Allergies are on the rise, and not always restricted to the pollen season that heralds a sudden outbreak of hay fever. Respiratory allergies are the most common for the simple reason that we do not have much choice about what we inhale along with the air every time we draw in our breath.
The fine dust, smoke, animal dander and pollen grains that enter our airway set forth a reaction that we experience as sneezing fits, runny nose and watery eyes. Inflammation and narrowing of the airway may result in more severe reactions, such as asthma. Overproduction of mucus secretions leads to congestion and makes way for bronchitis and other bacterial infections.
Some allergic reactions, mostly from contact with an allergen, are localized on the skin, appearing as severe itching and rashes. Some foods cause stomach allergies that lead to vomiting and diarrhea as well as multiple rashes and headaches.
Not all people have the same reaction to something labeled as an allergen. More than the substances themselves, it is our body’s reaction to them that decides the occurrence and severity of allergies. The release of histamines by the body is what triggers these reactions. Antihistamines that counteract the histamines are the first line of treatment against allergies.
Many essential oils contain anti-inflammatory properties and work like antihistamines. So the next time you feel a tickling in the nose or itching of the skin or eyes, turn to your essential oil stash for relief.
Here are some essential oils you should stock up on if you are prone to allergies:
1. Lavender Essential Oil
This is an essential oil that many households stock, and, honestly, every household should. Extracted from the flowers of Lavendula agustifolia, lavender essential oil works on both respiratory and skin allergies.
When you feel the first symptoms of hay fever coming on, rub a few drops between the palms and hold them near your nostrils, taking in deep breaths. It is a great idea to carry a few cotton balls drenched in lavender oil in an airtight container during the allergy season. The natural antihistamines in the oil will prevent a violent reaction to the allergens, nipping it in the bud.
Even a full-fledged allergy with blocked nose and sinuses along with chest congestion can also be managed with lavender. Dab a bit on the forehead, cheeks and the chest. This mild oil can be used directly on the skin, but if your skin is too sensitive, test it first on a small area, or dilute it with coconut oil for topical use.
It also relieves allergic reactions on the skin like contact dermatitis, itching, rashes and blisters. Apply directly over the affected area or add a few drops to a cold compress or bath water.
You can take advantage of its anti-allergic and anti-inflammatory properties by diffusing through a cold air essential oil diffuser by your bedside. Its calming effect can relax your body and mind and help you sleep better.
2. Peppermint Essential Oil
Everyone is familiar with the cool, fresh smell and taste of peppermint. Peppermint essential oil is derived from Mentha piperita, a natural hybrid of spearmint and water mint, has been in use for ages, but mainly as a digestive aid. But this oil also has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties that come in handy in soothing allergies and the painful conditions associated with them.
When a respiratory allergy has worsened into sinusitis and bronchitis, this is the essential oil you would want to use. Menthol, the main volatile oil in peppermint, loosens up the thick mucus accumulation in the sinuses and the airway, making it easy to cough up phlegm. It effectively clears up the respiratory tract, preventing secondary infections.
To use peppermint oil, dilute it with a carrier oil or gel and apply to the forehead, cheeks and chest. Its cooling action relieves the pain of skin rashes and headaches when applied topically.
It is safe to be taken internally to reduce the effect of food allergies that inflame the lining of the digestive tract, causing vomiting and diarrhea. Add a few drops to a cup of tea for a refreshing drink that immediately settles the stomach.
3. Lemon Essential Oil
This is another essential oil with refreshing and cleansing properties. Lemon oil is more often used for its disinfectant properties, but it can be very helpful in combating seasonal allergies and asthma attacks, especially when used in conjunction with lavender and peppermint oils. The action of this essential oil seems to be indirect by prompting the body to increase blood circulation and clear the respiratory tract and sinuses. It works in tandem with the above mentioned oils to prevent congestion. Lemon oil is the best friend of asthmatics.
Use it in a diffuser with equal quantities of lavender oil and peppermint. Or keep an anti-allergy mixture ready by combining the three, and apply it to the forehead, chest, behind the ears and on the feet for maximum benefit. Lemon oil is edible, and can be used in warm teas or cold drinks to work from the inside. Just make sure the lemon oil you use is of organic origin.
4. Eucalyptus Essential Oil
Eucalyptus essential oil is one heck of an essential oil with an unmistakably strong smell and equally strong action. You can rely on its guaranteed effect of making the respiratory secretions flow freely. So if you’re down with severe headache and sinus congestion from an allergy attack that went unattended until now, go to eucalyptus oil for instant relief. Extracted from the stem and leaves of several species of Eucalyptus or gum trees, there’s nothing mild about this oil. Never use it topically or internally at full strength.
Using a few drops in a steam inhaler or diffusing in a cold air essential oil diffuser should be sufficient to open up your nostrils and sinuses. If you’re inhaling the steam at close quarters, hold a wet towel to your eyes to avoid irritating them. Always dilute it with coconut oil or other carrier oils and test on a small area first before applying it to your forehead or chest. Drink plenty of warm water when you use eucalyptus oil, as the copious flow of mucus can later lead to dryness of the airways.
5. Roman Chamomile Essential oil
Here’s another mild but potent oil that is safe for use even on infants. Chamomile tea is known for its calming effect on the nerves, but it is equally effective and safe to be used on skin allergies. Derived from Chammaemelum nobile, an herbaceous plant with daisy-like flowers, this oil has a sweet aroma that is extremely soothing.
Add 2-3 drops of chamomile essential oil to a teaspoon of coconut oil and apply on itchy, red and raw areas of skin. This oil gives excellent relief from contact dermatitis, the red, burning rash that is caused by an allergic reaction to diapers and sanitary pads.
For pain and swelling due to an allergic reaction to insect stings, including mosquito bites, apply a drop of chamomile right on the spot. It also relieves irritability and sleep disturbances in children due to itching.
Always be sure you know how to properly use an essential oil before you begin treatment.