Best Essential Oils for Coughs

Respiratory problems are where essential oils shine. The plants that most of these essential oils have been made from have been treating chest infections and colds for thousands of years. Where the flowers are great for emotional healing, resins and leaves are the most important healers for these kinds of illnesses. But how do we know which one is best for which, and when they are safe to use? This post drills down into how to choose the best essential oils for cough and splutters. If you are unlucky enough to have a baby with a cough, please scroll down to the specific advice for little ones. Then finally we have combined some of the best essential oils for cough and congestion recipes too.

10 Best Essential Oils For Cough

    1. Eucalyptus Essential oil 
    2. Tea Tree Essential oil 
    3. Frankincense Essential Oil
    4. Myrrh Essential Oil
    5. Hyssop Essential Oil
    6. Monarda Essential Oil
    7. Ravensara Essential Oil
    8. Sweet Basil Essential Oil
    9. Niaouli Essential Oil
    10. Myrtle Essential Oil

1. Eucalyptus Essential Oil

The original and the top of the best essential oils for cough and chest complaints. Eucalyptus is rich in antimicrobial agents that not only support the immune system but also fight congestion. It is a great oil to choose if your cough is accompanied by a cold, of course, being able to bust through nasal congestion and help you to breath more easily. Eucalyptus is a tremendous oil for making massage oils, adding into the bath, popping onto your handkerchief, or adding to a diffuser. Hands down, it wins the award for the best essential oil for coughs IF YOU ARE AN ADULT.

Eucalyptus is high in a constituent called 1,8 cineole, which is a powerful microbial but can also slow respiration. Use eucalyptus with care around children. Many sources will advise against using it all on children, but, acute bronchitis is the fourth biggest killer in children. Eucalyptus is by far the most effective oil against the condition. If we are not careful, we will let book theory get in the way of practicality. Use eucalyptus on children, only as a last resort. 

If you must use it, only apply it on their backs, and in dilutions of less than 0.25%. Keep eucalyptus away from children’s faces. 

2. Tea Tree Essential Oil

Australian aborigine people have been using tea tree for coughs since before the times of the earliest settlers. The legend goes that they would throw the leaves and bark onto fires then breathe the fumes. They only learned how to boil it when Captain Cook and his men arrived with billy cans for them to make it in. 

How true the billy cans bit is, who can say, but certainly breathing the volatiles from the tea tree is a brilliant way to sort out chest infections. Like eucalyptus, it is one of the best essential oils for coughs and colds because of the 1,8 cineole. However, its levels are lower, meaning we do not need to be as careful using it on children. 

Tea tree has anti-viral, antibiotic, antiseptic, and antifungal properties. Plantation owners were made exempt from fighting in the Second World War because it was deemed so important that troops at the front line had essential oils for colds and coughs and to protect them from conditions like trench foot. 

Tea tree, like any essential oil, should not be used in the first 16 weeks of pregnancy. Otherwise, this powerhouse of the best essential oils for coughs is safe and easy to use. 

3. Frankincense Essential Oil

So, eucalyptus and tea tree are the best essential oils for coughs and chest infections, but what if your cough is from asthma? For that matter, what if you are prone to developing nervous coughs from stress? (Throat chakra issue.)

In these cases, Monarda and frankincense are the best essential oils for cough eruptions. 

Frankincense slows the breath and opens the airways. It is tremendous for calming us and allowing our words to flow more easily. That’s why it's also a great choice for people who stammer. Frankincense is also helpful for people with emphysema. In this condition, the tissues inside the lungs no longer stretch and contract with the breath. Frankincense restores elasticity to tissues. 

Coughs have a very emotional component to them. In her book “When the Body Speaks The Mind” Deb Shapiro explains that many people develop coughs when they need to get something off their chests. Frankincense makes us more tranquil. It helps us to find kind and effective ways to get our point across. Often, then, we find that the infection clears quicker and hopefully the cough disappears.

