The Best Essential Oils To Relieve Sinus and Congestion Symptoms

Women suffering from allergies

By Mark Piatt

Updated on May 15, 2020

The essential oils we will be talking about are meant to be diffused into the air and are not intended for topical or internal use.

Over here at Enchanted Aromatics, we sell a variety of essential oils to make your space smell absolutely beautiful while being used in a diffuser.  

But this is not the only use that using essentials has. 

Some people have used essential oils to get some relief from symptoms caused by sinus and congestion. 

Using certain essential oils in a diffuser may help ease symptoms caused by the common cold, flu, allergies, congestion, and sinus problems. 

Because certain essential oils have anti-microbial properties, there is some anecdotal evidence that these essential oils may be able to kill or reduce certain viruses or bacteria under certain circumstances.

As an example, some studies have shown that the virus was killed when it was soaked in essential oil. 

Soaking something in pure essential oil is not what you are doing when using essential oils in a diffuser.  So please do not rely on essential oils as an anti-viral or anti-bacterial alternative. 


Information provided in this description is for educational purposes only.  For possible treatments of physical or mental diseases, please seek a trained and licensed health professional.  Enchanted Aromatics is not responsible for any adverse side effects resulting from the use of any suggestions, products, preparations, or procedures mentioned or from following historical uses of essential oils.

Do essential oils really work as an alternative to medications?

Although there is some research on the subject, there has not been a lot of research conducted on the ability of essential oils to relieve symptoms of sinus, congestion, colds, allergies, etc. 

Most of the information available is anecdotal. 

Some of the studies rely on the ingestion of essential oil. 

On a side note, we do not promote the ingestion of any essential oil.  

Because of the lack of research, the medical community has not established or published approved guidelines or proper dosages on how to use essential oils for these purposes, so also keep this in mind. 

For this reason, do not rely on essential oils as an alternative to medications. 

Also, be aware that using essential oils in a diffuser around infants is never a good idea because their lungs are not fully developed. 

If you wish to try this, please first check with a certified aromatherapist. 

General safety advice when using essential oils:

  • Do not take internally unless directed by a medical professional.
  • Do not apply to eyes, sensitive areas, or mucous membranes.
  • Do not apply undiluted to the skin.
  • Pregnant women, nursing mothers, and children should not use essential oils without first consulting a medical professional.
  • Keep essential oils from, and out of reach of children.
  • If you are experiencing adverse side effects, stop using immediately.
  • The information on this website is not intended to be used in the diagnoses, treatment, or mitigation of any physical or mental illness.
  • The statements on this website have not been evaluated by the FDA.

Besides these general safety guidelines, some essential oils also have additional safety precautions. 

As an alternative to using essential oils in a diffuser, you can add 3 – 7 drops of the essential oil into a bowl of boiling water. 

Use a towel to cover your head and breathe in the vapors through your nose for several minutes. 

You may also want to keep your eyes closed to keep your eyes from getting irritated from the hot vapors.

You can also add 3 – 7 drops of the essential oil to a warm bath.  The problem with this method is the relief from the essential oils may be short-lived.

Typically, essential oils should never be ingested.  When used topically, use it with caution as some may cause adverse skin reactions.

Now that we have that important information out of the way, let us dive into the world of essential oils and see what we can learn.

Why does congestion occur?

When we get sick, our body starts to produce mucus to try and get rid of an infection, or allergen. 

The problem is our body usually produces too much mucus which results in runny noses, coughing, phlegm, chest pain, difficulty breathing, headaches, pressure, watery eyes, or worse. 

All these symptoms can be a nuisance or can be downright uncomfortable.

When many of us have these symptoms, the first thing we do is reach into our medicine cabinet and pull out a medication that has many side effects or is made from unhealthy compounds. 

As an example, many of us pull out the little blue bottle and rub some of the salve on our chest, under the nose, or maybe under our feet. 

Those wonderful vapors have a way of melting through the stuffy nose and congestion and help us to breathe a little easier. 

But have you ever looked at the very tiny print that lists the ingredients on that little bottle?

  • Turpentine Oil
  • Petrolatum
  • Levomenthol
  • Eucalyptus Oil
  • Camphor
  • Cedar Leaf
  • Nutmeg
  • A few other inactive ingredients.

