Essential Oil Chemistry for the Respiratory System

Whether it is a cold or flu in the winter or hay fever and allergies in the summer there is often someone around you or you yourself suffering with a cough, blocked nose or runny eyes. Symptoms can be mild and just irritating up to completely debilitating effecting sleep and ability to focus.

Essential oils access the human body most readily through the respiratory system. The essential oils are inhaled through the nose and both enter the olfactory system and the respiratory system, having dual benefits on both systems. The oils enter the lungs with the inhaled air and are transported with the air, through the bronchi and into the alveoli where the gases and essential oils go directly into the blood stream. Effectively no matter what we are pick to inhale essential oil wise it still goes through our respiratory organs.

There are two main chemical families within essential oils that are the most effective at treating respiratory problems, one being ketones and the other oxides. Ketones are incredibly strong and help break down mucous as well as have a sedative effect while oxides are also mucolytic but also bronchodilators and help the body expel the excess mucous.

Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) has 40% ketones and is the only oil we use in aromatherapy to have The Germacrene D molecule which is a sesquiterpene that has an anti-inflammatory effect on allergic tissue and is present in hyssop 2%. Due to this molecule Hyssop helps with hay fever and allergic symptoms as well as asthma. Caraway (Carum carvi) also contains ketones and is known to be mucolytic and expectorant and help to decongest the lungs.

Eucalyptus Radiata is 85% oxides and most eucalyptus strains are around that number due to the main component eucalyptol which is also known as 1, 8-cineole so if you have a different one use that instead. 1, 8-cineole has been seen to provide positive responses even under the conditions of severe respiratory illnesses such as lung function parameters during the treatment of COPD and the common cold. 1, 8-cineole is also antiseptic and is also used to clear the head of any brain fog.

When treating the respiratory system, inhalation is best as it directly influences the area it is passing through which is why a hot steam facial bath has been popular over the years for clearing congestion. As aromatherapists we can create nasal inhalers and body oils, balms and lotions to apply to the chest area similar to the over the counter Vicks. It is also good to book in for a hopi ear candling treatment as this will help to loosen the sinus area.

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