Essential oils for sinus infections are a way to help ease symptoms and resolve the condition.
Whether you take essential oils via post-nasal drip or steam, you can use them for sinus headaches, congestion, and a drippy nose, as well as to open up blocked passages and otherwise promote the draining of the mucus clogging up your skull.
The sinuses are a series of hollow cavities within your skull, each lined with a mucosal layer. No one really knows what purpose the sinuses serve, though the main theories involve air filtration or helping to enhance our voices.
What is clearer, however, is what happens when the sinuses become aggravated in a condition called sinusitis, a sinus inflammation. Whether by allergen or pathogen, the linings of the sinuses can swell and impede drainage while also boosting mucus production. This results in congestion, stuffiness, and a painful sinus headache.
How Essential Oils Work for Sinus Infection
Congestion arises for two reasons. The first is that your sinuses and/or nasal passages are producing more mucus than can be drained out normally, causing a buildup. The second is the possible inflammation of the sinuses, which exacerbates the first problem by narrowing the available space for mucus to drain out of.
Most sinusitis therapies involve water since increasing moisture in the sinus and nasal passages will help liquefy the mucus and make it drain more easily. However, water does not affect inflammation, which is where the oils come in.
The essential oils used for sinusitis are derived from herbs known to have anti-inflammatory properties and are delivered by mixing them in with conventional sinusitis treatments that relieve congestion. With this approach, the essential oils are serving as a complement to the more direct action of the water to resolve symptoms.
For instance, steaming with tea tree oil for a sinus infection will both break up mucus and infuse the sinuses with the oil, providing a double-whammy of relief. Essential oils also smell nice, which can help keep you relaxed and calm—always a benefit when dealing with an infection.
What Essential Oils Are Good for Sinus Infection?
The best essential oils for sinus infections are those that come from herbs with anti-inflammatory properties. Some examples include:
Eucalyptus oil can be inhaled as a steam to help relieve nasal and sinus congestion. It’s similar to menthol in that it activates receptors in the mucous and nasal membranes, which can lead to clearer breathing and opened airways, making eucalyptus for sinus infections a strong option.
Using lavender essential oil for sinus infection is said to clear up symptoms by cleansing the sinus cavity. Antibacterial properties in lavender oil can help kill off any bacteria causing the infection while also reducing inflammation.
Tea tree oil has long been used to treat many conditions. Its antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties can help soothe the symptoms of a sinus infection. Tea tree oil can clear up congestion by opening up airways and relieving blockages. It’s best to dilute the oil before use, and almond or coconut oils are often recommended when using tea tree oil for sinus infections. Mix them up and rub a little beneath your nose, massage the mixture into your sinuses, or rub it on your temples.
Oregano oil for sinus infections helps because of its antibacterial properties and antioxidants. Put a few drops of oregano oil into a hot, steamy bowl of water, drape a towel over your head, and breathe in until you feel some relief.
Sweet basil is a natural analgesic that can help relieve the headaches that often accompany a sinus infection. The best way to use sweet basil oil for pain relief is to diffuse it into the air. Add some drops to a diffuser, and let the vapor fill your room. You should begin to notice improvements in the uncomfortable pain and pressure caused by your sinus infection.
Like some other essential oils, peppermint oil is loaded with properties that can both treat and heal a sinus infection. Peppermint oil for sinus infections can come in handy for soothing irritation and offering a slight numbing in the sinus area. This can lessen bothersome symptoms like itching, sneezing, and a runny nose. In addition, it will attack the underlying infection.
Lemons are filled with antioxidants and other compounds that make them useful against sinus infections and a host of other maladies. What makes lemon essential oil for sinus infections so effective is its antimicrobial properties, which will help clear sinuses and speed up recovery time. Lemon oil is most effective when either inhaled from a bottle or dispersed in hot, steaming water.
Chamomile oil for sinus infections is best used as an antiseptic and sedative. Chamomile can help soothe tension and help you sleep. At the same time, it attacks the infection responsible for the discomfort. You can rub it directly on your cheeks and sinuses for relief.
Pine oil for sinus infections can help break up mucus while clearing it (and phlegm) from the respiratory tract. This may help speed up healing time by preventing bacteria from settling in the area.
One of the most irritating symptoms of a sinus infection is swelling and inflammation in the area. Thyme oil for sinus infections can offer some relief by unblocking the nasal passages.
Some research has found menthol to be the best—or at least one of the best—essential oil to treat sinus infections. Aromatic compounds found in menthol help cool inflamed patches of tissue, and its antiseptic abilities help fight the underlying cause of the infection. It may be best to use the oil during sleep, and it can be applied as a topical rub directly on the chest, neck, or just above the top lip, beneath the nostrils.
Geranium oil for sinus infections can offer some quick relief from symptoms so you can get on with your day. It can quickly attack the pain and pressure caused by the infection and encourage more normal function as your immune system goes to work.
