Top 10 Scientifically Proven Essential Oils to Relieve Bronchitis

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The Best Essential Oils to Relieve Bronchitis

The best essential oils for bronchitis are the ones that have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and expectorant properties to relieve the symptoms. Upper respiratory infections typically cause a lot of mucus, coughing, a sore throat, and congestion. The symptoms of bronchitis can then result in severe headaches, a runny nose, chest discomfort, and trouble sleeping.

Essential oils to help relieve symptoms of bronchitis include eucalyptus oil, lavender oil, tea tree oil, and cinnamon oil. These oils help to break up mucus and free your airways allowing you to breathe easier. Some essential oils have an antibacterial effect to kill off infections in your upper chest. Other essential oils have compounds that reduce inflammation and clear your respiratory tract.


Some essential oils can be used individually or combined to create a natural inhaler for bronchitis. For example, a combination including eucalyptus oil and clove oil will be effective if you have a chesty cough with phlegm, while peppermint oil and tea tree oil are good if you have congestion and a sore throat.

In this article, I will examine the 10 best essential oils for treating bronchitis symptoms like coughing, congestion, and mucus. I will also look at what scientific studies reveal about the effectiveness of certain essential oils in treating respiratory infections.

What is Bronchitis?

Bronchitis occurs when infections or irritants cause your bronchial tubes to become inflamed. The bronchial tubes are delicate air passages that connect your throat to your lungs. Doctors from the Mayo Clinic report that irritated air passages can cause you to bring up discolored phlegm and mucus. Constricted airways can also make breathing difficult and you may even start wheezing and coughing.1

Acute vs. Chronic Bronchitis

Bronchitis can be divided into 2 types – acute bronchitis and chronic bronchitis.

Acute bronchitis

Acute bronchitis is usually a temporary condition that results in congestion and coughing for a few weeks.

Doctors from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute say that acute bronchitis is often the result of an infection like the cold or flu. Other substances like smoke, dust, or air pollution can also irritate your respiratory tract and cause acute bronchitis.2

Chronic bronchitis

Chronic bronchitis is often the result of constantly breathing irritants. For example, many smokers suffer from chronic bronchitis. If you suffer from chronic bronchitis, you have more risk of developing viral or bacterial respiratory infections. This aggravates your chronic cough and causes excess phlegm and a general worsening of your symptoms.

Chronic bronchitis can also lead to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Bronchitis vs. Asthma – What is the Difference?

The difference between bronchitis and asthma is the cause of the respiratory inflammation. Bronchitis is the result of a viral or bacterial infection of the airways but many doctors don’t know what causes asthma.

Bronchitis and asthma are both conditions that cause inflammation in the airways. Respiratory inflammation from bronchitis and asthma constricts the airways, makes it harder to breathe and may result in spasms in your respiratory muscles. The inflammation causes mild to severe coughing and a buildup of excess mucus.

Because the symptoms of asthma and bronchitis are similar, many of the essential oil remedies for bronchitis also help treat asthma symptoms.

Causes of Bronchitis and its Risk Factors

Let’s look in more detail at the most common causes of bronchitis.

Dr. Charles Patrick Davis on MedicineNet says that the main cause of acute bronchitis is a viral infection. The most common type of viral infection is influenza or rhinovirus. Both of these cause flu and cold symptoms. Sometimes, bacterial infections can be to blame for a cough that brings up green or yellow phlegm.3

It’s important to remember, that viral and bacterial bronchitis infections are contagious. So, you should avoid coughing or sneezing on items that other people may touch.

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The main risk factor of contracting respiratory infections is being in close contact with infected people. Being around people who are sneezing and coughing, or touching items that infected individuals handled can pass the virus onto you.

According to Dr. Charles Patrick Davis, the greatest risk factor for chronic bronchitis is smoking.3

Symptoms of Bronchitis

Bronchitis is usually the result of an infection of your airways caused by the flu or cold. Therefore, you will most likely have more symptoms than just a deep cough that brings up mucus.

Expert in pulmonology Dr. Jazeela Fayyaz says that the most common symptoms of bronchitis are:4

  • A cough that may or may not bring up phlegm
  • Coughing up mucus that is yellow, green, or tinged with blood
  • A runny nose or congestion
  • General aches and pains that accompany viral infections
  • A sore throat
  • Headaches

Depending on the seriousness of your infection, your symptoms may be mild to severe. At the end of the article, you will find out when you should see a doctor for symptoms of acute bronchitis.

Common Bronchitis Treatments

Effective methods of treating bronchitis involve remedies that relieve its symptoms and open up the airways.

