal hernia
- Exposure to harmful levels of carbon monoxide, a colorless and odorless gas that’s deadly
How are breathing problems treated?
Your doctor may review your health history, perform a physical exam, and run laboratory tests to find out the root cause, and then proceed with the appropriate treatment. For instance, if the cause is a bacterial infection, like pneumonia and bronchitis, your doctor may more likely prescribe antibiotics.
However, not all cases of breathing problems will require intensive medical care. Some can be treated at home using over-the-counter medications and natural remedies, like essential oils.
Essential oils can help in a variety of ways, like:
- They can heal certain respiratory infections because of their antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties.
- Some essential oils may relieve inflammation, which causes airway congestion and can trigger an asthma attack.
- They can also thin thick mucus to make it easier for you to cough it up.
- Other types of essential oils can keep you relaxed and ease anxiety.
Those are just some of the medicinal effects of essential oils for breathing difficulties. They’ll work better if you use them alongside regular medications—that is, if they won’t interact adversely.
Now, let’s explore some of these essential oils that you can use for breathing problems.
Effective Essential Oils for Breathing Difficulties
Eucalyptus Essential Oil
Eucalyptus essential oil is a great remedy for many ailments, but it’s best known for its ability to support a healthy respiratory system. Because it’s rich in eucalyptol, it can help prevent or treat inflammatory respiratory infections, including asthma, bronchitis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). 
Eucalyptol has shown to be effective in reducing pain and inflammation, which can constrict your airway and make it difficult for you to breathe. Plus, it may improve the way your lungs work. This in turn helps your body function normally and better fight diseases. The eucalyptol and alpha-terpineol derived from the essential oil of narrow-leaved peppermint (Eucalyptus radiata) can open your airways, allowing you to breathe better and clear mucus out of your lungs.
Studies have also shown that eucalyptus essential oil can provide relief from the common cold and the flu when you use it for aromatherapy. In a study published in the Aerosol Science and Technology, researchers discovered that tea tree oil and eucalyptus essential oil were able to inactivate airborne influenza virus, the same virus that’s responsible for the flu. 
Don’t consume eucalyptus essential oil, especially in amounts more than 3.5 ml. It can lead to serious side effects, like dizziness, loose and watery stools, indigestion, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, breathing problems, and weak muscles. In some instances, it could lead to death.
Oregano Essential Oil
Do you often get sick? Oregano essential oil may help you resist diseases because of its immune-boosting properties. It works by stimulating the production of new white blood cells, which protect your body from infection-causing germs (bacteria, fungi, and viruses) and other foreign invaders.
Since ancient times, traditional healers have been using oregano for treating respiratory problems, like barking cough, bronchitis, colds, flu, sore throat, and viral infections that affect the vocal folds and windpipe (trachea).  These respiratory diseases are normally caused by bacteria and viruses. The essential oil extracted from oregano contains different medicinal compounds, primarily carvacrol and thymol, which have antifungal, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties.  
Oregano essential oil is also a useful remedy for breathing problems caused by allergies, asthma, rhinitis, and other respiratory ailments caused by your immune system’s reaction to irritants. That’s because it’s rich in rosmarinic acid, which has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antihistamine effects.
However, unlike conventional antihistamine medications, oregano essential oil doesn’t trigger an immune system response.  Thus, swelling and fluid build accumulation are avoided. Together, these two can cause shortness of breath.
Because of its high phenol content, oregano essential oil shouldn’t be used in large amounts. Some people may not react positively to this essential oil and experience any of these side effects:
- Stomach ache
- Breathing problems
- Difficulty speaking
- Allergic reactions, like a skin rash, itching, and swelling
Being pregnant, having allergies to certain herbs (basil, marjoram, mint, lavender, or sage), and/or having high blood pressure or heart disease should stop you from using oregano essential oil. Always speak with your doctor before using this or other essential oils.
Thyme Essential Oil
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) herb is widely used in herbal medicine because of its long list of health benefits. The essential oil extracted from its fresh flowers and leaves is approved by the German Commission E for treating bronchitis, whooping cough (which is highly contagious), and upper airway inflammatory diseases.  It’s effective for these diseases of the respiratory system because it contains thymol, para-cymene, and gamma-terpinene, which are compounds that have anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antifungal effects. 
As an expectorant, thyme essential oil makes it easier for you to cough up the mucus from your airways and lungs. When mucus is allowed to remain in your airways or lungs, it could interfere with your breathing and cause infection to develop. 
People with abnormally high blood pressure could experience chest pain, dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath, and vision problems. Thyme essential oil, especially if it’s extracted from wild thyme (Thymus serpyllum), is potentially good for your heart and blood pressure. 
Wild thyme lowers your blood pressure and strengthens your heart muscles by relaxing your veins and arteries, the large blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood away from your heart. When your blood vessels dilate, it immediately results in a decrease in your blood pressure and heart rate.
