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DIY Healing Vapor Rub for Coughs & Congestion

Avatar for Gaye Levy Gaye Levy  |  Updated: November 24, 2020
DIY Healing Vapor Rub for Coughs & Congestion

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When it comes to prepping, having the ability to fend for yourself for an extended period is a universal goal.  First, comes water, then comes food, and next, for many, comes first aid.  And therein lies the rub, no pun intended.

A cold or a cough can take you down in a flash, whether it is an annoying sniffle or a wracking, chest pounding cough.  It is no fun and you are going to want to get rid of it fast. Alas, there are all types of over-the-counter remedies available to you but there are a few problems with them.

Make Your Own Healing Vapor Rub - Backdoor Survival

First, they may include ingredients, chemicals really, that elevate blood pressure.  Then there is the sugar and the preservatives and a bunch of other unpronounceable stuff.  The topical ointments can be just as nasty and may contain thick, gooey, petroleum jelly.  You can judge for yourself, but the article Petroleum Jelly May Not Be As Harmless As You Think will give you some insight as to why you don’t want to use it.  Ever.

So what are you supposed to do when someone in your household comes down with what we like to call “the creeping crud”?

My solution is to make your own DIY Healing Vapor Rub for coughs and congestion.  Now truth be told, I have been meaning to make up a batch of DIY vapor rub to have on hand and never quite got around to it.  As bad luck would have it, Shelly (aka the Survival Husband), recently came down with a severe case of chest congestion and a cough so bad it made his stomach hurt.  It was time to set things in motion and make some DIY vapor rub to see if it really worked.

The good news It has now been three days and his recovery has been this side of a miracle.  We both thought he would be down for a week but here we are today, and his wellness quotient is at 90%.

How to Make DIY Healing Vapor Rub

This is so darn easy that it is almost embarrassing.  I am first going to describe what I did then add some variations.

1/2 cup Coconut Oil ( I use Tropical Traditions but any brand will work)
15 drops Eucalyptus Essential Oil
15 drops Peppermint Essential Oil
15 drops Rosemary Essential Oil
10 drops Cedarwood Essential Oil

Put your coconut oil in a bowl and add the essential oils.  Get out a fork or whip and mix them together until light and fluffy.  If your home is on the cool side, the coconut oil will be quite firm and whipping it up a bit will soften it nicely.

Note that if you have the luxury of time (because you thought to make your Healing Vapor Rub in advance), put the jar of coconut oil in a pan of hot water on the stove and leave it there until it melts.

I did not have the luxury of time so I used my stick blender to whip up the coconut oil and essential oils and was pleased with the results.

When your Healing Vapor Rub is soft, fluffy, and to your liking, transfer it to a small, clean jar and you are done.

That’s it.  Were you expecting something more difficult?

1.  Substitute olive oil, jojoba oil, Plain Ole Salve (soon to be renamed “BDS Simple Salve”) or any other preferred carrier oil for the coconut oil.  You may also use a combination of carrier oils.

2.  For a more salve like consistency, you can also add 2 teaspoons of beeswax pastilles to the coconut oil and process the two in the same manner as DIY Healing Salve.  Add the essential oils after the beeswax has melted.

3.  Cedarwood is not what I would call a mainstream essential oil so consider it’s use optional.  That said, I am convinced that it’s ability to break up phlegm was a factor in the success of quickly nailing the symptoms of chest congestion.  More about that below.

How to Use DIY Healing Vapor Rub

Generously rub your DIY Healing Vapor Rub all over the chest and neck area every three to four hours.  Also, rub some on the bottoms of both feet.  If stuffiness is a problem and is making breathing difficult, put a little dab on the upper lip to help clear the nasal passages.

Note:  This is a strong dilution of essential oils so if you plan to use it on children, I suggest doubling the amount of coconut oil to make a half-strength version.

A Special Word About Cedarwood Oil

When I received my bottle of Cedarwood essential oil from the SN Oil of the Month Club, I did not have a clue as to how I was going to use it.  I took to my big fat book on essential oils as well as Valerie Worwood’s book and read that is was useful for sleep and bronchitis.  While interesting, that was not enough.