Doctors from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute say that inhaling steam can help to break up mucus and make it easier to cough up. Steam or a humidifier also helps to relieve constricted airways and make breathing easier. You should also get plenty of rest and drink plenty of fluids to ease your bronchitis symptoms.2

Dr. Jazeela Fayyaz says that bronchial treatments that help to thin phlegm can also be effective to make it easier to breathe without wheezing noises.5

It’s also important to avoid anything that can irritate your lungs and air passages. This includes avoiding secondhand smoke and breathing in air pollutants.

How to Reduce Your Risk of Bronchitis

It is not always possible to completely avoid infections that cause bronchitis. However, there are a few things that you can do to reduce the chance of developing a respiratory infection.

According to doctors from the Mayo Clinic, washing your hands regularly will help prevent catching a viral infection. If it’s not possible to wash your hands frequently, you should use alcohol-based hand sanitizers.1  Since I don’t recommend using commercial hand sanitizers, you can find out how to make your own liquid or gel hand sanitizer in my article about the 6 hidden dangers of hand sanitizers

Why Essential Oils are Effective for Treating Bronchitis and Its Symptoms like Cough, Mucus, and Congestion

Essential oils for upper respiratory tract infections can help get rid of constant coughing, mucus, and other bronchitis symptoms. Many of these essential oils also help ease other breathing problems like asthma.

According to the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, many essential oils are natural remedies for respiratory tract infections. Studies have found that oils like cinnamon, lemongrass, and thyme have antibacterial activity when inhaled in steam.6

Top 10 Essential Oils for Bronchitis, Mucus, and Breathing Problems

Let’s look in more detail at research showing the efficiency of the top 10 essential oils for bronchitis.

1. Eucalyptus essential oil

Eucalyptus essential oil is ideal for bronchitis as it can help reduce congestion in the airways. Eucalyptus oil has natural properties that help treat phlegm, coughing, and make it easier to breathe. Compounds in eucalyptus oil also thin mucus to make it easier to get rid of it by coughing.

Eucalyptus oil contains a compound called cineole which has expectorant properties. The journal Cough published a research on the effect of cineole on acute bronchitis symptoms. Researchers found that using cineole help to significantly reduce coughing fits and improve breathing within 4 days. It was useful in treating many respiratory disorders like asthma, rhinosinusitis, and COPD.7

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According to another study, eucalyptus oil can help to alleviate other symptoms associated with bronchitis and asthma. Using eucalyptus oil as a natural remedy for bronchitis also alleviates sinus headaches, cleared runny and stuffy noses, and eases congestion.8

If you have a chesty cough and a buildup of mucus in your chest, try putting a few drops of eucalyptus oil on a tissue. Deeply breathe in the vapors to help release mucus in your airways and ease breathing.

2. Peppermint oil

Peppermint oil acts as an expectorant to help clear the respiratory tract from congestion that results from bronchitis, asthma, or allergies. The effect of breathing in menthol in peppermint oil helps to cut through mucus and break it up.

The benefits of using peppermint oil for bronchitis are also due to expectorant compounds like menthol and cineole. The journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine stated that peppermint oil is a known anti-mucus remedy and helps to reduce respiratory inflammation. Peppermint is also antimicrobial and can help to kill off infection-causing germs.9

The cooling and anti-inflammatory effect of peppermint oil can also help to calm fits of coughing and ease a sore throat. You can also mix peppermint oil with a carrier oil and massage onto your temples to help ease a bronchitis-induced headache quickly.

3. Lavender oil

Lavender oil acts as a natural antibacterial agent with anti-inflammatory properties to kill off infections and reduce coughing fits. Lavender also helps to relieve headaches that often accompany cold and flu infections.

According to a study in the European Journal of Dentistry, lavender oil has analgesic effects with antimicrobial properties. Clinical trials showed that lavender can be used to reduce inflammation in the lungs and alleviate various inflammatory respiratory conditions. Lavender oil can also treat symptoms associated with bronchitis like sore throat, coughs, and relieve congestion.10

Lavender is also an effective essential oil to soothe away muscle and joint pain.

4. Tea tree essential oil

The antimicrobial properties of tea tree oil are well known and you can use this essential oil for treating bronchitis symptoms.

Tea tree essential oil has so many uses around the home and in health remedies. The journal Clinical Microbiology Reviews states that tea tree oil contains potent anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial compounds.11 The effect of inhaling tea tree oil vapors can help to calm the airways and prevent excess mucus forming due to bronchial irritation.

You can also add tea tree oil to water and spray on surfaces to disinfect them naturally to prevent the spread of cold and flu germs.

5. Sandalwood oil

The calming properties of sandalwood oil can help alleviate bronchitis and respiratory allergy symptoms like sneezing, coughing, and inflamed airways.

