Essential oils are among the most popular natural remedies for allergies. These concentrated aromatic liquids are distilled from plants and have been used therapeutically for centuries.
Allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the United States, affecting approximately 50 million people. While there is no cure for allergies, there are several ways that allergy symptoms can be managed.
This article lists the most effective essential oils for relief of the symptoms of seasonal allergies and skin allergies and suggests some ways to incorporate essential oils into your allergy treatment regimen.
Fast facts on essential oils for allergies:
- Although considered a natural product, this does not mean they are always safe.
- Seasonal allergies can affect people during summer or winter, or all-year round.
Eczema, dermatitis, and hives are some of the most common skin allergies.
Peppermint oil may help to relax the muscles that cause coughing.
Symptoms of these conditions include watery eyes, stuffy nose, sneezing, coughing, wheezing, and chest congestion. People with these allergy symptoms may wish to try the following oils:
A 2010 study, although on animals, found that peppermint oil has a relaxing effect on smooth muscle, which helps to reduce the contractions that cause coughing.
According to other research, the oil may also help treat anxiety and mental fatigue, symptoms that are often experienced by allergy sufferers.
Frankincense is another oil that reduces inflammatory activity in the body. One study reports that frankincense exhibits anti-inflammatory effects in bronchitis, which causes inflammation of the airways, and sinus infections. It may also be beneficial for people with asthma.
Research suggests that using a blend of oils, including eucalyptus, for infections of the upper respiratory tract leads to a significant and immediate improvement in symptoms. Participants reported a reduction in hoarseness, cough, and sore throat.
The essential oil blend used in the study contained Eucalyptus citriodora, Eucalyptus globulus, peppermint, Syrian oregano, and rosemary.
In one study, it was found that a lemon-based nasal spray helped in the treatment of perennial and seasonal allergic rhinitis. Lemon essential oil can also inhibit bacterial activity.
It is not recommended to apply citrus-based essential oils to the skin before exposure to the sun. These oils can cause the skin to become more sensitive to sunlight, increasing the risk of harmful blistering or burning.
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Lavender oil can support sleep, which may be disrupted by the symptoms of allergies.
Symptoms caused by skin allergies include swelling, itching, and redness.
It is advisable to consult a doctor first and then proceed with caution when using the following essential oils for skin allergies:
Lavender naturally quells inflammation, inhibits anxiety, and encourages a deep sleep, all of which can benefit people with allergies.
Lavender is an especially good option for skin allergies, as it is gentle on the skin and calms irritation, with research indicating that it speeds up healing. The oil can be applied directly to the skin, or added to baths, lotions, and other skin products.
6. Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil has proven antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial properties. It also reduces inflammation, with research finding that tea tree oil applied topically significantly decreases swelling from histamine-induced skin inflammation when compared to paraffin oil.
It must be noted that, due to its potency, tea tree oil may induce allergic contact dermatitis in some people. Also, the oil should only be used topically and should not be ingested.
7. Chamomile oil
In a review of the properties of chamomile oil, it was reported that chamomile is an effective anti-inflammatory that can be used to treat skin conditions, inflammation of the mucous membranes, and symptoms of sinusitis.
It may also relieve the itching and swelling associated with eczema when mixed with a carrier oil and applied topically.
How to use essential oils for allergies
Essential oil burners can diffuse the oil, helping to clear respiratory congestion or irritation.
Essential oils can be used in a variety of ways to treat allergies. Some of the most popular include:
Add a few drops of the oil or oils to a plug-in diffuser or oil burner. This method is especially beneficial for treating the symptoms of seasonal allergies, as well as other respiratory conditions.
Essential oils can be breathed directly from the bottle or by putting a drop or two on a handkerchief.
People with seasonal allergies may relieve congestion by adding a few drops of essential oil to a bowl of hot water and breathing in the vapors. For nighttime allergy relief, a person can add 5 drops of essential oil to their pillow.
People with skin allergies and symptoms such as itching, hives, and rashes can apply the oil to their skin.
Most oils should be mixed with a carrier oil, such as jojoba, coconut, or sweet almond oil before application. A ratio of 2 drops of essential oil to 1 tablespoon of carrier oil is recommended.
Take care when applying lemon essential oil or other citrus-based oils to the skin, as they are sun and light sensitive and cause discoloration of the skin.
Some oils, such as lemon, eucalyptus, and tea tree, can help kill molds and dust mites, both of which are common allergens that trigger symptoms.
To do this, a person should add 20 drops of essential oil and a tablespoon of white vinegar to 1 cup of water. The mixture can then be used to spray on bathroom fittings and other areas prone to mold, and on to mattresses and other textiles to kill dust mites.
Always do a patch test and wait 24 hours before spraying on larger areas of fabric.
Potential risks and side effects
People should bear in mind the following guidelines when using essential oils:
- Always choose high-quality oils from a reputable source.
- Follow the instructions for use carefully.
- Do not apply undiluted oils to the skin.
- Do not take essential oils internally.
- Children and pregnant and breastfeeding women should only use essential oils under the guidance of a qualified professional.
- Always do a skin test for allergic reactions before applying to larger areas. If none occurs after 24 hours, it should be safe to use. Each essential oil must be tested separately.
- It is advisable to speak to a doctor before beginning treatment with essential oils.
Essential oils are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and so should be used with caution.