Frankincense, along with myrtle is the best essential oil for toddler coughs. Again, do not use it in the first 16 weeks of pregnancy. Otherwise, this is another of the best essential oils for cough conditions that are safe and easy to use. 

4. Myrrh Essential Oil

Essential oils for coughs and congestion then. Myrrh and hyssop are the best essential oils for cough and congestion where there is catarrh or the chest feels thick. Incidentally, if you are blocked up, here is a link to more information about the best essential oils for stuffy noses.

Myrrh is a powerful decongestant. It is the best essential oil for cough and phlegm. It will cut through snot and catarrh. To a certain extent though, if you are not careful, it will do it too well. Very quickly, your blocked nose starts running a lot. 

It’s best not to use myrrh essential for toddler coughs and colds because you get a postnasal drip. Within a few minutes, they start coughing because it's dripping down their throats.

Myrrh is also not one of the best essential oils for cough complaints if you are pregnant or breastfeeding either. Myrrh is a powerful uterine tonic, so should not be used in pregnancy or while you are breastfeeding. It also has a very bitter taste that can pass through a mother’s milk.

5. Hyssop Essential Oil

Opinions on whether hyssop is one of the best essential oils for coughs are divided. Hyssop essential oil is high in a chemical group called ketones. Ketones have many useful properties including breaking things like congestion down. However, they can also be neurotoxic. This means you should avoid hyssop essential oil if you suffer from epilepsy or have a history of schizophrenia, psychosis, or delusions. It is also not a good choice during pregnancy. Just in case, here is a link for some choices of some of the other best essential oils for congestion,

That aside, hyssop essential oil melts chest congestion and flushes it out of the system.

6. Monarda Essential Oil

An almost unheard-of essential oil, but one of the best essential oils for coughs and colds. Native to America, Monarda grows like a weed, with its pretty flowers attracting hummingbirds and bees. It is an important part of the medicines of several Native American tribes. 

The Lakota for example traditionally bathes their newborns in Monarda water to strengthen them and protect them from viruses and germs. Monarda leaves are used as part of both their Sun Dance and their sweat lodge rituals. The oil is high in thymol, a tremendously antimicrobial constituent that is very protective to the lungs. 

Research shows that both thymol and geraniol are able to repair scarred pulmonary tissues. Monarda contains both of these in high amounts. 

We love the herbalist Kiva Rose’s description that monarda makes you want to fly away on butterfly wings. It is so deliciously light and gentle and is a lullaby that sends you off to sleep. 

The usual thing, not safe for use in the first 16 weeks of pregnancy. 

7. Ravensara Essential Oil

What is the best essential oil for coughs from The Germ That Should Not be Named? You know the one. The one that got us locked in with the TV and brought us the joys that are face masks and wide hips. At the moment, there is too little data to draw from but ravensara is such a germ buster, that many aromatherapists are choosing this one with lemon eucalyptus and tea tree. 

Ravensara is not safe to use in pregnancy and is too strong for children under the age of two.

8. Sweet Basil Essential Oil

Sweet Basil comes low down on the list of best essential oils for coughs, but that doesn’t say anything about how good it is in comparison to the other oils. Basil is said to be antitussive, which means it is good for spluttery coughs. Along with niaouli, it is one of the best essential oils for dry coughs. It works particularly well with ravensara to back it up too. There is one downfall of basil, in that it is a very wakeful oil. Sweet basil is so bossy, you’ll feel like she is making you run drills all night. Choose a different oil to calm the cough at night. Monarda or ravensara would be splendid. 

Again, not suitable for use in the first 16 weeks of pregnancy.

9. Niaouli Essential Oil

A distant relative of the tea tree, again, is great for coughs, colds, and infections. 

Apart from avoiding it in the first sixteen weeks of pregnancy, it is a lovely gentle oil that can do powerful things.

