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How to Treat Shortness of Breath Using Essential Oils

I'm a natural health coach, herbalist, and aromatherapy consultant using the power of essential oils to improve health and well-being.

Here's me at my most recent iron infusion. Over the last few months, I have had five.

Here's me at my most recent iron infusion. Over the last few months, I have had five.

Over the years I've suffered from anemia. A few years ago I was diagnosed with mild emphysema, a form of COPD. There are periods throughout the year when I've endured extreme shortness of breath. These are during extreme heat or cold. Chronic anemia causes me fatigue and shortness of breath almost on a regular basis, and I have to keep on top of it. In addition, pernicious anemia, caused by a B12 deficiency, also contributes to fatigue and shortness of breath.

Recently, my iron levels have dropped, and I've had to resort to iron infusions in order to stabilize them. Over-the-counter supplements do not work for me as I have pernicious anemia, so I also have to get B12 shots.

Over time I have found ways to deal with dyspnea using more natural remedies rather than jumping to my inhalers right away. These also help me with the fatigue. These natural remedies include herbal teas and various essential oils. Of course, if my iron level is low that has to be remedied, as chronic anemia can lead to other issues if left untreated.

Here's what this article will cover:

  • why you might be experiencing shortness of breath
  • foods you should limit or remove from your diet
  • an explanation of essential oils and oil pulling and how it can help your symptoms as well as the various methods you can use to inhale or apply them
  • my 12 favorite essential oils, including their uses and benefits and the best way to apply them
  • DIY essential oil blends for experienced users

What Causes Shortness of Breath?

Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing is a common problem for many people. Most cases are caused by lung or heart conditions. The main function of your lungs and heart is to transport oxygen to the tissues and remove carbon dioxide. If there is any problem with these processes, it will affect your breathing.

Different individuals express shortness of breath in different ways. Descriptions can include a feeling of being suffocated, tightening in the chest, or like an elephant is sitting on your chest. Many causes are innocent, including strenuous exercise, obesity, extremes in temperature, high altitudes, and being out of shape. The reason for your shortness of breath should be determined by a physician. Here are 12 medical causes of shortness of breath:

  • Asthma
  • Pneumonia
  • Pneumothorax
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Lung cancer
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Anemia
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Tuberculosis
  • Pleurisy
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

What Are Essential Oils?

If you have ever enjoyed the scent of a rose, you’ve experienced the aromatic qualities of essential oils. These naturally occurring, volatile aromatic compounds are found in the seeds, bark, stems, roots, flowers, and other parts of plants. They can be both beautifully and powerfully fragrant. Essential oils protect plants and give them their distinctive smells. They also play a role in plant pollination. In addition to their intrinsic benefits to plants and their beautiful fragrance, essential oils have long been used for food preparation, beauty treatment, and health-care practices.

Essential oils, contrary to the use of the word "oil," are not really oily-feeling at all. Most are clear, but some oils such as patchouli, orange, and lemongrass are amber or yellow in color. They contain the true essence of the plant they were derived from. They are highly concentrated and a little goes a long way.

Essential oils can be used for a wide range of emotional and physical wellness applications. They can be used alone or as part of complex essential oil blends depending on user experience and desired benefit.

What Is Oil Pulling?

When I wake up in the mornings, I tend to have clogged nostrils due to excess mucus. I love to do oil pulling, which helps to draw excess mucus from my lungs and sinuses. Oil pulling is simply an Ayurvedic routine whereby oil is swished around in the mouth to draw out the bad bacteria. It is then spit into the trash after about 20 minutes.

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In addition to clearing my lungs and sinuses, I found that it was helping with my gum health as well. It also benefited me in other ways, such as alleviating oral ulcers that sometimes developed and stopping the bleeding gums that had developed from lupus.

My oil-pulling blend consisted of these essential oils along with virgin olive oil:

  • Cinnamon
  • Thieves
  • Oregano
  • Peppermint

The Thieves essential oil blend is a great immune booster made up of clove, lemon, cinnamon, eucalyptus, and rosemary. This blend is highly antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-infectious. This is the combination/blend that helped stopped the plague in Europe back in the Medieval Ages. It's perfect for boosting your immune system and replacing hand sanitizer, bleach, Lysol, and other toxic germ and virus-killing products. You can also spray Thieves on your produce before rinsing them off as this blend of will remove pesticides and chemicals.