Clove oil is a multifaceted product that can have a number of effects on a sinus infection. Clove oil for sinus infections can act as an anti-inflammatory, analgesic, expectorant (helps in cough treatment), and antiseptic; it also has antioxidant properties that promote healing. It offers an all-encompassing assault on the symptoms and localized causes of the infection.
Rosemary oil can help relieve the pain and pressure that builds between the eyes during a sinus infection. It can also help by clearing the throat and helping you breathe a little easier.
When buying oils, it’s important to use a reputable company. Essential oils, like other supplements, are not regulated in the same way as medicine, so there is not the same guarantee of purity or quality. You should also pick an oil with a smell you enjoy—after all, if it’s going up your nose it should be something you think smells nice.
How to Use Essential Oils for Sinus Infection
As mentioned above, essential oils treat sinusitis by being incorporated into other water therapies. Due to this, explaining how to use them will require a partial elaboration on other treatments.
1. Steam Inhalation
One useful method is using steam and essential oils for sinus infections. Boil distilled or tap water and pour it into a two-inch-deep, heatproof bowl. Add in seven to eight drops of your preferred essential oil and stir well. Make sure not to add in the oil before boiling since that will boil away the oil in the process.
Once the water is infused, lean over the bowl and drape a cloth over your head to form a rough “tent” with the bowl inside. Inhale through your mouth and nose until the water cools or your congestion relieves itself, whichever comes first.
You can repeat this process as often as needed and eventually the mixture of essential oils and steam will relieve your sinus infection.
2. Add to a Humidifier or Vaporizer
Humidifiers and vaporizers work on the same principle—they increase moisture content in the air, which in turn helps your sinus passages. Adding essential oils into the mix can further relieve sinusitis and its symptoms. Add 25 to 30 drops to the device in question and allow it time to disperse throughout the room.
3. Use with a Neti Pot
A neti pot works similarly to steam but in a much more direct way. Instead of merely increasing moisture in the nasal passages, neti pots provide direct irrigation. Using essential oils with a neti pot requires making a solution first.
The solution is made by taking a cup of warm water (warm, not hot, this is going up your nose after all) and adding one tablespoon of ground sea salt. Add in nine to 10 drops of the essential oil of your choice and stir the mixture until the salt is dissolved. Pour the solution into the neti pot.
Using the neti pot itself to relieve sinus symptoms is simple, but it can be awkward for first-time users. Lean over the sink with your head turned to the side so that one ear is facing the sink. Carefully and slowly pour the essential oil solution into your upper nostril while keeping your head still.
The water will go in through the upper nostril and drain out the lower one. Make sure to breathe through your mouth during this process, then switch to pouring into the other nostril.
4. Use in a Diffuser
A diffuser works on the same principle as a vaporizer or humidifier, but in a smaller area with a more portable device. When preparing essential oils to treat a sinus infection via diffuser, mix half a cup of water with four to six drops of the preferred oil and remember to breathe deeply when using.
5. Take a Bath with It
Apply eight to 10 drops of essential oil to a sponge and place it in your bathtub. Let it float as you bathe and diffuse the oils into the bath water. Since this method partially relies on using essential oil-infused steam to treat your sinusitis, you will need to make the bath as hot as possible while still allowing you to be comfortable.
Risks While Using Essential Oils for Sinusitis
Essential oils are very strong, and this is very important to consider if you want to apply them directly on your skin. In virtually all cases, it’s recommended to dilute the oil with a carrier oil—coconut, almond, olive, jojoba, etc.—or water. If they are applied directly, it could result in redness, burns, or itching.
You also want to avoid ingesting essential oils, so wash residue off your hands. Ingesting them could lead to toxicity or negative interactions with medications you may be taking.
Inhalation is fine in small doses for brief periods, but over-exposure or big, strong hits may lead to dizziness, headaches, or nausea.
Essential Oil Recipes to Use for Sinus Relief
When using essential oils for sinus headaches, congestion, or other nasal symptoms, you can employ a single type of oil or combine types so long as the total drops don’t exceed the recommendations above.
Here are a few suggestions that have been found to result in particularly effective combinations.
- Three drops pine or rosemary
- Three drops peppermint
- Two drops eucalyptus
- Three drops rosemary
- One drop thyme
- One drop peppermint
- Four drops eucalyptus
- Four drops pine or rosemary
- Four drops peppermint
- Five drops rosemary
- Five drops geranium
- Three drops peppermint
- Two drops eucalyptus
Some of these require mixtures in excess of what is advised by certain methods. In these cases, keeping to the spirit rather than the letter of the recipe will be called for. For instance, the fourth can be scaled down for steam treatment by only using two drops of each oil.
Essential Oils May Assist the Fight against Sinus Infections
A natural, soothing treatment for sinus infections can be found in a multitude of essential oils. Since each offers its own unique benefit, try using a variety of oils for relief from the plethora of symptoms associated with a sinus infection. In addition to treating symptoms, many oils can help fight the root cause, thereby reducing the duration and likelihood of a fast recurrence.
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