Many essential oils can help you get rid of the symptoms of sinus infections and sinus congestion. Congested sinuses can cause inflammation in your forehead and under your eyes that results in a runny nose, puffy eyes, and constant sneezing. Sinus congestion can also cause headaches, sinus pressure in your head, and fatigue.
Essential oils for sinus infection contain many therapeutic compounds that help ease a stuffy nose, sinus pressure and coughing. Essentials oils like eucalyptus, tea tree oil, lavender oil, and thyme oil help to cut through mucus and congestion that builds up in your sinuses. Many of the best essential oils for sinus congestion also have powerful antimicrobial properties to kill off infections in your sinuses and help ease breathing.
The great thing about using essential oils for sinus congestion and infections is that you can use some individually or combine them. For example, both eucalyptus oils and tea tree oil are powerful antimicrobials, and the potent vapors from eucalyptus oil can thin out mucus in your sinus passages and unclog them quickly.
In this article, I am going to look at the science behind the 10 best essential oils for sinus infections. You will also find recipes on how to use essential oils for sinus congestion and to relieve the symptoms of sinusitis.
What is Sinus Infection – Acute vs. Chronic Sinusitis
Sinus infections often occur as a result of a cold or the flu but can sometimes be brought on by breathing irritants or allergens.
Dr. John Cunha on eMedicineHealth says that viral infections of the upper respiratory tract can cause inflammation in your sinuses. The inflammation in your forehead and under your eyes causes mucus to form in your sinus passages. This can cause Streptococcus or Staphylococcus strains of bacteria to build up resulting in a sinus infection.
Depending on the severity of your infection, you may develop acute sinusitis or chronic sinusitis.
Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that acute sinus infections are almost always the result of the common cold. A sinus infection is classed as acute when the nasal congestion, mucus from your nose, swelling, and pressure around your eyes and forehead last for less than 12 weeks. While the infection clears, you might find that you have a fever, your forehead feels tender, you have headaches and a cough.2
Chronic sinusitis has most of the symptoms of acute sinusitis but it lasts more than 12 weeks. Chronic sinus infections can be the results of repeated respiratory infections, nasal polyps, or a disorder of the nose.
According to doctors from the Mayo Clinic, chronic sinus infections don’t usually have signs of a fever. However, it will cause more fatigue and greatly impact your day to day activities.
Causes of Sinus Infections and Risk Factors
Although sinus infections are often a complication of the common cold, there are a number of other reasons for sinusitis.
According to Dr. Charles Patrick Davis on MedicineNet, sinus infections can be the result of any condition that interferes with mucus draining from the sinuses. If the tissue lining of the sinuses becomes inflamed or swollen, the sinuses can become constricted and an infection can develop.
Other causes of acute or chronic sinus infections include:
- Allergic reactions
- Chemical irritation of the sinus passageways
- Breathing irritants like smoke or nasal sprays
- Dry air
- Overuse of antihistamines
Symptoms of Congestion and Sinus Infections
Sinus congestion and infections can feel like there is something heavy pressing on your head. Bending over may increase the pressure and cause your headache to feel worse, and you can feel throbbing headache pain. Another common symptom of a sinus infection is nasal stuffiness that restricts your breathing and causes congestion.
Along with headaches and nasal congestions, Dr. Charles Patrick Davis says that sinusitis may cause the following signs and symptoms:
- Swelling around the forehead, cheeks, and nose
- Tenderness around your sinuses
- Yellow or green mucus draining from your nose or when you blow your nose
- Mucus that drips down your throat causing irritation and a possible sore throat
- Coughing to try and free mucus from your throat
- Itchy nose and frequent sneezing
- Fatigue due to a weakened immune system and frequent coughing
Common Treatments for Sinus Infections and to Relieve Sinus Pressure
In most cases of acute sinus infections or mild sinusitis, doctors recommend remedies to help relieve the symptoms. According to Dr. Melinda Ratini on WebMD, some effective natural remedies for sinus infections and congestion include:
- Using a humidifier to keep the air moist and prevent your nasal passages from drying out
- Inhale steam vapors to help ease congested nostrils and sinuses
- Get plenty of rest to help boost your immunity
- Irrigate your nasal passage with a salt solution (instructions how to do this are at the end of the article)
- Keep yourself well hydrated
However, if allergies are to blame for acute sinusitis or chronic sinus infections, you should try to identify the allergen and avoid it.
