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Getting diagnosed with asthma was a complete shock to me.
I wasn’t the picture perfect image of asthma Hollywood portrays: a little kid with glasses wheezing to keep up with friends on the playground. I was an active world traveler getting diagnosed with asthma in my early twenties.
After the initial shock wore off, I began learning as much as I could about the disease. I wanted to understand what was happening in my body and whether my lifestyle choices can play a role.
Here’s what I found. Bad news: there is no cure for asthma. Good news: different approaches (like using essential oils) can help prevent and manage symptoms.
What Is Asthma?
Managing your diagnosis starts with understanding what asthma is. Inside your lungs are airways that work to bring air in and out of your lungs. Asthma is a chronic lung disease where your lungs’ airways become inflamed and narrowed. This can cause chest tightening, shortness of breath, coughing, and wheezing.
Really, anyone can get asthma. Usually asthma shows up in young children, but late in life adults can get it too. Around 25 million people have asthma.
Currently, there is no cure for asthma and no exact known cause (but many researchers believe it is likely genetic and environmental factors at play).
What Causes Asthma Symptoms
The symptoms of asthma are often caused by a variety of triggers. Each individual is different and their asthma can be aggravated by different triggers. I’m not affected by perfumes and scents, for example, but I am definitely affected by stress and smoke.
The many triggers of asthma include:
- Allergens (like dust, animal fur, mold, and pollen)
- Irritants (like smoke, pollution, and perfume)
- Sulfites found in different food and drink (like wine)
- Upper respiratory infections
Unfortunately, it’s often a guessing game with triggers. I thought I was fine exercising outdoors until I jogged by a big dusty dirt field on a windy day. Now I know dust is a trigger. After your diagnosis, you will begin learning what is and is not a trigger for you.
Common Asthma Treatment Options
There are four main ways to approach controlling your asthma.
- Control your triggers. As much as possible, remove your triggers from your environment. Since stress is a big trigger for my lungs, I proactively work to manage stress with yoga, meditation, journaling, and exercise.
- Long term medicines. For some people, daily long term medicine (like a pill) is needed to prevent and manage symptoms. Talking with your doctor will help you know whether this is the right step for you.
- Quick relief medicines. An inhaler is a quick relief medicine used to relax the muscles around your airways. This makes it easier for air to flow through and can help during bad symptoms (like an asthma attack).
- Natural remedies. Natural remedies work to prevent and/or relieve symptoms through natural means (like essential oils).
Most people use a combination of treatments, like taking a daily long term medicine while also using natural remedies. Working with your doctor will help you build the best asthma treatment plan for you.
Essential Oils and Asthma
Essential oils can be a powerful tool with asthma symptoms. However, it is important to note this is not for everyone!
I use essential oils without any problem. Strong scents, like essential oils or perfumes, are not a trigger for me.
Other people get triggered by strong scents and because of it essential oils may pose a problem for them. If you get triggered by perfumes and other strong scents, proceed with caution (or not at all). You can try if you like, just know it may result in some uncomfortable triggered symptoms. It’s up to you whether the relief is worth the risk.
But for many people, essential oils do not trigger symptoms and serve to help relieve symptoms. Only you (and your doctor) know what’s best for you.
Essential Oils and Stress
One powerful way essential oils help with asthma is by targeting a common trigger: stress and anxiety. For many people with asthma, stress aggravates their symptoms. By targeting stress, they can reduce and prevent symptoms caused by stress.
Choose a calming essential oil to apply with some calm breathing exercises. You can use this before a potentially stressful event (like a job interview) as a preventative measure. Or you can use this when you start feeling yourself become stressed to stop stress in its tracks.
Top Essential Oils for Asthma
With hundreds of essential oil scents out there, it can become overwhelming trying to choose a scent or two. Each one offers a unique fragrance and unique benefits.
Some essential oils are meant to calm you. Others are meant to wake you up. Some work best when you are sick and others when you are healthy. Below are my top five essential oils for asthma.
Allergens are a common trigger for asthma. When our body encounters allergens, it may release histamine. This can restrict the lungs’ airways and stir up asthma symptoms (and in some cases a full asthma attack).
Peppermint can help prevent your body from releasing histamine, which in turn helps prevent and reduce asthma symptoms.
Peppermint also contains methanol, which helps relieve stuffy noses and helps you breathe better.
The sweet smell of lavender has been shown to help reduce inflammation caused by asthma. One research study concluded that it may be a helpful alternative medicine for asthma.
While clove is more commonly found in your kitchen, it can be a useful natural remedy. Clove may help reduce symptoms of asthma, like difficulty breathing and chest pain.
4. Tea Tree Oil
As one study showed, tea tree oil may be useful in reducing inflammation.
Chamomile also has been shown to help reduce inflammation. It also may help relax the bronchus.
Using Essential Oils for Asthma
It should go without saying, but just in case, never use essential oils during an asthma attack. An inhaler is the proper treatment during an asthma attack.
Instead, essential oils should be used in between asthma attacks or during an increase in symptoms.
Essential oils can be applied in three ways: orally, aromatically, or topically.
Here you ingest the essential oil, usually by adding a few drops to a drink. There are enough risks associated with this method, I advise you to avoid it altogether.
Here you are inhaling the scent from the essential oil. Again, be cautious of this method if strong scents are a trigger for you.
You can use a special product like a diffuser or, for a cheaper option, place a few drops on a cotton ball in a small bowl. I place a cotton ball with calming lavender drops on my desk while I work to help prevent stress.
Here you are putting the essential oil directly on your skin. It is important to ensure the oil is safe for topical application. Not all essential oils are safe to place on our skin, so be sure to check before using.
It’s also important to always use a carrier oil with the essential. The carrier oil helps reduce issues like skin irritation that can happen when you directly apply essential oil on its own.
To make a spread for your chest, combine a few drops of your chosen oil and the essential oil. Rub it on your chest. Let it sit for twenty minutes. Then wipe it off.
How Often to Use
The regularity of your essential oils depends on what you want to use them for. Essential oils for stress prevention may work best on a daily basis. Essential oils for anti-inflammation may work best before or after exposure to an allergen.
You can use essential oils each day, when you anticipate symptoms (like before a stressful event), or after symptoms begin flaring up. Remember, essential oils are not meant to be the only form of your asthma treatment plan. But they can be a helpful addition to your asthma treatment plan.
You can talk to your doctor for advice and suggestions about integrating essential oils into your asthma treatment plan. I hope they give you as much relief as they do for me!
Buying Essential Oils
Many pharmacies, grocery stores, and natural shops carry essential oils. You can also purchase them online.
If you are just starting out in your collection, we recommend the Health and Wellness Kit (which includes peppermint). If you want a smaller pack, check out the Essential 4 Pack (which also includes peppermint). If you purchase either kit, use the discount “BACKDOORSURVIVAL” for a special NEW 20% discount!
The Final Word
Essential oils can be used for a great many things beyond asthma. Essential oils offer everything from all natural health benefits to all natural cleaning options. Our Pinterest board is a collection of ideas for integrating essential oils into your lifestyle.
Thank you for reading!
Madison Garner is a freelance writer passionate about health and survival. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her testing out new health strategies or studying up on survival techniques