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Essential oils are a popular natural treatment. People use them to relieve sinus congestion, unblock a stuffed nose, and promote sinus drainage.

Eucalyptus and peppermint oils show particular promise. Otherwise, little scientific evidence supports the use of essential oils to relieve sinus congestion.

However, there is some evidence that essential oils may improve related symptoms, though many of these studies have involved animals or lab experiments, rather than human participants.

Many people find that inhaling peppermint oil feels good when they have blocked sinuses. This is because of its cooling effect. But does peppermint oil actually improve sinusitis symptoms?

Peppermint oil contains menthol. This compound may affect the mucus receptors in the nose, helping to open the airways and clear mucus.

Lab studies show that peppermint oil may fight bacteria, one of the triggers of sinus congestion. Animal studies demonstrate that it may also reduce inflammation. It is important to emphasize that these studies did not test the effects on humans.

A person can try making a steam bath by placing a few drops of the oil in a bowl of warm water and breathing in the steam for a few minutes until the stuffiness and other symptoms subside. Alternately, a diffuser can fill the air with this essential oil.

Several over-the-counter decongestant products, such as chest rubs, contain eucalyptus oil. Many believe that this oil can relieve the symptoms of colds and coughs, including sinus congestion and stuffiness.

People often use eucalyptus oil in steam baths. Like peppermint oil, it may clear stuffiness and congestion in the nose.

Eucalyptus oil contains a compound called cineole. A small-scale 2009 study found cineole to be a safe and effective treatment for sinus issues, compared to a placebo, when participants took it in a pill. The researchers warn, however, that this treatment could cause a rash or heartburn.

People can use eucalyptus oil in the same way as peppermint oil. Many brands of the oil are available online. Chest rubs that contain eucalyptus oil are also available online.

A 2015 review notes that a compound called alpha-sabine in tea tree oil provides antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal effects.

Tea tree oil may also reduce inflammation, which could help bring down sinus swelling. Reduced swelling often relieves the symptoms of congestion, such as a runny or stuffy nose.

Oregano oil may help a person recover from sinusitis by fighting off bacteria. Researchers have found that carvacrol, a component of oregano oil, may stop bacteria from growing.

Clary sage is another essential oil that may fight sinusitis or congestion caused by bacteria. A 2015 lab study found clary sage oil to be a natural antimicrobial agent.

A 2015 animal study suggested that this essential oil may have analgesic, or pain-relieving, effects and that it may also reduce inflammation. However, researchers have not tested this in humans.

Lavender oil can also have calming properties for some people, making them feel more relaxed or able to sleep.

Rosemary is another anti-inflammatory essential oil that may relieve swollen sinuses. Authors of a 2016 review described rosemary's anti-inflammatory properties.

The researchers also found that rosemary is a rich source of antioxidants and may help manage metabolic syndrome.

To use essential oils for sinus congestion relief, it is best to dilute them, then breathe in the scent. Do not swallow or ingest essential oils.

To apply essential oil to the skin, dilute it in a carrier oil, such as sweet almond oil. The usual recipe is 3–5 drops of essential oil for every ounce of carrier oil. Learn more about the best carrier oils and how to use them here.

Test for an allergic reaction by applying a few drops of diluted essential oil to the skin. If there is no reaction in 24 hours, it should be safe to use.

The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians state that people should not use essential oils with babies younger than 3 months.

Certain oils may be safe to use around older children. Always ask a doctor before exposing babies or young children to essential oils.

Some believe that eucalyptus and peppermint oils are dangerous for infants and that people should refrain from using them around children under 3 years old.

Be aware that when diffusing essential oils in the air, any children, pets, and other family members will also be inhaling the treatment.

People have used essential oils as an alternative remedy for hundreds of years. Anyone wishing to avoid over-the-counter decongestants and antibiotics may want to try using an oil as a treatment.

Essential oils are a complementary or alternative therapy. There are no approved guidelines about dosage or strength, so people should use these oils with caution. Do not ingest essential oils unless directed by a doctor, as they can be toxic.

Before doctors recommend essential oils as a sinus congestion treatment, they will need to see more evidence of the effects in humans. However, many people find that the oils bring relief.

We picked linked items based on the quality of products, and list the pros and cons of each to help you determine which will work best for you. We partner with some of the companies that sell these products, which means Healthline UK and our partners may receive a portion of revenues if you make a purchase using a link(s) above.

Article last reviewed by Wed 27 February 2019.Visit our Flu / Cold / SARS category page for the latest news on this subject, or sign up to our newsletter to receive the latest updates on Flu / Cold / SARS.All references are available in the References tab.

Ali, B., et al. (2015). Essential oils used in aromatherapy: A systemic review. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2221169115001033#bib42

Are eucalyptus and peppermint oils safe for young children? [Fact sheet]. (n.d.). https://tisserandinstitute.org/learn-more/kids-inhalation-safety/

Cates, T. H. (n.d.). Get your child to sleep naturally. https://www.naturopathic.org/content.asp?contentid=225

Hassani, F. V. et al. (2016). Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) as a potential therapeutic plant in metabolic syndrome: A review. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27178264

Kehrl, W., et al. (2009). Therapy for acute nonpurulent rhinosinusitis with cineole: Results of a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1097/00005537-200404000-00027

Nostro, A., & Papalia, T. (2012). Antimicrobial activity of carvacrol: Current progress and future prospectives. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22044355

Sienkiewicz, M., et al. (2015). The effect of clary sage oil on staphylococci responsible for wound infections. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4360007/

Silva, G. L. et al. (2015). Antioxidant, analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects of lavender essential oil. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26247152

Singh, R., et al. (2015). Antibacterial and antioxidant activities of Mentha piperita L. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1878535211000232

Sun, Z., et al. (2014). Chemical composition and anti-inflammatory, cytotoxic and antioxidant activities of essential oil from leaves of Mentha piperita grown in China. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4262447/

MLABurgess, Lana. "Top 7 essential oils for sinus congestion." Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 27 Feb. 2019. Web.29 Aug. 2019.

APABurgess, L. (2019, February 27). "Top 7 essential oils for sinus congestion." Medical News Today. Retrieved fromhttps://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324570.php.

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