Coughing can be a helpful contributor to overcoming respiratory illnesses like the common cold — it helps clear mucus from the lungs and irritants from the throat. But he can also be annoying. An expert explains which natural home remedies can help against coughs.
Some people turn to essential oils to naturally relieve a cough. But “natural” doesn’t always mean safe. dr Jessica Ruff, doctor of preventive medicine, reveals what you should pay attention to in an article from the Cleveland Clinic (USA).
Essential oils for coughs: what you should know
“There isn’t enough scientific evidence to show that essential oils are helpful for coughs or other medical purposes,” says Dr. ruff. “There are many unknowns.”
If you use essential oils for a cough, Dr. Ruff to proceed with caution — and only try eucalyptus oil or peppermint oil. These oils are best known for opening up the nasal passages so you can breathe better, which can help relieve a cough.
Eucalyptus oil has anti-inflammatory properties that can help relieve congested sinuses. Peppermint oil contains menthol, which helps unclog nasal congestion.
You may have heard of other essential oils for coughs, such as cinnamon, rosemary, nutmeg, or bergamot. dr However, Ruff warns against using these agents because they have not been studied to treat cough in humans.
Who should refrain from using it?
Because little is known about the safety and risks of essential oils, certain people should not use them, including:
Infants and young children: Do not use essential oils (neither for aromatherapy nor for application to the skin) on children under the age of 6 years.
People undergoing surgery: Eucalyptus oil can affect blood sugar levels during and after surgery.
Pregnant or lactating: Peppermint and eucalyptus are probably fine as food ingredients since the amounts are small. However, there is no safety data on the use of these essential oils during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
How should essential oils be used for cough?
If you want to try essential oils for cough, you need to do it carefully. Because they’re so highly concentrated, you’ll need to mix them with another oil (called a carrier oil) or water before using them. A diluted, less potent essential oil will cause fewer harmful reactions.
Diluting an essential oil to the right amount is difficult. “How many drops of essential oil to use depends on the concentration of the oil, which varies,” notes Dr. ruff. In addition, the label may not be correct.
Children 6 years and older should never use more than six drops of essential oil mixed in 30ml of oil or water. Adults can use 20 to 30 drops per 30 ml. “I recommend using fewer drops to reduce the risk of complications,” says the expert.
There are several ways to use essential oils for cough:
Apply an essential oil to your skin: Mix an essential oil with a carrier oil (usually coconut oil or avocado oil) and apply the mixture to your chest. The carrier oil dilutes the essential oil and helps spread the essential oil evenly over your skin. It also prevents the essential oil from evaporating too quickly.
Inhale an essential oil: Place drops of essential oil in a diffuser. Diffusers spray small molecules of essential oils into a mist in the air, allowing you to inhale the scent of the oil. This is a type of aromatherapy. You can also add essential oils to a pot of steaming water on a stove or to your bath water.
Risks of essential oils for cough
Essential oils can cause serious, sometimes life-threatening complications, especially in their purest, full-strength form. Keep all essential oils out of the reach of children. Essential oil risks include:
Breathing problems: Children under the age of 6, especially infants, may experience breathing problems after exposure to peppermint and eucalyptus oils.
Fatal Poisoning: Essential oils can be fatal if swallowed. Peppermint oil capsules, which some people take for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), are safe when taken in the recommended amount. Ingesting too much oil can cause stomach upset, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. It’s safest not to swallow essential oils unless recommended by a doctor.
Seizures: Exposure to eucalyptus and peppermint oils (by ingestion, inhalation, or skin contact) can cause seizures and neurological problems in infants and young children.
Skin burns and rashes: Even after dilution, essential oils can irritate the skin when applied topically. Some people develop blisters and rashes that require medical attention.
Allergic Reaction: You may find that you are allergic to certain essential oils. It is therefore advisable to have a so-called patch test carried out by a doctor in advance. This can be used to check whether there is a delayed hypersensitivity in the form of an allergy to certain substances.
For those wanting to test this at home, wash and dry a small area of skin on the forearm, dilute the essential oil with a carrier oil, then apply the mixture to the clean forearm and then cover the skin with gauze. The gauze should be removed after 24 hours and checked for signs of irritation such as redness or a rash.
If there are no signs of a reaction, it’s probably safe to apply an equal amount of diluted essential oil to the chest to relieve a cough.
Safer alternatives to essential oils
If you’re looking for natural ways to relieve a cough, Dr. Ruff probably not the best solution. “Just because something is natural doesn’t mean it’s good for you,” she reiterates. “I advise caution when using essential oils as medicine.”
Instead, she recommends safer alternatives like honey (for people 1 year and older) or peppermint tea, which is made from the leaves of the plant and contains small, safe amounts of peppermint oil.
Thyme is also an effective home remedy for coughs. Inhaling, wraps and pads, onion and radish syrup can also help. (ad)