The sinuses


The Sinuses and Respiratory Health

Our sinuses, nose, ears, throat, and all the tubes and sacks of the air passages and lungs cannot do their job when they are clogged or inflamed. If you want to keep your respiratory system clean and clear, you may need to make some lifestyle changes like stopping smoking or inhaling toxins and dust where you work.

The digestive system and the respiratory system are closely related. If your diet is high in foods that cause inflammation and mucus, you are going to need to make some changes if you want good respiratory health.

Here are some foods that cause the most respiratory problems:

  • milk and dairy products
  • highly processed grains and starches (white flour, white rice, mashed potatoes, chips, etc.)
  • processed sugar in all its forms.

I have noticed that whenever I eat pizza or anything with cheese, within a couple of hours I notice the buildup or increase of mucus. I admit that cutting down on cheese is the hardest thing I have had to do, diet-related. I recommend limiting dairy in general and eliminating it when you are trying to overcome a respiratory problem.

Highly processed foods and sweeteners in all their forms should also be greatly limited if you want optimal respiratory health. When toxins build up in the lower bowel, the first sign of trouble usually shows up in the respiratory system. Adjusting your diet or doing a cleanse will take the strain off your respiratory system and allow it to clear and heal.

A decreased level of respiratory function—whether minor or serious—can have adverse effects on your physical and mental health. Although nothing can substitute a healthcare provider’s diagnosis and treatment of major respiratory issues, there is a wealth of natural strategies available to heal minor ailments. One such strategy is the use of aromatherapy—a system in which natural essential oils are used to alleviate, heal, and protect against respiratory troubles.

Methods of Application


This is an effective method when you have a sick child. Add a total of ten drops of essential oil or oils to water and run overnight. Note: There’s a slight risk of essential oils damaging a humidifier.

Steam Inhalation

If you suffer from asthma, please do not use this method.

Steam inhalations are therapeutic, powerful ways to get the essential oils into the respiratory system:

  1. Pour hot water into a large bowl
  2. Add two to three drops of essential oil.
  3. Place the bowl on a table, and sit comfortably in front of it.
  4. Using a large towel, make a tent over the bowl and place your head in the tent.
  5. Steam for up to ten minutes to ease blocked sinuses, chest complaints, and colds. Be careful to not burn yourself with the steam or water.

Other Inhalation Methods

  1. Put a few drops on your pillow before bed.
  2. Put a few drops on a tissue/handkerchief/pocket square.
  3. Use an inhaler that’s made for aromatherapy.
  4. Use an essential oil diffuser.


  1. Fill a bath with warm water.
  2. Mix a total of ten drops of essential oil with ½ cup unscented salt. I also add some baking soda to my bath salts.

Skin application

Combine three drops of essential oil with one teaspoon of carrier oil for respiratory conditions.

Abhyanga Massage

Abhyanga is an ancient Indian Ayurvedic oil massage therapy for healing and detoxifying the body, min, and spirit. The purpose of Ayurvedic daily oil massage as part of a daily routine is to balance the nervous system, prevent physiological imbalances, and to lubricate and promote flexibility of the muscles, tissues, and joints.

I do Abhyanga every night. It is a very rejuvenating and relaxing massage and is very easy to do.

What Essential Oils Are Great for Shortness of Breath?

  • Frankincense
  • Tea tree
  • Bergamot
  • Juniper
  • Ravintsara
  • Thyme
  • Roman Chamomile
  • Eucalyptus
  • Hyssop
  • Rosemary
  • Basil
  • Peppermint
  • Oregano
  • Lemon
  • Lavender

Frankincense Essential Oil

Overshadowed the past several hundred years by its role in the “Christmas Story, frankincense is finally getting the attention it deserves as one of the most viable healing agents on the planet.

The journal Oncology Letters published an article late last year that highlights the ability of this Biblical tree to kill cancer cells, specifically the MCF-7 and HS-1 cell lines, which cause breast and other tumors.

