Essential Oils for Better Breathing

by Sandra Ramani

In her book, Essential Oils Every Day (HarperCollins), Hope Gillerman, founder of, details how essential oils can help with an array of issues—including breathing.

“Breathing passages, like sinuses, trachea and lungs, have to be clear for efficient breathing,” she explains, “and some essential oils can help relax the deeper breathing muscles enough to release them from their locked state.”

We asked Gillerman to pick four oils that can most help with breathing. To properly employ her choices below, place a few drops in a tissue or the palm of your hand, then cup over your face. Exhale first, then slowly inhale the vapors without tensing and making a sniffing sound, about five to 10 times. This exercise helps “when you are trying to get more air because the essential oils, the relaxation and the exhale all work for you, instead of you having try to take a big breath in, which can strain neck and shoulders.” Or, apply directly to your body in key spots close to your nose, such as along the collarbone, under the ears, on the temples or along the throat and jaw line.


Best for: Breathing constricted by fatigue and nasal congestion. With its antiviral, antibacterial, decongesting and anti-inflammatory properties, this is also a staple for cold and flu season.

Pine, Spruce or Fir

Best for: Breathing constricted by fatigue and chest congestion. These grounding oils are often found in chest rubs for coughs, asthma and allergies, and help revive you when you’re burned out.


Best for: Sharpening the focus while relaxing neck and shoulder muscles. This is the antidote to long hours at the computer or to standing all day, and can help energize while combating anxiety.


Best for: Calming the psyche and easing stress. When inhaled, sandalwood eases into the lungs to deepen and relax your breath. Historically, it was applied to the chest and used in meditation practices.

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