Note: Not all thyme varieties could lower blood pressure. In fact, some might increase blood flow, thereby increasing blood pressure.
Thyme essential oil is not for children under the age of 6, breastfeeding or pregnant women, and people with health problems involving their heart, thyroid gland, and digestive organs. Common adverse effects of this essential oil are lightheadedness, irritated skin, and vomiting.
Chamomile Essential Oil
There are two popular types of chamomile essential oils used in aromatherapy. These are German chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) essential oil and Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) essential oil. Each has its own unique qualities and strengths.
Because it has high levels of azulene, German chamomile essential oil is often used for treating inflammations of the skin, respiratory tract, and mouth. Chamazulene, which is an aromatic compound that resides in azulene, has antioxidant activities.  Antioxidants prevent free radicals, which are unstable microscopic particles that are created by each body cell, from making you sick.
Roman chamomile essential oil has a sweet and herb-like scent that’s calming. When used with other essential oils, like lavender essential oil, Roman chamomile essential oil can ease anxiety, according to a study published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.  Unmanaged stress can lead to or worsen physical, mental, and emotional problems, including heart disease, shortness of breath, chest pains, and heart beat irregularities.
The essential oil extracted from Roman chamomile can also treat the symptoms of allergic rhinitis.  Common symptoms of allergic rhinitis include watery and itchy eyes, sneezing, sore throat, coughing, dark under eye circles, extreme tiredness, headaches, and a stuffy, itchy, and runny nose.
Chamomile essential oil is a gentle oil, except if you’re allergic to chamomile or other plants in the family Asteraceae, like daisy, sunflower, chrysanthemum, lettuce, marigold, yarrow, and dandelion.
Perform a skin patch test by applying a small amount of diluted chamomile essential oil on your inner forearm. Wait for 12 to 24 hours to determine if you’re allergic to it.
Chamomile essential oil is not recommended for pregnant women because it can cause a miscarriage. Don’t use it with certain medications, like minor tranquilizers (benzodiazepines), liver medications, estrogen pills, and birth control pills.
Rosemary Essential Oil
Rosemary essential oil has plenty of health benefits that could help you deal with common diseases that interfere with normal breathing. Like most essential oils for breathing difficulties, it’s effective for short-term or chronic inflammatory conditions because of its excellent antioxidant properties. Carnosol, which is naturally occurring in the herb rosemary, gives its anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer actions. 
A person with an early-stage cancer that affects the heart or lungs may experience shortness of breath.  There are no specific studies on rosemary essential oil’s anti-cancer activity. However, in a medical article published in the Nutrients journal, the result has shown that rosemary extract may have activity against these types of cancers :
- Bladder cancer
- Breast cancer
- Cervical cancer
- Colon cancer
- Liver cancer
- Lung cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Ovarian cancer
Inhaling the therapeutic vapor of rosemary essential oil could provide relief from asthma, congested throat, respiratory allergies, colds, flu, and sore throat (pharyngitis).  It’s effective for common respiratory infections because of its anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, antiseptic, and antimicrobial properties. What’s more, it has a high level of antioxidants, which can help your body’s immune system become stronger to keep infections at bay.
Are you always stressed out? Add a few drops of rosemary and lavender essential oils to your diffuser to protect yourself from chronic diseases and ease breathing problems. A study has suggested that inhaling these essential oils for at least five minutes could significantly relieve stress. 
Rosemary essential oil may cause some people to develop signs of symptoms of contact dermatitis, which include sun sensitivity, severe itching, redness of the skin, blisters, and dry, flaky skin. To make sure you’re not allergic to it, perform a skin patch test.
If you have problems with your blood sugar, or if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, avoid using rosemary essential oil. Speak with your doctor before using it, especially if you plan to use it internally, which could have serious consequences.
Ginger Essential Oil
Just like fresh ginger, this essential oil is great for your health (if used correctly). In alternative medicine, ginger essential oil is normally used for treating respiratory illnesses that cause sudden narrowing of the bronchioles (tiny air tubes within your lungs), increased production of mucus, and inflammation of the lining of the lungs.
According to a study published in the medical journal the American Thoracic Society, ginger could be used alone or in combination with other conventional medications, like beta2-agonists.  Beta2-agonist medications, like salbutamol and albuterol, help you breathe better by relaxing constricted muscles in the passages to your lungs.
Ginger essential oil is also an expectorant. This means it can help loosen mucus in your airways, so it’s easier for you to cough it up. If mucus is allowed to accumulate in your airways, it’s going to be harder for you to breathe properly, and infection could develop.
In a study on lab mice, researchers discovered that ginger essential oil has the potential to treat alcoholic fatty liver, the early stage of alcohol-related liver disease. People with chronic liver disease often experience shortness of breath. This effect of ginger essential oil may have to do with its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and hepatoprotective (ability to protect the liver from damage) activities. 