10. Myrtle Essential Oil 

If you are looking for an essential oil for toddler coughs, myrtle is perfect. Again, the tree is a distant relative of tea trees, but has that same brilliant antimicrobial chemistry. It has a lovely gentle personality, like a great big hug, and yet when you look at its ritual usage throughout history, it is very much related to bravery. Heroes were given wreaths of myrtle to wear on their heads when they came back from victories. Dentists give stickers and lollipops and stickers today to congratulate you for being brave. The Greeks and Romans gave myrtle. 

It’s not quite as a decongestant as myrrh, so they won't have that horrible drip, drip, drip, down the back of their throats either.

Blend myrtle and lavender in massage oil for a lovely peaceful night. You could also put it into a diffuser too. 

As well as avoiding myrtle in the first sixteen weeks of pregnancy, if you intend to use this one for a child's cough, please read the next set of notes on how to use the best essential oils for coughs if they are little ones. 

What Essential Oil Is Good For Cough: For Babies

This is an important aspect, because if you are not careful, it becomes more about safety, than about making your baby happy. Essential oils will certainly clear their congestion, but there are other factors at play that we would like you to consider. 

Babies navigate their world by scent. Incredibly, weeks after a child is born, it can still discern its mother’s amniotic fluid, by smell, in comparison to other children’s. 

When they are small, their little eyes can’t focus well so they start to know mom, dad, and other important people in their lives by their smell. 

Then we go and shove some lavender under their nose and expect them to go to sleep. To a baby, that’s terrifying. Everything they knew about their world just disappeared. What’s more, if you keep doing it, the child may start to associate lavender with being afraid too. 

Consider if they already feel poorly and frightened, then the smell of their mom disappears too. 

That’s one reason to use essential oils for babies with care, congested or not. 

The next is that the structure of their skins is not the same as ours. It is not well enough formed to take essential oils, but we have no way of knowing how their little livers will metabolize essential oils either. 

It is not good practice to use essential oils topically (on their skins) or in the bath, certainly in the first 6 months of their lives. 

How To Use Essential Oils For Baby Cough and Congestion

10 Best Essential Oils for Coughs

The trick is to train the baby that mom smells of that

That being whatever oil you choose.

The best plan is to circulate different fragrances of lavender one day, then geranium, then myrtle, or to have a blend of them that you use. Then you should try to use them every day. Rose is a great one because it is tremendous for settling postpartum hormones and it is very restful. You can obviously combine that with decongestant and relaxing oils like frankincense oils. 

Mom puts one drop of the blend on a breast pad and wears that in her ra. The pad soaks up a little of her milk, and her breast starts to smell slightly of the oils. 

When she puts the baby to bed, she also puts the pad in the cot too. The pad smells of her breast milk and vaguely of the oils combined with her smell, and the baby is reassured that she is near. The volatiles are weak enough to start to unblock the baby's nose without upsetting it. 

Use diffusers as a very last resort. Do not use eucalyptus and do not leave them running in the bedroom while the baby is asleep, or when no one is around to keep their eye out. Do not use eucalyptus on pillows to unblock their noses. It seems like a great idea but the current data is clear. It is a dangerous thing to do when they are so young. 

Best Essential Oils for Cough: DIY Recipes

For An Adult 

Method of use: Rub onto the chest as often as required. 

Safety: Not suitable for use in the first 16 weeks of pregnancy.

For A Child

Method of use: Rub onto the chest as often as required. 

Safety: Not suitable for use on children under 6 months (This is a good combination to put on mom’s breast pad)

For Dry Cough 

Method of use: Rub onto the chest as often as required. If this recipe is for a child, reduce the Sweet basil to one drop, and use 20ml of Grapeseed carrier oil. 

Safety: Not suitable for use in the first 16 weeks of pregnancy.

For Babies (Breast Pad Blend) 


The best essential oils for cough complaints are the ones you know how to use safely, and those that you keep in the cupboard. Don’t leave it too late to stock up, because if you wait two days for them to be delivered, the germ has too much time to take hold. Decide who might need them now, and work out in advance how best to use each one for your family. 

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