The characteristic wheezing of asthma is made by the effort to push air through swollen, narrowed bronchial passages. During an asthma attack, stale air cannot be fully exhaled because the bronchioles are swollen and clogged with mucus, and thus less fresh air cannot be inhaled. The person gasps and labors for breath.
Allergic reactions to food, stress, and airborne allergens are the common causes of asthma. Allergies trigger production of histamine, which dilates blood vessels and constricts airways. Asthma sufferers fight an ongoing battle with such low-level congestion, which is actually an attempt by unhappy lungs to rid themselves of irritations.
Many aromatherapy books warn against using essential oils to treat asthma. Some asthmatics are sensitive to fragrance and find that it triggers their attacks. Although you certainly don't want to make the situation any worse, aromatherapy offers promising results when used judiciously.
The safest time for aromatherapy treatments is in-between attacks. Use a chest rub made from essential oils that have decongestive and antihistamine properties, such as peppermint and ginger. German chamomile, which contains chamazulene, is thought to actually prevent the release of histamine. Frankincense, marjoram, and rose encourage deep breathing and allow lungs to expand. To reduce bronchial spasms, use the relaxants: chamomile, lavender, rose, geranium, and marjoram.
A lavender steam can be used by some asthmatics even during an attack. The steam opens airways, while the lavender quickly relaxes lung spasms. This may halt the attack right in its tracks or at least make it less severe. As an added bonus, lavender also relaxes the mind, so it helps dissipate the panic you feel when you can't catch your breath.
If you find that steaming only makes it more difficult to breathe, use an aromatherapy diffuser or a humidifier instead. For babies and small children, put some very hot water in the bathtub, add several drops of lavender essential oil, and hold the child in your arms over the steam. You can also rub someone's feet with an aromatherapy massage oil.
Essential oils are not powerful enough to heal an asthmatic condition all by themselves. Herbs that repair lung damage and improve breathing are also needed, along with avoiding whatever sparks the allergic reaction. If this means stress, then other aromatherapy techniques such as massage, relaxation techniques, and fragrant baths can help you de-stress your life.
Essential oils for asthma: chamomile, eucalyptus (don't use during an attack), frankincense (deepens breathing, allows lungs to expand), geranium, ginger, lavender, marjoram, peppermint, rose