Pay attention to these first two ingredients. 

Do you really want to be breathing in turpentine or petroleum?  You can do better. 

Using essential oils for congestion and sinus relief in a diffuser can have similar effects without the toxicity of these other products.

The first essential oil of course is Eucalyptus. 

There are over 300 species of Eucalyptus with a variety of chemical compositions, but the species used for clearing up congestion is called Eucalyptus globulus


Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus)

Eucalyptus globulus

For thousands of years, the aborigines have used Eucalyptus globulus to relieve or cure symptoms of colds and coughs. 

Eucalyptus globulus is the species that is widely known for clearing up congestion and is the species found in medications for cold and allergy relief. 

Plus, this essential oil has a stimulating scent.   

Besides being able to ease congestion and pressure, Eucalyptus globulus can ease symptoms caused by the common cold, flu, fever, and bronchitis. 

This includes its ability to reduce spastic coughing, swelling from sinus infections, and muscle spasms.

The specific organic compound found in Eucalyptus globulus that is responsible for its key benefits related to respiratory and pain relief is the oxide 1,8 cineole (also known as eucalyptol or just cineole). 

This compound has been professionally researched and is known to have strong healing potential. 

Therapeutic properties of 1,8 cineole

  • airborne antimicrobial
  • analgesic
  • anti-inflammatory
  • antibacterial
  • antioxidant
  • antispasmodic
  • antiviral
  • hypotensive
  • increases cerebral blood flow
  • mucolytic

1,8 cineole is found in over 200 essential oils, but usually in concentrations less than 10%. 

1,8 cineole typically makes up between 65% – 84% of the chemical makeup of Eucalyptus globulus.   

Eucalyptol as it is commonly called has a fresh woody, minty aroma, and a spicy, cooling taste, which gives Eucalyptus globulus its characteristics. 

Camphorous is sometimes used to describe the aromatic characteristics of Eucalyptus globulus.

When you are feeling under the weather from congestion, you may have problems concentrating. 

For many people, this essential oil is remarkably effective in stimulating mental focus. 

Eucalyptus globulus can bring a feeling of warmth to the body by stimulating healthy circulation. 


  • Eucalyptus essential oil is generally considered safe when used in a diffuser.
  • Eucalyptus globulus essential oil is generally non-toxic and non-irritant in small amounts.
  • Use Eucalyptus globulus with caution for those with asthma. Make sure the aroma does not cause any sense of restriction. 
  • Do not apply Eucalyptus globulus essential oil topically near the nose of children under 5 years old. Their lungs are not fully developed to handle such a powerful aroma.
  • When diffusing Eucalyptus globulus around young children under the age of 10, keep the steam away from their faces.


Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus radiata)

Eucalyptus radiata


Eucalyptus radiata is often considered a milder form of eucalyptus and has a softer aroma compared to Eucalyptus globulus

For this reason, most people find the aroma a little more pleasant compared to Eucalyptus globulus

Plus, it shares most of the same properties as Eucalyptus globulus.

Some people describe the aroma as having a slightly citrus aroma combined with the typical medicinal aroma of eucalyptus.

Even though Eucalyptus radiata has almost identical properties as Eucalyptus globulus, for aromatherapy,

Eucalyptus radiata is usually considered the most appropriate form of eucalyptus.

Eucalyptus radiata has a little less 1,8 cineole compared to Eucalyptus globulus

60%-65% compared to 47%-84%.  The amount varies in each depending on environmental factors. 


  • Eucalyptus essential oil is generally considered safe when used in a diffuser.
  • Eucalyptus radiata essential oil is generally non-toxic and non-irritant in small amounts.
  • Use Eucalyptus radiata with caution for those with asthma. Make sure the aroma does not cause any sense of restriction. 
  • Do not apply Eucalyptus radiata essential oil topically near the nose of children under 5 years old. Their lungs are not fully developed to handle such a powerful aroma.
  • When diffusing Eucalyptus radiata around young children under the age of 10, keep the steam away from their faces.


Lemon (Citrus limon)


Using lemon essential oil is like bringing a little sunshine into your home. 

Lemon essential oil is one of the most popular citrus essential oils because of its versatility and powerful antioxidant properties.

As far as fighting congestion, Lemon essential oil is a phenomenal decongestant. 

