How to Treat Asthma With Aromatherapy

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


To learn more about Aromatherapy and other alternative medicines, see:

  • Aromatherapy: Here you will learn about aromatherapy, how it works, what part essential oils play, and how to use aromatherapy.
  • Essential Oils Profiles: We have collected profiles of dozens of plants that are used to produce essential oils. On these pages, you will learn the properties and preparations for the most popular essential oils.
  • How to Treat Common Conditions With Aromatherapy: Aromatherapy can be used to treat a number of conditions, from asthma to depression to skin problems. Here you will learn how to treat some common medical problems with aromatherapy.
  • Home Remedies: We have gathered over a hundred safe, time-tested home remedies for treating a wide variety of medical complaints yoursel
  • Herbal Remedies: Herbal remedies and aromatherapy can be very similar, and they stem from similar historic roots. On this page, you will find all of our herb profiles and instructions for treating medical problems with herbal remedies.



Kathi Keville is director of the American Herb Association and editor of the American Herb Association Quarterly newsletter. A writer, photographer, consultant, and teacher specializing in aromatherapy and herbs for over 25 years, she has written several books, including Aromatherapy: The Complete Guide to the Healing Art and Pocket Guide to Aromatherapy, and has written over 150 articles for such magazines as New Age Journal, The Herb Companion, and New Herbal Remedies.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.