Frankincense has also been used with much success to treat issues related to digestion, the immune system, oral health, respiratory concerns, and stress/anxiety.

It's also helpful in the treatment of colds, flu, and other respiratory diseases because it helps regulate breathing and calms coughing spasms. It also helps clear the lungs and nasal passages and eases shortness of breath.

How to Use

For asthma, bronchitis, coughs, colds, flu, and laryngitis, use 2-3 drops in 1 ounce of carrier oil. Rub on the chest for asthma, bronchitis, coughs, and cold, and on the throat for laryngitis. You can also use 2-3 drops in a diffuser or via steam inhalation.

Tea Tree Essential Oil

Uses and Benefits

Tea tree oil is an effective expectorant that removes mucus from your system. Mucus causes coughing and wheezing in asthma patients. This essential oil is also effective in relieving respiratory conditions such as coughing and bronchitis.

A 2000 study conducted in Germany found that tea tree oil exhibits antimicrobial activity against a wide range of bacteria, yeasts, and fungi. These microbes lead to inflammation and force our immune system to work in overdrive.

How to Apply

Using tea tree oil to treat asthma is simple.

  1. Place a clean face towel in warm water, wring, and add a few drops of tea tree oil on the damp, warm towel.
  2. Breathe through the warm towel until cool.
  3. Repeat the process until you feel relieved.

You can also add 2-3 drops to a teaspoon of carrier oil and rub on the chest, throat, and back to relieve congestion and coughing.

Bergamot essential oil

Bergamot essential oil

Bergamot Essential Oil

Uses and Benefits

Bergamot essential oils have sedative properties that relax the body. This relaxation is necessary because tension accompanies asthma attacks and any issues causing dyspnea.

How to Apply

  • Mix a couple of drops of bergamot and roman chamomile oils with a teaspoon of carrier oil and use the mixture to rub your chest and back.

The mixture relieves mild and severe asthma attacks.

Ravintsara Essential Oil

Uses and Benefits

Respiratory problems like congested sinuses, asthma, and even a viral cold can cause breathing problems. Clear up those clogged sinuses and choked airways by inhaling the fragrance of Ravintsara essential oil.

I frequently use Ravintsara in my personal inhaler, especially when my sinuses are clogged or my energy has been zapped away. Ravintsara can also support the circulatory system and enhance the immune system.

How to Use via Inhalation

  • Add the following to a 5 ml amber glass bottle: 15 drops of ravintsara, 20 drops of eucalyptus radiata, 15 drops of tea tree, and 10 drops of orange.
  • Shake to mix well.
  • Fill a bowl with steamy water; add two drops of the essential oil mixture.
  • Cover your head and bowl with a towel to keep the steam in.
  • Inhale through your nose, with your eyes closed.
  • Breathe in the vapors for several minutes, or as long as desired.

How to Use via an Inhaler/Diffuser

  • Add the following to a personal inhaler and inhale as needed: 5 drops of Ravintsara, 5 drops of Eucalyptus (Radiata), and 5 drops of Niaouli
  • Or add 5-6 drops of the above blend to your scent ball diffuser and diffuse for 30-60 minutes.
Juniper berry essential oil

Juniper berry essential oil

Juniper Berry Essential Oil

Uses and Benefits

Juniper essential oil is antibacterial, antispasmodic, and antifungal. It is also effective for nearly all forms of cramps, whether it's muscular, intestinal, respiratory, or any other area.

A 2012 study published in the Journal of Phytotherapy and Phytopharmacology found that a traditionally used complex essential oil tonic made with a variety of ingredients including peppermint oil, eucalyptus oil, cajeput oil, juniper berry oil, and wintergreen oil acts like a natural agent for the treatment of uncomplicated infections of the skin and respiratory tract.

The smell of juniper berries is known to offer emotional support and reduce physical and emotional signs of stress. Considered a natural anxiety remedy, it’s one of the most effective essential oils for dealing with inner trauma and pain because juniper has positive effects on relaxation responses in the brain when inhaled.

Use juniper berry essential oil at home by diffusing it throughout your bedroom, dabbing some on your wrists or clothes, or adding several drops to your laundry detergent mix.

