best essential oils for breathing

It’s been half a decade since the hippies began to teach us the importance of breathwork. But it wasn’t until The Germ That Shall Not Be Named overtook the planet, that many of us even considered what it would be like if we couldn’t breathe properly. But of course, this is an everyday concern for those with bronchitis, COPD, asthma, and emphysema. It’s one of the few things that mainstream doctors will prescribe essential oils for. Today’s post explores the best essential oils for breathing in two parts, first from the viewpoint of a passing infection, and then please scroll further down if you are looking for essential oils for shortness of breath because you have COPD.

7 Best Essential Oils For Breathing Difficulties

Frankincense Essential Oil

Without a doubt, frankincense is the top of the best essential oils for breathing, for many different reasons. Most importantly, it slows the breath, so if you have been coughing or struggling to catch your breath, this is wonderful. When we slow our breath, our thoughts slow down and our mood alters. As they change, our brainwaves change too, bringing us into a different state of consciousness. 

Frankincense is often used in churches and religious sanctuaries because this relaxed, slowed breath makes us feel so peaceful, we feel closer to the divine.

It also restores elasticity to the tissues. In conditions like emphysema, where the breath alveoli is so damaged, this may be of help. This is by far the best of the essential oils for breathing difficulties and for shortness of breath. 

Frankincense is such a comforting oil, and unlike some of the others we recommend as the best essential oils for breathing, frankincense is safe to use on children. 

We are big advocates for a drop of frankincense on top of Teddy’s head. Kids adore how calm they feel when their favorite cuddly toy smells of this oil. That it helps unblock their noses and eases labored breathing is just frosting on an already lovely sweet treat!

As ever, please avoid using frankincense essential oil during the first 16 weeks of pregnancy. 

Eucalyptus Essential Oil

Eucalyptus would probably be at the top of the best essential oils for breathing if you could also use it on kids. However, it is rich in 1,8 cineole, a molecule that slows respiration, making safety uncertain for small children. That said, acute bronchitis is the fourth biggest child killer, and there is no better essential oil for bronchitis. So, if you do feel you want to use this one on children under 2, please only use it to a dilution of 0.25% (That’s roughly one drop in four teaspoons of carrier oil) and only apply it to their backs. If you are using eucalyptus essential oil for breathing, please keep it away from children’s faces, and certainly do not put it on their pillows as they sleep.

With that out of the way, eucalyptus is absolutely the best of the best essential oils for breathing, if you are a grown-up. Its penetrating scent busts congestion. It is one of the best essential oils for stuffy noses, or for chest infections. If you have either of these, this is the way to go. 

Ravensara Essential Oil

Again, not a huge amount to say about Ravensara except that it is one of the best essential oils for breathing difficulties because of its powerful antibiotic and antimicrobial properties. Again, it’s another of the best essential oils for congestion but is too strong to be used during pregnancy or on children.

Monarda Essential Oil

Ah, now, we are into the beautiful oils. No more of those clinical, medicinal scents here. Monarda is sometimes called bee balm or bee bergamot and indeed smells exactly like lovely bergamot oil. Light and uplifting, monarda packs a powerful antibacterial pouch, and yet it is so gentle, the herbalist Kiva Rose describes it as floating off on butterfly wings. 

Traditional medicine of the Lakota Native American Indians, monarda is not only used against coughs and colds. The medicine women bathe newborns with the leaves and flowers to strengthen them against germs and infection and to give them resilience in life. Monarda also plays a vital part in their sundance and sweat lodge rituals. 

We’ll come back to monarda in the COPD  section because it is one of the best essential oils for breathing rehabilitation. 

Pine Essential Oil

The problem with these kinds of oils is that there is very little to say about them! It’s very easy to imagine how pine essential oil might make you want to take deeper breaths when you think of how liberated we feel when we walk in the forest! That’s exactly the same thing because you are breathing the magic of the tree as you walk. The conifers are the most ancient of all the planet’s plants. Their evolution stretches back around 40 million years. And there is something very ancient about their energy. They are the century keepers. The watchers. The caretakers. If your infection is making you feel anxious or vulnerable, then conifer oils can be marvelous. 

Their powerful antibacterial constituents are wonderful for clearing the nose, opening the airways, and supporting the response of the immune system, but it goes deeper than that. They feel hopeful, invigorated, and strong, providing you with exactly the mindset to heal. 

As ever, please avoid usage in the first 16 weeks of pregnancy.

Fir Essential Oil

I can’t say much more than I said about pine really. Equally as wonderful. Certainly another of the best essential oils for breathing, just a different forest! 

Again, not suitable for those first 16 weeks of pregnancy.