Then, at the Organic Facts website found this:

If you are suffering from cough, cold and related congestion, you should try Cedarwood Oil to alleviate the irritation. It is an expectorant and efficiently eliminates coughs and removes phlegm from the respiratory tracts and lungs, thereby relieving congestion. It also gives relief from headaches, red and watery eyes, and other symptom of coughs and colds.

A small amount of this oil can also help you get a good night’s sleep when suffering from cough and cold. By stimulating the loosening of phlegm and the coughing which will remove it, you also protect your respiratory tract and overall health from toxins and conditions that excess phlegm can cause.

After reading that, I knew I was on to something.  As another one of those inexpensive oils I favor so much, this one is a keeper and I intend to identify other practical uses over time.

By the way, as a side note, I am rubbing Cedarwood on my own feet and chest to see if it will help me sleep more soundly.  Supposedly, it will trigger the production of Melatonin.

The Final Word

One of the things I like about this version of DIY Healing Vapor Rub is that it comes together very quickly.  A stove or other heat source is not required and I can make small batches to suit my needs.

The same general procedure can be used with other essential oil remedies as well.  I find that while it is nice to have a big fat jar of this kind of salve or that, sometimes, I will simply mix up a bit of coconut oil with my EO of choice and give it a whirl.  I find that in the long run, this is less wasteful than making a big batch of something that does not work as I had planned.

One more thing.  A reader recently asked my opinion on using plastic jars to hold EO concoctions.  While I prefer to use glass, I often use small 1/2 and 1 ounce jars for my ointments salves.  They are inexpensive, easy to clean, leak proof and unbreakable when tossed into a day pack, pocket, or handbag.

For longer term storage of six months or more, sure, use glass. But for my thinking, plastic is fine for day to day use.  It really is a matter of preference.

 Below you will find the items mentioned in today’s article.

Essential Oils for your Healing Vapor Rub:  By now you know that I favor the oils from Spark Naturals.  They are the highest quality, reasonably priced, and no membership fees or dues are required to get the lowest price.  Here are the oils in the Healing Vapor Rub recipe:  Eucalyptus, Peppermint, Rosemary, and Cedarwood.

When ordering from Spark Naturals, you will get an extra 10% off when you use the code BACKDOORSURVIVAL at checkout.

NOW Foods Essential Oils:  I use essential oils from Spark Naturals.  For healing purposes, I feel they are superior.  On the other hand, NOW Foods has decent essential oils at a budget price.   Here is link directly to the NOW Foods Cedarwood Oil

Cuisinart Smart Stick Hand Blender: Totally non-prepper centric but to be honest, last year I gifted myself with this stick blender and I love it!

Beeswax Organic Pastilles, Yellow, 100% Pure 16 Oz:  I ordered the white pastilles but have since learned that the natural yellow pastilles are better.  That said, the difference may not be discernable – just be sure that what you purchase is cosmetic grade.

Plastic Ointment Jars, 1/2 Oz 10/pkg:  I must have 3 dozen of these small jars. I also have many of the 1-ounce jars as well.  As much as I love these, I love these glass jars from Spark Naturals better!

Essential Oils Desk Reference 6th Edition: I thought long and hard before purchasing this book myself, but once I did, I was so grateful I took the leap.  The information is cross-referenced in many ways making it easy to find what you are looking for.  When searching for a particular remedy, you may see multiple oils listed and any will work but they are presented in order of typical efficacy.  The nice thing is that if you do not have #1 on hand, you can move down the list.  I have found the recommendations to be spot on.


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10 Responses to “DIY Healing Vapor Rub for Coughs & Congestion”

  1. Drinking fluids(water,tea,soup) is very important with chest congestion. An expectorant can’t work all by itself. Thick mucas is much more difficult to cough up than thin mucas.

  2. Hi,

    Very interesting article, and one to save.

    Just a quick question, do you melt the coconut oil before mixing in the essential oils, or do you mix it in cold?