How to Apply

If you'd like to use this oil to combat fatigue, you can add the following blend to a personal inhaler and inhale as needed:

  • 5 drops of juniper berry
  • 5 drops of basil
  • 5 drops of grapefruit

You can also add juniper berry to your diffuser and diffuse for 30-60 minutes.


Thyme Essential Oil

Uses and Benefits

  • Thyme essential oil is a powerful antiseptic that can help to keep your respiratory system healthy.
  • It is a stimulating, protecting oil that has a strengthening effect on the nerves.
  • It's also ideal for the treatment of exhaustion, both physical and mental
  • It benefits the immune system by warming it with its pungent herbal aroma

How to Apply

  • One way of using thyme oil is combining it with bergamot oil and a carrier oil and using the mixture as a chest rub.
  • An alternative way is to add thyme oil to hot water and breathe through the steam.
    • This steam therapy eliminates breathing difficulties and reduces wheezing.

Roman Chamomile Essential Oil

Uses and Benefits

  • Roman chamomile relieves asthma symptoms by relieving muscle contractions that narrow bronchial passages.
  • Roman chamomile and bergamot essential oils have sedative properties that relax the body and are two great essential oils to combine together.
    • This relaxation is necessary because tension accompanies asthma attacks or any shortness of breath episodes.

How to Apply

  • Mix a few drops of bergamot and roman chamomile oils into a carrier oil and use rub it on your chest and back.

Eucalyptus Essential Health Benefits and Uses

Eucalyptus Essential Oil

Uses and Benefits

  • A 2011 study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that eucalyptus essential oil was an effective treatment for upper respiratory tract infections.
    • Patients who were treated with eucalyptus spray reported an improvement in the severity of their most debilitating respiratory tract infection symptoms compared to participants in the placebo group.
    • An improvement was defined as a reduction of a sore throat, hoarseness, or a cough.
  • Eucalyptus oil has innumerable healing and curing powers. It is very good for relieving chest pains.
  • Its anti-inflammatory properties decongest the bronchial tubes and the airways and make breathing much easier.

How to Apply

  • Massage your chest with two drops of eucalyptus essential oil in a teaspoon of carrier oil for ten to fifteen minutes. Cover your chest with a warm cloth.
  • Put a few drops onto your handkerchief and keep inhaling frequently. The breathlessness will disappear and you will be able to breathe normally.
  • Add two drops of Eucalyptus to a bowl of steaming water. Place your face over the steam (drape a towel over your head and bowl to hold the steam in). Inhale deeply several minutes.
  • You could also put a couple drops onto your pillow at night to help with overnight congestion.

Hyssop Essential Oil

Uses and Benefits

  • Hyssop has been used for centuries as an antiseptic agent
  • One of its common uses as an essential oil is as a medicinal plant and aromatic herb.
  • For thousands of years, hyssop has been used as a purifier and cleanser; the Romans even used hyssop because they believed it helped protect them against plagues.
  • Its reputation as a protector has led people to hang dried hyssop at their homes in order to keep out the evil eye or negativity. It has even been left at grave sites to protect the dead.
  • Today, it is used for respiratory problems in various ways, such as eliminating coughs, helping to prevent the common cold and respiratory infections, soothing sore throats, and as one of the natural remedies for asthma.
  • Hyssop is antispasmodic, meaning it relieves spasms in the respiratory system and soothes coughs.
  • It’s also an expectorant, meaning that it loosens phlegm that has been deposited in the respiratory tracts. This property helps heal infections from the common cold, and it helps treat respiratory conditions, like bronchitis.
  • Hyssop can also work as a remedy for sore throats and lung inflammation, making it a great tool for people who use their voices throughout the day, like teachers, singers, and lecturers.

How to Apply/Use

  • The best way to soothe the throat and respiratory system is to drink hyssop tea or add a few drops of oil to your throat and chest.