According to the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, sandalwood helps to reduce inflammatory reactions in the airways that cause mucus to form. It also helps to calm nerves and can make coughing fits less intense. The sedative effect of sandalwood essential oil may help you get a better night’s sleep which will boost your immune system and help fight infections.12

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6. Thyme oil

Thyme oil can help to reduce the severity of respiratory infections by reducing inflammation in your airways and boosting your immune system. Thyme also contains cineole which is an expectorant that helps break up mucus and prevent your respiratory tract from clogging up.

The journal Foods reports that thyme essential oil helps to eliminate infections that can cause various infections. Thyme oil also has a calming effect due to its anti-inflammatory properties.13

You can easily add thyme to your diffuser, steam bath, or mix with carrier oils to use as a therapeutic chest rub.

7. Cinnamon oil

Cinnamon oil can help to reduce the amount of mucus in your airways caused by asthma, the flu, colds, or bronchitis by helping to soothe inflammation.

According to information published in the journal Pharmacognosy Research, cinnamon has been used for centuries to cure respiratory ailments. Research has also found that cinnamon helps to suppress inflammatory responses and can destroy germs that cause viral and bacterial infections.14

8. Oregano oil

Oregano oil can help reduce the symptoms of bronchial infections because it contains many antibacterial and antiviral compounds.

The Journal of Applied Microbiology reported that oregano oil contains the compound carvacrol. This was shown to kill off various viral infections and can help to reduce outbreaks of viral infections.15 Other studies have pointed to the antibacterial effect of carvacrol in oregano oil.16

The best way to use oregano essential oil to release mucus and ease coughing is to add a few drops to some carrier oil and massage it into your chest.

9. Clove oil

Clove oil can help to reduce inflammatory respiratory responses if you breathe in allergens or irritants. Clove oil has great immune-boosting properties to improve your health and make your immune system stronger to fight respiratory infections such as bronchitis.

The journal Phytotherapy Research reported that clove oil has a number of compounds that can help treat the symptoms of asthma and bronchitis. Among these are anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and pain-relieving properties.17

10. Lemongrass oil

Lemongrass has many uses as an alternative medicine to help reduce inflammation, the effects of viral infections, and treat digestive issues.

The strong antibacterial and anti inflammatory properties were reported on in the Journal of Advanced Pharmaceutical Technology & Research. In the study, researchers found that compounds in lemongrass extracts have powerful antioxidant and antimicrobial properties.19

It’s best to use lemongrass oil in a diffuser as a study published in the Letter of Applied Microbiology found that lemongrass essential oil can be used as a method of air disinfection.20

How to Use Essential Oils for Bronchitis

If you or the kids occasionally suffer from acute bronchitis, the best approach is to ensure beforehand that you are not sensitive to the oils you want to inhale.

If you have an allergic response to any of the oils, exclude it from your bronchitis treatment, as allergies can easily trigger your immune system to release inflammatory chemicals. This inflammation on top of the bronchitis-related inflammation can damage your lungs and cut your breathing off completely.

Steam inhalation and bath soak

There are several ways to inhale essential oil steam:

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  1. Put several drops of your chosen essential oil (or oils) in a large pot with water. Heat it on the stove until it almost boils. Remove it, and inhale the steam directly for the antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory effects. You can inhale it through a face cloth if it burns your face. You can also use the same steam inhalation for treating sinus infection.
  1. Mix 10-12 drops of essential oil per 1 oz (30 ml) of carrier oil (such as sweet almond oil) and add into your bathwater. Sit in the bath for 30 minutes while inhaling the steam constantly. You can also add 1 cup of Epsom salt to enhance the effect of relieving body aches and sore muscles.

Chest and back rubs

There are few things better than a warm chest rub before bed to control the phlegm, coughing, and even pain during the night. Blend 6-8 drops of essential oil in one tablespoon of carrier oil. Rub it into both your chest and back before you go to bed. Some essential oils like lavender and sandalwood have sedative effect too and will help you sleep well.

Blends for your diffuser to treat bronchitis

Diffusing a mix of some of the above essential oils will help to address aspects of your bronchitis if you diffuse it through your bedroom or office during the day. For a night-time blend for your bedroom you can add lavender and sandalwood that will give you a good night’s rest.

How to Use Essential Oils to Ease Congestion

Essential oils for bronchitis can cut through mucus that is blocking your respiratory tract and sinuses. Very often, the potent vapors of essential oils can quickly ease congestion and open up constricted airways.

This is what you should do to make your own vapor rub with essential oils to treat bronchitis or asthma symptoms:

  1. Mix 5 drops of eucalyptus oil, 5 drops of peppermint oil, and 5 of drops tea tree oil with 1-oz. carrier oil (such as almond oil, jojoba oil, or coconut oil).
  2. Massage some of the essential oil mixture into your chest until it is absorbed.
  3. Cover with a blanket to allow the soothing effect of the essential oil remedy open your airways and thin mucus.