And if diffused or inhaled, it could ease feelings of anxiety, exhaustion, and depression. Just add 2 to 3 drops to your diffuser or a cotton ball and inhale at least twice a day.
Ginger essential oil is not advisable for pregnant women (might trigger premature labor) and people who are taking these types of medications:
- Anti-diabetic medications: metformin, glipizide, and pioglitazone
- Immunosuppressants: prednisone, cyclosporine, and azathioprine
- Antibiotics: cephalosporins, penicillin, and ciprofloxacin
- Hypertension medications: beta-blockers, diuretics, and calcium channel blockers
After applying ginger essential oil to your skin, avoid going outside in the sun or being exposed to other sources of ultraviolet radiation, like tanning beds, for 24 hours. This essential oil could react negatively to ultraviolet radiation and may cause sunburn, blisters, skin darkening, and skin rash.
Lavender Essential Oil
The symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a digestive disorder that cause heartburn, could become worse when you get stressed out. Even if your lungs are relatively healthy, GERD can still cause breathing problems. It can also make your asthma or pneumonia worse, especially after you’ve regurgitated your stomach acid. 
Lavender essential oil is popular in aromatherapy because of its calming effect. There’s quite a few studies suggesting that it can help relieve stress, insomnia, anxiety, and depression. In fact, it may be a possible alternative for conventional anti-anxiety medications, like lorazepam (Ativan), without causing sedation or addiction.  To take advantage of this benefit, you can diffuse or massage lavender essential oil into your chest, temples, wrists, and the back of your neck.
Because of its antibacterial and stimulating qualities, lavender essential oil is topically applied or diffused to loosen up phlegm and ease airway congestion associated with various respiratory illnesses. Thus, you can breathe better and quickly recover from illness.
Some of the respiratory illnesses that it could help treat are:
- Sinus congestion
- Whooping cough
You should be able to use lavender essential oil without any problem. It doesn’t usually cause serious adverse effects. Sometimes, it could cause nausea, vomiting, or headaches. Boys in the pre-teen years could experience temporary breasts enlargement, a medical condition called gynecomastia.
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is an ideal remedy for different types of infections. That’s thanks to its major active compounds, like terpinen-4-ol, which have antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral activities. 
The mechanism of action of terpinen-4-ol is not yet clear, but it seems to mobilize your white blood cells to fight off disease-causing organisms.  A research also suggests that tea tree oil destroys the outer covering (cell wall) of bacteria.  This makes it easier for your white blood cells to attack and kill them, thus preventing or treating infections.
Tea tree oil is not for long-term use. Consistent use of low doses of tea tree oil, along with conventional antibiotics, may lead to antibiotic resistance.
It’s not also safe to consume tea tree oil because it could cause serious side effects, like:
- Stomach pain
- Severe skin rashes
- Abnormal blood cells
- A deep state of unconsciousness
Aside from pregnant women, babies, and children, tea tree oil is also not for pre-puberty boys because it could cause enlarged breasts (gynecomastia). However, studies are quite limited.
Aromatherapy Blends for Better Breathing
Blend #1: Airway Congestion Relief
- 3 drops tea tree oil
- 3 drops eucalyptus essential oil
- 2 drops peppermint essential oil
Blend #2: Colds and Flu
- 4 drops oregano essential oil
- 4 drops frankincense essential oil
- 3 drops thyme essential oil
- 2 drops lemon essential oil
Blend #3: Stress and Anxiety
- 3 drops lavender essential oil
- 3 drops Roman chamomile essential oil
- 2 drops bergamot essential oil
Blend #4: Lung Health
- 4 drops rosemary essential oil
- 4 drops eucalyptus essential oil
- 3 drops lavender essential oils
- 3 drops oregano essential oil
Blend #5: Energy Booster
- 2 drops lemon essential oil
- 2 drops peppermint essential oil
- 1 drop lemon essential oil
When You Need Emergency Medical Treatment
Most breathing problems are harmless and temporary. However, there are instances that shortness of breath or labored breathing could be a symptom of a serious medical problem. If you have any of these symptoms, seek emergency medical treatment as soon as possible :
- Pain in your chest
- Unable to breathe properly when you’re lying down
- Sudden or severe shortness of breath (dyspnea)
- Swelling in your ankles and feet
- Cough with fever and chills
- Your breathing problem interferes with your daily life.
Essential oils shouldn’t be used as replacements for conventional medical treatments. Always consult your doctor before using them for relieving breathing difficulties.