Dr. Ratini warns that using over-the-counter (OTC) decongestants for longer than 3 days can aggravate your sinusitis symptoms.
How to Reduce Your Risk of Sinus Infections and Congestion
As with many upper respiratory infections, it may not be possible to completely avoid catching a cold or infection.
According to doctors from the Mayo Clinic, one of the best ways of avoiding infectious sinusitis is to frequently wash your hands. This can help to prevent the spread of viruses or bacteria that can cause sneezing, coughing, runny nose, and other symptoms of sinusitis.
It’s also important to address any allergy issues that may be causing inflammation in your sinus passages. If you are prone to sinus infections, then it is even more important to avoid breathing in cigarette smoke or other pollutants.
Why Essential Oils are Effective for Sinus Congestion
Essential oils for congestion and mild sinus infections help to quickly reduce your symptoms without using medication – some of which may have unpleasant side effects. There is also scientific research to back up claims that essential oils are effective for sinus congestion.
For example, the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine reported that aromatherapy with essential oils helps with inflammatory responses in the nasal passages. It was found that certain essential oils help to relieve nasal inflammation and congestion, improve sleep quality, and reduce fatigue. The researchers concluded that inhaling essential oils can have the potential to alleviate signs of nasal inflammation.
Also, the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine reported on a number of essential oils that have scientifically proven use in treating sinusitis. Some of the essential oils for sinus infections and nasal congestion mentioned were eucalyptus oil and peppermint oil.
Top 10 Essential Oils for Sinus Infection and Sinus Congestion
Let’s look in more detail at the top 10 essential oils that can relieve symptoms of congested sinuses and help kill off infections that cause a runny nose, coughing, sneezing, and headaches.
Because of its antibacterial and antiviral activities, eucalyptus essential oil is one of the best to clear away sinus congestion quickly and naturally. The powerful vapors of eucalyptus oil cut through nasal mucus and congested airways to help you breathe easier.
The journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine reported that eucalyptus oil is powerful enough to kill off many bacterial and viral infections. Among the strains of bacteria that eucalyptus oil is effective against are Strep. pneumoniae and Strep. Pyogenes – both of which cause sinusitis.
The ability of eucalyptus oil to unblock passageways and reduce inflammation is due to a compound called cineole. The journal The Laryngoscope reported that cineole is an effective natural treatment to reduce nasal dripping and nasal congestion. It was reported that using products containing cineole can help treat sinusitis before antibiotics are needed.
You can use eucalyptus oil to relieve sinus pressure and congestion by putting a few drops on a tissue. Hold the tissue to your nose and breathe deeply to allow the vapors to cut through mucus and help open up your nasal air passages.
Tea tree oil
The anti-inflammatory effect of tea tree oil can help to reduce swelling, irritation, and mucus in your sinuses. Tea tree oil also has natural antiseptic properties that can also kill off germs that cause your sinuses to become inflamed and swollen.
The journal Clinical Microbiology Reviews reported that tea tree oil is a natural remedy for many inflammatory conditions caused by infections. Compounds in tea tree oil have been used to treat coughs and colds. The review stated that vaporized tea tree oil can kill off various Strep. strains of bacteria when inhaled.
Tea tree oil can be added to most home remedies for sinusitis to boost the antimicrobial effect of other essential oils.
Thyme oil has health-boosting properties that can assist your body to fight viral infections and reduce inflammation and swelling. Thyme oil helps to reduce mucus production because it also works as an expectorant to release congestion and sinus pressure.
Thyme contains a compound called carvacrol which has powerful abilities to reduce inflammatory responses. The Journal of Lipid Research reported that thyme oil suppresses COX-2 expressions causing it to have an anti-inflammatory effect.11 Suppressing COX-2 expressions is how many non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs work.
Lavender oil is well known for its calming effect on the mind to help reduce stress and anxiety and get a better night’s sleep. However, lavender oil also has an anti-inflammatory effect to ease congestion and get rid of sinusitis symptoms.
The European Journal of Dentistry reported on the medicinal properties of lavender oil when treating respiratory infections. Studies have shown that lavender oil can help suppress flu and cold-like symptoms. Lavender oil can reduce inflammation and effectively treat sinusitis and throat infections.
According to other scientific studies, lavender oil also helps to reduce pain which means it can help clear sinus-related headaches.