Rosemary Essential Oil

Uses and Benefits

  • Most people typically connect rosemary with memory and focus, but it is also great for respiratory relief.
  • The scent of the oil has been shown to provide relief for throat congestion, and in treating respiratory allergies, colds, sore throat, and the flu.
  • Its antiseptic action also makes it useful for respiratory infections. Because of its antispasmodic effect, it is also used in certain treatment programs for bronchial asthma.
  • Rosemary oil also appears to work wonders on anxiety. A study published in Holistic Nursing Practice in 2009 found that the use of sachets containing lavender and rosemary essential oils helped reduce anxiety associated with test-taking.

Basil Essential Oil

Uses and Benefits

  • Basil essential oil reduces the inflammatory response of allergens.
  • It also supports the adrenal glands, which are involved in producing over 50 hormones that drive almost every bodily function.
  • Basil oil helps to detoxify the body of bacteria and viruses, while also fighting inflammation, pain, and fatigue.
  • Its antimicrobial activity can kill bacteria, yeast, and mold that can lead to asthma and respiratory damage.

Lemon Essential Oil

Uses and Benefits

  • Loaded with Vitamin C, antioxidants, and so many other plant phytochemicals and nutrients, lemon oil boosts the immune system, making the lungs healthier and stronger.
  • Benefits the health of your
  • Supports lymphatic system drainage and helps with overcoming respiratory conditions.
  • Studies have shown that lemon essential oil inhibits the growth of bacteria and boosts the immune system.
  • When diffused at home, it can kill bacteria and eliminate allergy triggers in the air.
  • Adding 1–2 drops of lemon essential oil to water helps with pH balance.
  • Lemon water also has the following benefits:
    • improves immune function and detoxifies the body
    • stimulates the liver and flushes out toxins that can lead to inflammation and an overreactive immune system.
    • stimulates white blood cell production, which is vital for immune system function because it helps to protect the body.
  • It can be used to disinfect your home by removing bacteria and pollutants from your kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom. This can be especially helpful as the seasons change.
  • One of the ways that I love to use lemon essential oil is while driving. It keeps me alert while opening up my lungs at the same time.

Peppermint Essential Oil

Benefits and Uses

  • Peppermint oil cleanses the lungs, upper respiratory tract, and bronchial passages.
  • perfect for detoxing the entire body
  • loaded with minerals that we often don't get enough of, including magnesium, phosphorous, calcium, and potassium.
  • A 2010 study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology suggests that peppermint oil is a relaxant and exhibits antispasmodic activity, preventing contractions that cause you to cough.
  • has decongestant and antihistamine properties that relieve asthma attacks
  • Exposure to allergens such as dust mites and pollen triggers the release of histamines, which in turn trigger asthma attacks. Peppermint prevents the release of histamine in your body.

How to Apply

  • Combine two drops of peppermint essential oil with one drop of lemon, eight drops of lavender, and 20 drops of carrier oil (you can use carrier oils such as sweet almond, olive, or jojoba). Rub your chest using this mixture twice a day to prevent asthma attacks.
  • Diffuse five drops of peppermint essential oil to unclog sinuses and treat a scratchy throat. This will also help relax the nasal muscles, enabling the body to clear out mucus and allergens.

Oregano Essential Oil

Benefits and Uses

  • Oregano essential oil has been used for centuries to relieve chest congestion, bronchitis, and upper respiratory problems.
  • has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties
  • relieves breathing difficulties in asthmatic patients instantly when inhaled.
  • effective in preventing respiratory tract infections

How to Apply

  • Combine 25 drops of the oil with 5oz of water in an atomizer bottle to make a mist. Inhale the vapor.
  • Another way of using this essential oil is adding its drops to an essential oil diffuser with water.

Lavender Essential Oil

Benefits and Uses

  • A study on treating asthma with essential oil showed substantial benefits from the use of lavender oil.
  • Strengthens the immune system
  • Aids in sleep
  • Treats other respiratory problems such as bronchitis, sinus congestion, laryngitis, tonsillitis, etc.
  • Treats drug-resistant infections
  • Treats fungal infections.
  • Reduces pain
  • Eases migraine headaches, nervous exhaustion, anxiety, and depression.
  • Stimulates blood circulation
  • Improves digestion (can help with colic, vomiting, and flatulence)