Peppermint Essential Oil

Powerfully antimicrobial, fiercely penetrating, and very bossy, peppermint, like eucalyptus is another one of those best essential oils for breathing, that should be used with care on children. In eucalyptus, we worry about 1,8 cineole, here we are concerned with menthol, for the same reasons. It slows respiration. Actually, we wouldn’t recommend using peppermint essential oil on children at all. The last need a toddler needs is any more motivation to get into trouble and it is so stimulating you’ll probably stop them sleeping. 

However, grown-ups? Peppermint is fabulous. Its penetrating action cuts through catarrh supports the immune system in its fight against the pathogen. It brightens your mood, sharpens your thoughts, and prevents you from falling asleep during long, arduous meetings. 

Remember though, it will keep you awake at night. Same old, same old on the safety. This is another one that is fine as long as you avoid it during those first 16 precious weeks of pregnancy.

Essential Oils For Breathing Difficulties from COPD

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is the umbrella term for Chronic Bronchitis, Emphysema, and Chronic Obstructive Airways Disease. All of these should find some relief from some of the essential oils for breathing difficulties. 

To clarify an earlier point, when I said that eucalyptus is the best essential oil for acute bronchitis, the same would apply to chronic bronchitis too. 

Around 12 million people suffer from chronic bronchitis - an inflammation of the lungs that has lasted for more than six months. 


Its causes are diverse. It may derive from an underlying infection., About 10% of acute bronchitis attacks can be attributed to bacterial infections from Mycoplasma Pneumoniae, Chlamydophila Pneumoniae, Bordetella Pertussis, Streptococcus Pneumoniae, and Haemophilus Influenzae. Hopefully, the list above will have given you some ideas of oils you could try to support your immune system in overcoming these. 

Some common ideas would be Tea Tree, Eucalyptus, in particular Eucalyptus Globulus, Lemon Eucalyptus or Eucalyptus Radiata, Ravensara, Ravintsara, Myrtle, and Elemi essential oils.

For a mega boost, you could try adding a solitaire drop of Clove or Cinnamon Essential Oil to your blend. Be very careful of dilutions though. Clove is high in potent euganol, and cinnamon is armed with cinnamaldehyde. Both are powerful biological weapons against infection but equally, they are irritant to both the mucus membranes and the skin. You don’t need any more than 1 drop of either to a teaspoon of carrier oil.

Best Essential Oils for Breathing Difficulties

10 best essential oils for breathing

Often, COPD can be characterized by this incessant coughing and hacking, which can be incredibly painful too. Sweet Basil and myrtle would be the best essential oils for shortness of breath because you have been coughing. As described at the beginning of the article, we cannot stress enough, frankincense is top of the best essential oils for breathing because it slows the breath and just calms you down. You’d be amazed at how helpful that is for breathing difficulties.

It may be worth describing how breathing difficulties can be related to stress. Indeed there are many studies that show how stress can make it harder for us to breathe. That’s easy to imagine when we consider how our breathing might change when we are frightened. 

Asthma and COPD can often deteriorate when we are upset. Again we can see how frankincense might be helpful here. Indeed, although Vetiver Essential Oil doesn’t necessarily have respiratory effects, it can be one of the best essential oils for breathing better, if you feel anxious.

It can be extremely efficacious to gasp the fumes from a frankincense bottle if you can get enough breath control. The molecules then have a fast entry into the lungs and can affect the respiratory system all the way down.

Lung Repair

One of the key problems with chronic bronchitis is it is hard to heal a lung. Indeed, acute tissue injury is one of the leading causes in death. Researchers in China are studying the effects of plant extracts on lung tissue. Thymol and geraniol have both been identified as protecting the lungs [in rodent models]. Thymol is found in Thyme Essential Oil of course, but also in large amounts in Monarda Essential Oil that is also rich in geraniol too. As one would imagine, Geranium Essential Oil can be helpful here too.

Essential Oil Recipe For Breathing Problems from COPD

    Method of Use: Massage onto the best (and upper back if possible) five times daily for the first week to build up a good quantity of oils. Then use morning and evening or as and when required. 

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

    Breath Easy Essential Oil Recipe For Diffuser

      Safety: Not designed for topical use. If there are small children in the room, consider replacing the eucalyptus with myrtle essential oil. Diffuse for two hours max, before turning off for half an hour to give your olfactory system a bit of a break.


      It’s worth marking the best essential oils for breathing to denote which ones are safe for children. It’s not necessarily something you think of when you have poorly and screaming kids! However, equipping yourself with the right tools for healing the respiratory system can be a life-changing experience if you have been struggling to breathe for a while.

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