To make a calming essential oil vapor rub to help you sleep, substitute tea tree for lavender oil. Apply before going to bed to help get a better night’s sleep and prevent coughing from keeping you awake.

How to Use Essential Oils to Get Rid of Mucus

Many essential oils are potent enough to make a natural expectorant to eliminate mucus and reduce the amount of phlegm you have. Regularly inhaling essential oils can also have a calmative effect and reduces bouts of coughing.

To make your own remedy to release mucus in your respiratory tract, throat, and sinuses, this is what you should do:

  1. Put 5 drops of eucalyptus oil, 5 drops of tea tree oil, and 5 drops of any of the other essential oils in a large bowl of hot water.
  2. Place your head over the bowl and put a towel over your head.
  3. Breathe in deeply through your nose and mouth to let the essential oil steam break up mucus in your bronchial tubes.
  4. Repeat 2 or 3 times a day until your symptoms of coughing up phlegm have gone for good.

How to Use Essential Oils to Get Rid of a Cough

If bronchitis or asthma is causing an irritating cough, it’s important to use essential oils that have an anti-inflammatory effect. Some of the best ones to use are cinnamon oil, tea tree oil, oregano oil, clove oil, and lemongrass oil.

To make your own home remedy to alleviate bronchitis or an asthmatic cough, you can add the essential oils to a vaporizer or diffuser. Here is the bronchitis essential oil diffuser recipe:

  1. Put 5 drops of tea tree oil, 5 drops of cinnamon oil, and 5 drops of lemongrass oil in your diffuser.
  2. Inhale deeply to let the healing power of the essential oils soothe your hacky or chesty cough.

How to Use Essential Oils to Cure a Sore Throat

A viral bronchitis infection can also give you a scratchy sore throat that makes it difficult and painful to swallow. Many of the essential oil steam inhalation recipes for bronchitis will also do a two-fold job of helping ease a sore throat.

You can also use some essential oils to make a soothing rub to help ease the pain of a sore throat. This is how to use essential oils to treat a sore throat:

  1. Mix 5 drops of peppermint oil, 5 drops of tea tree oil, 5 drops of any other essential oil on this list and mix with 1-oz. sweet almond oil or other carrier oil.
  2. Take a little of the essential oil remedy on your fingertips and massage into your neck just below your ears.
  3. Take some more essential oil and rub into the sides of your neck and continue to the top of your ribcage.
  4. Use 3 times a day to help get rid of a sore throat.

Always use a carrier oil

It is good to remember that essential oils are too concentrated and powerful to put directly on your skin. Therefore, you should always dilute them in a carrier oil like grapeseed oil, olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil or sweet almond oil.

When to See a Doctor

The essential oils for bronchitis and remedies mentioned in this article should help to reduce the severity of your symptoms and prevent bronchitis becoming more serious. Bronchitis usually takes 10 to 14 days to clear up and you should see a doctor if your symptoms last longer.

Dr. Jennifer Robinson on WebMD recommends visiting your doctor if you have symptoms of bronchitis and the following conditions:18

  • You cough up thick yellow or green phlegm or you notice traces of blood in it.
  • You have a fever and night sweats.
  • Along with an irritating cough, you also have shortness of breath and wheezing.
  • You can’t sleep because of your bronchitis symptoms.
  • The cough lasts longer than 2 or 3 weeks.

Read my other related articles:

Medical Sources

  1. MayoClinic. Bronchitis.
  2. NHLBI. Bronchitis.
  3. MedicineNet. Bronchitis (acute).
  4. Medscape. Bronchitis.
  5. Medscape. Bronchitis treatment & management.
  6. J Antimicrob Chemo. 2001 May 1;47(5): 565-573.
  7. Cough. 2013; 9: 25.
  8. 2004 Apr;114(4):738-42.
  9. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011; 2011: 690346.
  10. Eur J Dent. 2013 Sep; 7(Suppl 1): S71–S77.
  11. Clin Microbiol Rev. 2006 Jan; 19(1): 50–62.
  12. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2016; 2016: 7896081.
  13. Foods. 2016 Dec; 5(4): 70.
  14. Pharmacognosy Res. 2015 Jun; 7(Suppl 1): S1–S6.
  15. J Appl Microbiol.2014 May;116(5):1149-63.
  16. J Ess Oil Res. 1995;7(2):165-173.
  17. Phytother Res.2007 Jun;21(6):501-6.
  18. WebMD. When a cold becomes bronchitis.
  19. . 2011 Jan-Mar; 2(1): 3–8.
  20. 2009 Apr;48(4):387-92. doi: 10.1111/j.1472-765X.2009.02552.x.
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