As an added benefit, it is known to be an effective antiviral agent.

Lemon citrus has been scientifically proven to be able to cleanse toxins from the body, clear the skin, and fight bacteria and fungi.

Lemon citrus oil is used in a variety of medications to cure sore throat infections. 

Sore throat infections are the main cause of congestion.

Using Lemon citrus essential oil in a diffuser will provide you the antibacterial benefits of the essential oil while easing chest congestion. 

The specific compound found in Citrus limon that is responsible for its key benefits related to respiratory and pain relief is (+) – Limonene. 

This compound is a colorless liquid known as a neutral liquid hydrocarbon mainly found in the peel. 

Limonene has been researched and is known to have strong healing potential.

  Therapeutic properties of Limonene

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antibacterial
  • Antifungal
  • Anti-infectious
  • Antimicrobial
  • antioxidant
  • Antiseptic
  • Antispasmodic
  • Antiviral
  • Cytotoxic

Limonene is found in over 75 essential oils, but usually in lower concentrations than found in Lemon. 

Limonene typically makes up between 57% – 76% of the chemical makeup of Lemon essential oil.  

As an added benefit, if you want to freshen your laundry, try a drop or two in your wash.

How about boosting your energy levels? Lemon essential oil has you covered.


  • Lemon Essential oil is generally considered safe when used in a diffuser.
  • Applying lemon to the skin can increase the chance of sunburn. Do not use topically for 12 hours before being out in the sun for an extended period. 
  • Oxidized lemon essential oil can cause a bad skin reaction if used topically.


Cinnamon Leaf (Cinnamomum zeylanicum)

Fresh cinnamon leaves

The aroma of Cinnamon is one of the most recognized scents in the world. 

Cinnamon leaf oil usually has a lighter, less intense fragrance compared to cinnamon oil extracted from the bark and the fragrance is not as long-lasting.

According to a long list of research, Cinnamon leaf has many benefits.

But one of its lesser-known benefits is the ability of cinnamon leaf essential oil to not only ease a sore throat but to fight some of the infections that cause the sore throat. 

In this circumstance, Cinnamon leaf works better compared to Cinnamon bark essential oil.

Also, according to a study published by the US National Library Of Medicine, Cinnamon leaf essential oil can kill some viruses related to Influenza, especially when used in conjunction with other essential oils such as Clove and Orange.

The reason is because of the anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, and immunomodulatory effects cinnamon leaf essential oil has. 

Cinnamon leaf essential oil mainly has 9 key constituents.

The most notable of which are eugenol, linalool, benzyl benzoate, and small amounts of a chemical known as cinnamaldehyde.

The former of which makes the oil highly effective as a natural insect repellent. 

For this reason, cinnamon leaf essential oil when mixed with a carrier oil can be applied topically to help treat and reduce swelling from insect bites including some of the infections that may come from the bite.

For a sore throat, try combining Lemon essential oil and Cinnamon leaf essential oil in your diffuser. 

An added benefit is this combination makes an excellent deodorizer for your home. 

You can also try mixing Orange and Cloves for an out-of-this-world smell that will relay and ground your emotions while detoxifying the air.

Therapeutic properties of Cinnamon leaf essential oil

  • Analgesic
  • Antibacterial
  • Antifungal
  • Antimicrobial
  • Antiseptic
  • Antiviral
  • Anti-inflammatory


  • Cinnamon leaf oil is generally considered safe when used in a diffuser.
  • May inhibit blood clotting if used internally.  Do not use internally if on blood thinners
  • May contain Safrole; skin irritant; mucous membrane irritant.
  • May interact with pethidine, MAOIs, SSRIs, anticoagulant medications, major surgery, peptic ulcer, hemophilia, or other bleeding disorders.
  • Can cause burning if applied to the skin undiluted in a carrier oil such as Jojoba oil.

To increase profits, some companies may adulterate their cinnamon leaf essential oil with clove fractions, eugenol, or cinnamic aldehyde.


Other essential oils that may help:

Tea Tree Oil:

Tea Tree leavesThis oil has strong antibacterial, antiviral, and antiseptic properties.  

Tea Tree oil can also provide relief from congestion and respiratory tract infections. 

This property comes from a compound called terpinene-4-ol. 