    • Either way works. When I have the time, I will melt the coconut oil first then add it to a jar with my oils. I then put the lid on the jar and shake it up to blend everything together.

      Other times, I just mix everything up with a stir stick or, if it is a large batch, my stick blender.

      Either way, I hope you will give this a try – it really does work.

  3. Thank you for your helpful articles. I have a chronic bacterial infection and would much rather remedy the problem with a more natural solution than all the medication I’m being offered. Can you please tell me what properties I need and how to apply it. Thank you in advance for sharing your natural healing wisdom.

  4. I use Texas Cedarwood oil for a chronic cough (cause unknown, environmental allergy suspected). I apply it and Eucalyptus oil, both neat, to my supper respiratory area and they really help control my cough. I have not noticed any sleep benefits though.

    Sometimes my ears get stopped up as well, and the Eucalyptus oil is applied around the outside of the ear (front and back) and down the Eustachian tube area. I learned from someone to put one drop on one finger and place it just barely inside the ear at the same time gently touching the one drop in a north, south, east, west position spreading the single drop of oil around. It works very well for me and unstops those ears! I’ve read the Eucalyptus is a “hot” oil, so although I use it neat, others should be aware and perhaps use a carrier oil as well.

    I made your all purpose salve and use it all the time. I just experienced shingles and after the scabs healed, tremendous itching began; the salve soothes the itch and keeps my skin soft. Thanks, Gaye, for all you do; it is very helpful and greatly appreciated.

  5. Although this is a great diy article, i have to take exception to the title. Using the term, “Survival First Aid” implies that the article will be discussing some sort of medical attention in an emergency situation.

    The term, “survival” fits because this article teaches (quite well I might add) one more tool to becoming more self-sufficient, should a situation occur that would make a quick run to the local drug store a thing of the past. However, “First Aid” is completely inapplicable. First Aid denotes a sense of urgency that one would find during an emergency. The intent of first aid is to prioritize a queue of injuries/casualties based on which of those needs AID FIRST.

    Perhaps, in my humble opinion, a more apt title would be something along the lines of, “Survival Medical Aid”, “Survival Preventative Maintenance”, or “Survival Medicine”.

    I point this out because words have meanings and I do not want the quality of your article(s) to be diminished because they were read/referenced, believing them to be one topic, rather than the other. I do appreciate your articles and I thank you for taking a moment to listen.

    • Chris – Interesting point of view and one I had not thought of. I believe that “survival medicine” would be even more misleading. I could drop the “survival first aid” entirely but then the point, as you make it, of learning to be self-sufficient would be lost. Perhaps I should go back and use “Survival Basics”.

      If you or someone else has additional thoughts, let me know.


    • Maybe using the term “Survival Health: ….. ” or something similar would fill the bill for a lot of these kinds of articles. Then you could call it “first aid —” or “cold & flu —” or whatever. Just a thought 🙂

  6. I’m saving this one, with a couple of adaptations: you mentioned a stirring stick. I now use the trunks of rosemary as a whisk of sorts for stirring my herb concoctions. I harvest the rosemary leaves,then I trim the branches for kabobs, but I leave a little of the branch on the trunk. Then the trunk works like a whisk, which will work for this recipe, given the properties of rosemary.
    Next, since I can’t use eucalyptus, I will be using some infused olive oil with laurus nobilis (Bay laurel) in it’s place. Since it can be grown where I live, this becomes something which even in a grid down event, I will have available to me. 🙂
    O and just for good mention—a friend dropped off a grocery bag full of his diabetic testing strip containers. Since they are watertight, i’m color coding them for different purposes. Even when friends don’t believe in one thing I’m doing, some believe in others. In this case, my friend believes recycling is keeping me out of other types of trouble. 😉 lol I’m going to recycle one canister right back at him filled with this vapor rub. 🙂

  7. Question: Do essential oils have any volatile components, if so, do they dissipate when heated? Would you want to combine them a the lowest temperature possible to insure no loss of efficacy?

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