How to Use

  • Here is an essential oil blend for shortness of breath or an asthma attack. (Please see your doctor for an attack that does not improve after using your inhaler. Please be wise.)
    • Eight drops of peppermint oil
    • 20 drops of eucalyptus
    • 28 drops of lavender

Clove Essential Oil

Benefits and Uses

  • one of the most effective essential oils for asthma
  • has many properties that relieve asthma symptoms, which include antispasmodic, analgesic, and anti-inflammatory properties
  • helps in expanding constricted respiratory airways and relieving breathing difficulties in asthma patients

How to Apply

  • You can use a vaporizer or oil diffuser to diffuse clove oil in the air for about 20 minutes.
  • Clove oil is also used as a chest rub. However, rubbing clove oil directly on your skin may cause irritation. Instead, dilute the oil with a carrier oil such as almond oil before applying it to your skin.

Jasmine Essential Oil

Uses and Benefits

Recently, I was cleaning out the area that houses my air conditioner. It was very dusty, and of course, after a few minutes of vacuuming, I became short of breath.

After replacing the filter, I put a few drops of jasmine essential oil onto the new filter and turned the AC back on. The calming scent of jasmine filled the house. My breathing stabilized, and I became very calm.

Research suggests that jasmine essential oil works by positively influencing the nervous system. Through aromatherapy or by penetrating the skin, the oils have an effect on a number of biological factors—including heart rate, body temperature, stress response, alertness, blood pressure, and breathing.

Inhaling it can help clear mucus and bacteria within the nasal passages thereby reducing respiratory symptoms.

I use Jasmine in my personal essential oil perfume blend.

How to Use

  • It can either be inhaled through the nose or applied directly to the skin.
  • It doesn’t need to be combined with a carrier oil and instead is recommended to be used undiluted for the best results.
  • You can also diffuse it in your home or combine it with other lotions, coconut oil, or essential oils for many different household and body uses — like homemade massage oil, body scrubs, soaps, and candles.

DIY blends

I've included some blends to try if you are already an essential oil user.

DIY Vapor Rub


  • 12 drops eucalyptus oil
  • 5 drops peppermint oil
  • 5 drops thyme oil
  • 1-ounce olive oil or 1 oz. unscented lotion


Combine ingredients in a glass bottle. Shake well to mix oils evenly. Gently massage into chest and throat. Use one to five times per day and especially just before bed.

DIY Homemade Nasal Inhaler

Combine the following:

  • 2 drops eucalyptus
  • 2 drops rosemary
  • 1 drop peppermint
  • 1 tablespoon rock salt

You will need to purchase the inhaler below to make this item.

DIY Disinfectant Room Spray


  • 3 drops eucalyptus
  • 1 drop peppermint
  • 2 drops Pine
  • 1 drop tea tree
  • 2 drops bergamot
  • 1 ounce of water


Combine ingredients. Shake well before using. This combination is also suitable for a chest rub (replace the water in this recipe with a carrier oil).

DIY Respiratory Rescue Diffusor Blend


  • 30 drops eucalyptus
  • 20 drops tea tree
  • 10 drops thyme linalool
  • 20 drops hyssop
  • 20 drops cedarwood

Combine the ingredients. This makes a 5 mL bottle

How to Use

  • Use 5 to 8 drops in a room diffuser
  • This can also be added to a steam, bath, or used as an oil to rub on the chest.
    • For a steam, add 2 drops.
    • For a bath, add up to 5 drops.
    • For a chest rub, add 15 to 21 drops per 30 ml of carrier oil.

DIY Healing Bath Salts Recipe

This homemade healing bath salts recipe helps increase relaxation, relieves muscle pain, decreases stress, and supports body detoxification. Rather than spend hundreds of dollars at the spa, try this amazing spa-like recipe in the comfort of your own home.


  • 3 cups Epsom salts
  • 1 cup baking soda
  • Water to fill bath (as hot as you can stand without burning yourself)
  • 20 drops juniper berry essential oil
  • 20 drops lavender essential oil
  • Large glass jar


  1. Combine dry ingredients and store in a closed container. At bath time, add 1 cup of dry ingredients and lavender to the water.
  2. Soak for 20–40 minutes (the longer the better).

What do you think?