10 must-have essential oils to support respiratory health in a natural way
The pandemic may have focussed our minds on respiratory health as never before, but it has also brought home the power of natural remedies. Plants have been prized for their medicinal and health enhancing properties for centuries, and even now around 10% of the drugs the World Health Organization considers essential are derived from plants. Yet, unlike plant-based medicines, essential oils from aromatic plants are available to everyone and can be used on a daily basis.
Research from Puressentiel – makers of clinically proven essential oils – reveals that nearly nine out of ten Brits (86%) know that house plants can help breathing by removing airborne toxins. The report - ‘THE SCIENCE OF ESSENTIAL OILS: WHY IT MAKES SCENTS’ – also found that three out of four (76%) believe plants help their mood and reduce stress levels, with almost half (45%) reporting they have a calming effect, a third (36%) saying they help them maintain an upbeat mood and a similar number (30%) believe they reduce stress levels.
GP and co-author of the report, Dr Gill Jenkins, comments: “The rising prevalence of anxiety and sleep problems, and growing interest in how to protect and improve respiratory and cognitive health have seen many consumers take a more proactive approach and seek out natural solutions from plant-based remedies.
“Self-care has become even more of a focus as a result of the pandemic, and essential oils now align with the desire of many consumers to avoid synthetic fragrances and chemicals and minimise their use of animal-based ingredients. Indeed, the research from Puressentiel found that two-thirds (63%) were aware that air fresheners contain synthetic chemicals which can add to indoor air pollution, and more than a third (37%) avoid using them for this reason”.
And co-author and independent researcher, Dr Pam Mason, adds: “Essential oils, such as lavender, eucalyptus, lemon and geranium(pelargonium), reduce the risk of respiratory issues by tackling common triggers for symptoms: airborne bacteria and viruses, fungal spores and house-dust mites. A trial in patients with a history of respiratory symptoms showed significant improvements in lung function just four weeks after using Puressentiel’s Purifying Air Spray which contains a unique combination of 41 essential oils”.
The report - ‘THE SCIENCE OF ESSENTIAL OILS: WHY IT MAKES SCENTS’ – provides an A-Z of essential oils and their uses. Here are the top 10 for supporting respiratory health the natural way.
1. Atlas cedar (Cedrus atlantica)
This viscous yellow-amber oil has some antimicrobial (antibacterial and antifungal) activity and is used in respiratory ailments such as coughs and bronchitis. The sedative effect of the sesquiterpene cedrol makes it useful for anxiety, which appears to work by increasing 5-hydroxytryptamine and reducing dopamine in the blood.
2. Basil (Ocimum basilicum)
The main constituents in sweet basil are 1,8-cineole, linalool, methyl clavicol and β-carophyllene, which have antibacterial and antifungal activity. Aromatherapy uses include calming, respiratory conditions and tackling aches and pains. The 1,8-cineole content could bring relief from catarrh and sinusitis, while linalool has been shown to relax muscles.
3. Cajeput (Melaleuca leucadendra)
Cajeput oil smells like a combination of camphor, rosemary and cardamon and its main components include 1,8-Cineole (14-69%), ⍺-pinene, β -pinene, limonene, linalool and geraniol. The oil has strong antimicrobial properties with good in vitro activity against some bacteria types. In aromatherapy, its uses include respiratory ailments, bronchitis, colds and sinusitis.
4. Eucalyptus oils (Eucalyptus globulus and Eucalyptus radiata)
Eucalyptus globulus and radiata essential oils are colourless to pale yellow with a camphoraceous aroma. The main components are 1,8 eucalyptol, α-pinene, citronellal, menthone, citronellol, limonene and linalool. Eucalyptus globulus is antiseptic and has antibacterial activity. It is recommended for treatment of colds, flu and sinusitis and has been incorporated in many over-the-counter inhalants and cough remedies as it promotes bronchodilation. The European Commission has approved its use against respiratory tract inflammation.
5. Geranium, rose geranium (Pelargonium species)
Main components include citronellol (up to 60%), geraniol (up to 20%), linalool, isomenthone, citronellyl formate and geranyl formate and the oil is used for a number of respiratory tract ailments including sore throats, excess mucus, tonsillitis and asthma. It is now being investigated for potential anti-viral activity against Sars-Cov-2. Citronellol, a key ingredient in geranium oil, has been shown to downregulate the ACE2 receptor in epithelial cells. The ACE2 receptor has also been found to play a crucial role in virus cell entry and blocking of this receptor may reduce the risk of invasion of SARS-Cov-2.
6. Ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe)
This yellow oil has an expectedly warm, spicy and woody odour. Main components come from two major chemical categories; sesquiterpenes and citral. The main active sesquiterpenes are camphene, borneol, geraniol, linalool, α-curcumene, β-sesquiphellandrene and zingiberene. Used by healthcare practitioners for respiratory ailments such as colds, coughs and sore throats as well as nausea and vomiting and travel sickness. It also has validated anti-inflammatory effects and antimicrobial activity.
7. Peppermint (Mentha x piperita)
Oil of peppermint is mainly composed of menthol, menthone, esters, coumarins and sulphur compounds. Peppermint is widely used in aromatherapy for nervous stress, respiratory ailments (including colds, sinusitis, bronchitis) skin conditions, dyspepsia, flatulence, nausea and colic.
8. Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris)
Scots pine essential oil has a balsamic, turpentine-like odour and contains monoterpenes (including α-and β-pinenes, camphor, δ-3-carene, limonene, myrcene), bornyl ester and sesquiterpenes. It has widespread use for respiratory system ailments, including asthma, bronchitis, catarrh, coughs, colds sinusitis and sore throats.
9. Rosemary (Salvia Rosmarinus)
There are several types of rosemary oil, including rosemary camphor, rosemary cineole and rosemary verbenone. All types contain camphor as well as α- and β-pinenes, camphene, sesquiterpenes and terpene oxides (1,8-cineol). Healthcare practitioner uses are widespread including for respiratory conditions (including sinusitis, bronchitis and colds), muscular aches and pains, backache and wound healing. Scientific studies have shown that rosemary oil can ease stress, improve brain function and reduce stress.
10. Tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia)
Major components are terpinolene, 1,8-cineole, α-terpinene and limonene. Healthcare uses include colds, flu, infections, acne and insect bites. Scientific research shows that tea tree oil has strong antibacterial properties, which explain the traditional use of tea tree oil in infections, including those of the respiratory tract and the skin. Terpinen-4-ol also improves immune function by increasing activity of white blood cells.