Putting a few drops of lavender oil in your humidifier can help you sleep well at night if sinus congestion is making it difficult to sleep.
Another essential oil with anti-inflammatory activity to reduce nasal irritation, congestion, and mucus buildup is clove oil.
A study published in the journal Pharmaceutical Biology in 2017 reported that clove oil contains a number of therapeutic properties which could benefit sinusitis symptoms. Among these are antiviral, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial activity. The study concluded that clove oil can help to reduce skin and tissue inflammation.
Adding a few drops of clove oil to your sinus congestion essential oil recipe can help to speed up recovery time and ease coughing, headaches, and a runny nose.
Lemon oil has a light pleasant aroma and can help you feel better quickly if your body is fighting a sinus infection. Using lemon oil for sinusitis and congestion helps to decrease swelling, allergic symptoms, mucus buildup, and postnasal drip.
According to research published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary Alternative Medicine, essential oils from citrus fruits help to support the respiratory system. Lemon oil helped to eliminate signs of tissue inflammation including swelling, redness, and pain.
Putting a few drops of lemon oil in your diffuser or humidifier is a great way to freshen up the room and help get rid of airborne germs.
Rosemary helps to reduce symptoms like coughing fits, sneezing, and a dripping nose because of its relaxing effect. As with many essential oils, rosemary oil has antimicrobial properties that can effectively reduce the time that you are ill with sinusitis.
The Journal of Ethnopharmacology reported that rosemary essential oil can be useful in treating symptoms of allergic reactions. For example, inhaling rosemary has an antihistamine effect and can help relax muscles in the respiratory system.
Pine oil is a natural antiseptic remedy to kill off bugs and germs that cause sinus and other respiratory infections. Inhaling pine oil in a sinus congestion recipe can help to break up mucus and quickly unclog any blocked nasal passages.
According to research published in the journal European Archives of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology, pine oil can help clear out your sinuses quickly. For example, studies have shown that pine oil has secretolytic effects. This means that it increases serous mucus in the respiratory tract which causes mucus to become thinner and easier to expel.
However, the study warns that pine oil should not be used on infants because it can cause spasms of the bronchial muscles.
Using peppermint oil for sinusitis and sinus congestion can help make you feel better quicker. Peppermint oil has a cooling effect that can give you some relief from inflammation around and in your nasal passages.
However, some studies point to the fact that peppermint oil actually doesn’t help to treat sinusitis. For example, the American Journal of Rhinology reported that inhaling peppermint oil (menthol) doesn’t affect nasal airflow and ease congestion. It seems that a person feels relief in their sinuses only because of peppermint oil’s cooling effect.
Also, the journal Clinical Otolaryngology and Allied Sciences reported that peppermint only gives a feeling of increased nasal flow.
However other studies showed that an essential oil blend containing peppermint oil can help to alleviate the symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections due to its antiviral and antibacterial properties. So, you are best to use peppermint oil in conjunction with other essential oils for congestion. Essential oils like eucalyptus, tea tree oil, and clove oil can help to break up mucus and reduce inflammatory responses. Peppermint oil can help to increase the feeling of having less congestion in the nostrils and sinuses.
Oregano oil can help reduce the symptoms of sinus infections because it contains many antibacterial and antiviral compounds.
The Journal of Applied Microbiology reported that oregano oil contains the compound carvacrol. This was shown to kill off various viral infections and can help to reduce outbreaks of viral infections. Other studies have pointed to the antibacterial effect of carvacrol in oregano oil.
How to Use Essential Oils for Sinus Congestion
Let’s look at some great and easy ways to get rid of a sinus infection naturally. These recipes for sinusitis will help to destroy germs in your sinuses and also thin mucus to help get rid of it to ease congestion.
Neti pot / sinus irrigation
Using a Neti pot for nasal irrigation is a tried and tested method to treat a sinus infection without the need for antibiotics. Usually, nasal irrigation is carried out using a salt water solution. Some people add 1 drop of essential oil to the remedy to help unblock congested sinuses, but please remember that essential oils can irritate the delicate tissue in your nasal passages. Also, not all essential oils are recommended for internal use, so you should use them with caution.
The Canadian Medical Association Journal reported that nasal irrigation can help to prevent chronic sinus ailments. Researchers reported that rinsing your sinuses with salt water helps to treat symptoms of sinus infection. They say that nasal irrigation can be an alternative to antibiotics in getting rid of infections in the sinuses.