This essential oil has a pungent, citrusy type of aroma that may help soothe coughs and for some, bring relief to sore throats.

Some people may experience adverse reactions, mainly if applied or ingested topically.  These include rash, scaling, redness, and drying.    


Lavender Oil:

Lavender flower

This oil has antibacterial, analgesic, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties that make it an effective choice for fighting certain illnesses.

Lavender can effectively relieve inflammation in the respiratory system and can bring relief from that nagging cough. 

For many people, Lavender essential oil works amazingly well for clearing up nasal passages.

Lavender essential oil is one of the safest essential oils but can sometimes cause skin reactions if used topically.


Rosemary Oil:

Rosemary plantThis oil has antimicrobial and antiseptic properties.

Rosemary is an effective decongestant and can relieve soreness in the throat caused by cold, flu, allergies, and sinus. 

An added benefit is that Rosemary has a delightful scent.   

Its anti-congestive properties come from a variety of medicinal compounds including 1,8 cineole and limonene.

Rosemary essential oil should be avoided during pregnancy and should not be applied near the face of infants or children.


Thyme Oil:

Thyme leavesThis oil has antibacterial and antiseptic properties that may make it useful against common colds.

Thyme oil can drain congestion and can assist in removing some infections from the chest and throat.

Its anti-congestive properties come from compounds like caryophyllene and camphene. 

Thyme oil is an excellent expectorant.  It can help loosen mucus from your respiratory system and clear the sinuses from congestion.

Thyme oil should not be ingested if you have high blood pressure and pregnant women should avoid it.


Oregano Oil:

Oregano leavesThis oil has antibacterial, antiseptic, antiviral, and antifungal properties. 

Oregano is a renowned herb for its ability to act as an expectorant and is an immensely powerful essential oil for relieving chest congestion.

Oregano has a soothing effect and can remove phlegm and mucus buildup.

This oil can also help clear up a stuffy nose. 

Oregano may cause an allergic reaction in people who have an allergy to plants in the Lamiaceae family.

These are some of the most popular essential oils to use for congestion, but there are others such as peppermint, pine, black spruce, clove leaf, clove bud, frankincense, Juniper berry, sweet orange, cedarwood, ginger, black pepper,

Blending Essential oils for congestion and sinus relief

These essential oils can be used in a diffuser either on their own or combined with other essential oils.

Here are a few blends you can try. 

These blends are for a 100 ml capacity diffuser. 

If you have a larger diffuser, increase the number of drops as appropriate.

Congestion Blend #1

  • 2 drops of Eucalyptus
  • 2 drops of Tea Tree
  • 3 drops of Peppermint
  • 1 drop of Lemon


Congestion Blend #2

  • 4 drops of Frankincense
  • 4 drops of Rosemary
  • 3 drops of Juniper Berry


Congestion Blend #3

  • 5 drops of Frankincense
  • 4 drops of Eucalyptus
  • 2 drops of Peppermint


Congestion Blend #4

  • 3 drops of Lavender
  • 3 drops of Lemon
  • 2 drops of Pine
  • 1 drop of Peppermint


Cough Be Gone Blend

  • 3 drops of Cajeput
  • 3 drops of Sweet Orange
  • 2 drops of Lavender


Decongestant Blend

  • 3 drops of Pine
  • 2 drops of Peppermint
  • 2 drops of Sweet Orange


The Clear Nose Blend

  • 4 drops of Pine
  • 3 drops of Eucalyptus
  • 2 drops of Rosemary


Cold Relief Blend

  • 5 drops of Rosemary
  • 4 drops of Eucalyptus
  • 4 drops of Peppermint
  • 3 drops of Black Spruce
  • 2 drops of Lemon

In conclusion

Hopefully, this article will help bring some natural relief to you during those days and nights when you are keeping yourself up from your coughing and stuffy nose or when you are feeling a little under the weather. 

As an added benefit, using these essential oils in your diffuser will make your space smell fabulous. 

Remember, using essential oils for congestion and sinus relief should be used as a complementary or alternative therapy. 

Use these essential oils with caution. 

We would love to hear from you!

If you know of other essential oils that have helped you or other blends you are willing to share, please feel free to leave a comment.

And finally, stay healthy my friends.


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