 Medical News Today: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/314963.php
 Healthdirect: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/what-causes-breathing-problems
 Medical News Today: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/314963.php
 Eucalyptus Oil: http://www.eucalyptusoil.com/eucalyptus-oils/eucalyptus-globulus
 Hasan Yalçin, Mehtap Anik, Murat Aydin Sanda, and Ahmet Çakir. (2007 Dec). Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry Analysis of Laurus nobilis Essential Oil Composition of Northern Cyprus. Journal of Medicinal Food. Vol. 10, No. 4, Pages 715-719. Retrieved from https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/jmf.2007.404
 DoTERRA: https://www.doterra.com/US/en/p/eucalyptus-oil
 Oleg V. Pyankov, Evgeny V. Usachev, Olga Pyankova, and Igor E. Agranovski. (2012). Inactivation of Airborne Influenza Virus by Tea Tree and Eucalyptus Oils. Aerosol Science and Technology. Vol. 46, Issue 12, Pages 1295-1302. Retrieved from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02786826.2012.708948
 Marchese A, Orhan IE, Daglia M, et al. (2016 Nov 1). Antibacterial and antifungal activities of thymol: A brief review of the literature. Food Chemistry. Vol. 210, Pages 402-14. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27211664
 Elias Akoury. (2017 June). Isolation and Structural Elucidation of Rosmarinic Acid by Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy. American Reseaerch Journals of Chemistry. Vol. 2, Issue 1, Pages 17-23. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/319417213_Isolation_and_Structural_Elucidation_of_Rosmarinic_Acid_by_NMR_Spectroscopy
 American Botanical Council, Thyme: http://cms.herbalgram.org/membersaccess.html?targetPage=http://cms.herbalgram.org/expandedE/Thyme.html
 Doterra: https://www.doterra.com/US/en/blog/spotlight-thyme-oil
 Mihailovic-Stanojevic N, Belšcak-Cvitanovic A, Grujic-Milanovic J, et al. (2013 Sep). Antioxidant and antihypertensive activity of extract from Thymus serpyllum L. in experimental hypertension. Plant Foods for Human Nutrition. Vol. 68, Issue 3, Pages 235-40. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23828496
 DoTTERA.com: https://www.doterra.com/US/en/blog/science-research-news-chamazulene
 Mi-Yeon Cho, Eun Sil Min, Myung-Haeng Hur, and Myeong Soo Lee. (2013). Effects of Aromatherapy on the Anxiety, Vital Signs, and Sleep Quality of Percutaneous Coronary Intervention Patients in Intensive Care Units. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Volume 2013, Article ID 381381, 6 pages. Retrieved from https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2013/381381/
 Dr. Axe: https://draxe.com/roman-chamomile-essential-oil/
 Dr. Axe: https://draxe.com/rosemary-oil-uses-benefits/
 Jessy Moore, Michael Yousef, and Evangelia Tsiani. (2016 Nov). Anticancer Effects of Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis L.) Extract and Rosemary Extract Polyphenols. Nutrients. Vol. 8, Issue 11, Pages 731. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5133115/
 Toshiko Atsumi and Keiichi Tonosaki. (2007 Feb 28). Smelling lavender and rosemary increases free radical scavenging activity and decreases cortisol level in saliva. Psychiatry Research. Vol. 150, Issue 1, Pages 89-96. Retrieved from http://www.psy-journal.com/article/S0165-1781(06)00011-4/fulltext
 Elizabeth A. Townsend, Matthew E. Siviski, Yi Zhang, et al. (2013 Feb). Effects of Ginger and Its Constituents on Airway Smooth Muscle Relaxation and Calcium Regulation. American Thoracic Society. Vol. 48, Issue 2, Pages 157-163. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3604064/
 Liu CT, Raghu R, Lin SH, et al. (2013 Nov). Metabolomics of ginger essential oil against alcoholic fatty liver in mice. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Vol. 61, Issue 46, Pages 11231-40. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24171385
 Woelk H and Schläfke S. (2010 Feb). A multi-center, double-blind, randomised study of the Lavender oil preparation Silexan in comparison to Lorazepam for generalized anxiety disorder. Phytomedicine. Vol. 17, Issue 2, Pages 94-9. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19962288
 Carson CF, Hammer KA, and Riley TV. (2006 Jan). Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree) oil: a review of antimicrobial and other medicinal properties. Clinical Microbiology Reviews. Vol. 19, Issue 1, Pages 50-62. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16418522
 Budhiraja SS, Cullum ME, Sioutis SS, et al. (1999 Sep). Biological activity of Melaleuca alternifola (Tea Tree) oil component, terpinen-4-ol, in human myelocytic cell line HL-60. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics. Vol. 22, Issue 7, Pages 447-53. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10519561
 Cox SD, Mann CM, Markham JL, et al. (2000 Jan). The mode of antimicrobial action of the essential oil of Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree oil). Journal of Applied Microbiology. Vol. 88, Issue 1, Pages 170-5. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10735256
 Medical News Today: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/314963.php