To use a Neti pot for clearing sinuses, this is what you should do:
- Warm 2 cups of previously boiled water and add ½ to 1 teaspoon of sea salt. Mix well so it dissolves (never use tap water).
- Pour the solution into the Neti pot.
- Put your head to one side and lower your head.
- Pour the saline solution into your top nostril and let it flow out the other one.
- Repeat on the other side.
- For best results, use a few times throughout the day and continue using to unblock your sinus congestion and get rid of any sinus infections.
Many people use steam inhalation to ease congestion and release mucus that is clogging sinuses. A study from 2016 mentioned in the Canadian Medical Association Journal on the effectiveness of nasal irrigation found that steam inhalation isn’t as effective in treating sinus symptoms, but it helped to reduce the severity of headaches20. However, adding some of the essential oils mentioned in this article may help to have a better effect.
To use steam inhalation for sinus relief and get rid of congestion, this is what you can do:
- Fill a bowl with hot water and add 5 drops of eucalyptus oil, 5 drops of tea tree oil, and 5 drops of any other essential oil from the top 10 list.
- Put your head over the bowl, cover it with a towel and breathe deeply.
- Continue breathing deeply for 10 – 15 minutes to help relieve sinus congestion.
Another way of using essential oils for easing sinus pain and congestion is to add some drops to your bath. All you have to do is to mix 10-12 drops of essential oil per 1 oz (30 ml) of carrier oil (such as coconut oil, olive oil, or sweet almond) and add into your bathwater. Sit in the bath for 30 minutes while inhaling the steam constantly. You can also add 1 cup of Epsom salt to enhance the effect of relieving body aches and sore muscles.
How to Use Essential Oils to Ease Congestion
Essential oils for sinus congestion can help to break up mucus that is constricting your airways and making it hard to breathe. The powerful aromas of many essential oils along with the antibacterial properties can help you find relief from sinus infections and congestion.
Here is the essential oil recipe to relieve a dripping nose, sinus pressure, and congestion that accompanies sinusitis:
- Mix 5 drops eucalyptus oil, 3 drops peppermint oil, 2 drops lavender oil, and 5 drops thyme oil with 1-oz. sweet almond oil (you can also use olive oil, jojoba oil, or coconut oil).
- Massage the oil into your chest and on your temples until it is absorbed.
- Cover your chest with a blanket, lie back, and relax to let the essential oils relieve discomfort and congestion
How to Use Essential Oils to Get Rid of Mucus
Excess mucus in your sinuses forms as the result of inflammation and irritation in your upper airways. Inhaling essential oils can help to reduce signs of inflammation and ease nose dripping, sneezing, coughing, and phlegm.
To use essential oils in a diffuser to get rid of mucus and sinus congestion, this is what you should do:
- Put 5 drops of eucalyptus oil, 5 drops peppermint oil, and 5 drops pine oil in your diffuser.
- Inhale deeply to allow the expectorant properties of the essential oils thin mucus so it is easier to expel.
- Repeat 2 or 3 times a day for instant relief from congested sinuses and help free constricted airways.
How to use Essential Oils to Get Rid of Sinus Headache
Dilute 10 to 12 drops of essential oil or oils from the list above into 1 oz. carrier oil of your choice. Gently massage a few drops onto your forehead, temples, and the back of your neck. Avoid the area around your eyes.
It is good to remember that essential oils are too concentrated and powerful to put directly on your skin. Therefore, you should always dilute them in a carrier oil like grapeseed oil, olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil or sweet almond oil.
When to See a Doctor for Sinus Congestion
Treating sinusitis and nasal congestion with essential oils and nasal rinses can help to reduce the discomfort and speed up recovery. However, sometimes, professional medical help is needed if your sinus infection and congestion become chronic. A doctor may test for allergies or see if there are any obstructions in your sinuses that are causing irritation and inflammation.
According to doctors from the Mayo Clinic, you should visit your doctor for sinus-related conditions in the following circumstances:
- Your symptoms of sinusitis last more than 7 days and get worse.
- You have frequent cases of sinus infections and treatment doesn’t help.
- You have a high fever.
- Blocked sinuses are accompanied by redness around your eyes and/or severe headaches.
- You have confusion or vision changes.
- Your neck is stiff.