Holistic Aromatherapy for Respiratory Health

This article was originally published in the September 2018 issue of AromaCulture Magazine (www.aromaculture.com) and has been adapted for use here with permission from the publisher.

Even when approaching physical symptoms of infection and illness, it is important for any healthcare and wellness provider to consider every aspect of a person’s experience to provide real and lasting support. I will illustrate this here by presenting Claire, a 75-year old woman who came to me for help in the midst of a chronic upper respiratory infection.

Claire was frustrated and exhausted by six months of varying degrees of sinus congestion, coughing, brain fog, and nausea. She had tried a few different over-the-counter products but nothing seemed to do the trick. She told me that as soon as she felt like she was on the mend, another infection plagued her. She was tired of feeling run down and she wanted to get healthy and stay healthy.

We don’t always come down with an infection when we are exposed to the cold or flu viruses. When we feel strong and confident and we balance responsibilities with self-care, our systems readily protects us from invading pathogens. When we feel overburdened, uncertain, and fearful and don’t take time to care for ourselves, our energy reserves become depleted, leaving us exposed to invaders. It is easy to consider infections as purely physical in nature, but there is always something else going on that leaves us vulnerable.

To better understand Claire, I asked about her emotional health and daily life. She is an artist, traveller, retired entrepreneur, and usually highly involved in community life. However, she devoted the previous year to caring for her husband through chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Although in remission, she still feared for his health and felt uncertain of their future. She also worried about their daughter and felt plagued by negative stories in the media. I saw a strong, caring woman whose foundation was shaken to its core and nothing felt secure. Her current emotional fragility contributed to her weakened immune status and the fatigue and frustration of her chronic respiratory infection further chipped away at her strength and outlook on life—a cycle that needed to be broken. I wanted to address the acute symptoms of the infection while supporting her mind, emotions, and spirit so she could reconnect with her inner-strength and face whatever might lie ahead with confidence.


To begin creating her aromatherapy blend, I selected certain naturally-occurring chemicals found in essential oils that would offer physical support to her well-being. Scientific research suggests that 1,8-cineole is antiviral, reduces mucus, calms coughing, reduces airway inflammation, is effective against sinus infections, and stimulates mental activity.3, 7, 20 Research shows that α-pinene exhibits antiviral activity and is helpful against acute and chronic respiratory infections.1, 17, 22 Studies show that d-limonene is antimicrobial, supports the immune system by increasing total white blood cell count and increasing the number of alveolar macrophages, and calms anxiety.6, 13-16, 18, 19 Research suggests that terpinen-4-ol is antiviral, activates white blood cells, and is active against the flu virus.2, 4, 10 Research shows that linalool decreases anxiety, reduces heart rate, and lowers blood cortisol levels.5, 9, 11 Equally important as choosing constituents that focus on Claire's physical symptoms is choosing essential oils that will bring energetic healing to her current emotional and spiritual states.

I created Claire’s first aromatherapy blend with the intention of revitalizing her respiratory and immune health while increasing her resilience. Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus), high in 1,8-cineole, helps ease the burden of responsibility, supports emotional balance, and restores optimism and vitality.7, 9, 18 Frankincense (Boswellia carterii), high in α-pinene, instills a sense of security, calms the mind, and supports courage and strength.7, 9, 18 Red Myrtle (Myrtus communis), containing 1,8-cineole and α-pinene, lends a sense of protection while empowering and aiding comfort and harmony.7, 18 Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia), with terpinen-4-ol, strengthens energetic defenses, rejuvenates, and promotes emotional strength and confidence.7, 9 Coriander (Coriandrum sativum), high in linalool, instills a sense of security, eases mental and emotional exhaustion, and promotes optimism and confidence.7, 9, 18 I made a steam blend with these essential oils in order to penetrate her respiratory tract and to give her a few minutes of stillness and self-care throughout each day.

To use it, Claire warmed up water in a ceramic bowl and added one or two drops of the blend. Then, covering her head with a towel, she positioned her face over the steaming bowl, keeping her eyes and mouth closed. She did this two to three times a day for a month, including during a two week trip. Since the steam helped to break up sinus congestion, she was able to follow it with sinus rinse of warm saline water for additional clearing support.

During her next appointment, Claire told me her acute symptoms were barely noticeable, she was no longer coughing, and she felt much less congested. She enjoyed the aroma and looked forward to using the blend each day. She also noticed that after just a couple of deep breaths of steam, she felt tension release and her shoulders relax.


We were both pleased with her progress! She told me that at a recent physical check-up, her primary care physician told her that she wished her younger patients were as physically fit as Claire! However, she still worried about her husband, their daughter, and their future. For continued support, I wanted to bring joy and brightness into her life while continuing to support respiratory resilience.

I made an aromatherapy blend with intentions of continuing immune and respiratory support, enhancing vitality and vibrancy, and brightening her days. Lemon (Citrus limon), high in d-limonene, helps ease fears, promotes emotional clarity, and instills joy and optimism.7, 9, 18 Rose Grapefruit (Citrus paradisi), high in d-limonene, clears stuck emotions, supports self-compassion, and promotes optimism.7, 9, 18 Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis), high in d-limonene, helps conquer fears, enhances happiness and self-confidence, and promotes vitality and ease.7, 9, 18 Frankincense, with α-pinene, promotes inner-peace and resilient strength. Ravintsara (Cinnamomum camphora ct. 1,8-cineole) brings perspective to worries with optimism and lightness of being.

We met after one month passed during which she travelled overseas. Claire told me that she breathed in her aromatic blend about four times a day and she felt completely recovered from her long respiratory infection. She found comfort in the ritual of taking moments throughout the day to pause and simply enjoy the aroma of her blend. Claire also mentioned that she noticed her tension lessen over the two months since she began using the aromatherapy blends. She told me, “I don’t feel particularly stressed right now.”

At the time this article was first published in AromaCulture magazine, it had been a few months since I created these blends to support Claire and she hadn’t had any recurrence of a respiratory infection. Through considering the subtle energies of the essential oils along with their chemistries, I created blends that renewed Claire’s emotional health, rebuilt her strength and resiliency, and resolved her physical symptoms. Although it might seem easier to reach for cough syrup or cold medicine at the drug store when fighting a respiratory infection, Claire’s case study shows the importance of a truly holistic approach.

Please note that although this article focuses on specific chemistries and some vibrational offerings, the support of essential oils goes beyond isolated chemicals in their make-up (each may contain up to 200 different constituents) in addition to carrying the whole vibrational support and character of the living plant from which they are extracted.


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