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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) refers to a group of lung conditions that make breathing difficult. It’s estimated that more than 11 million Americans have COPD. There’s no cure for the condition, but treatments can help ease symptoms, prevent complications, and slow disease progression.

Symptoms of COPD include shortness of breath, needing to clear your throat often, and a recurring cough. People with COPD often have emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

COPD can result from long-term exposure to pollutants or toxins, including the toxins found in cigarette smoke. Genetics may also play a role in developing COPD.

Primary treatments for COPD include:

Home remedies and holistic treatments may also work to relieve your symptoms. Some research confirms the belief that essential oils can treat COPD effectively when paired with conventional medical treatment.

Keep reading to find out what we know about treating COPD with essential oils.

Research suggests essential oils may be effective in treating upper respiratory infections.

Upper respiratory infections include the common cold, sinusitis, and pharyngitis. These are acute conditions, meaning they last for only a short period, typically a few weeks.

By contrast, COPD is a chronic, lifelong condition. However, both conditions involve inflammation of your bronchiole tubes.

It stands to reason that treatment by inhalation of essential oils could help some people to relieve their COPD symptoms.

Eucalyptus oil

Eucalyptus oil has been used widely for centuries as a home remedy for respiratory conditions.

Eucalyptus oil contains an ingredient called cineole. A 2013 study found that cineole had antimicrobial effects on some bacteria that cause respiratory illnesses.

Eucalyptus oil is also an anti-inflammatory and stimulates your immune system. That means that using eucalyptus oil can destroy harmful bacteria that’s aggravating your COPD symptoms. It may also soothe your throat and chest, and speed up healing.

Recent research suggests eucalyptus oil may be a beneficial long-term therapy for asthma control and COPD.

In another study of more than 200 people with acute bronchitis, people treated with oral doses of cineole had significantly improved symptoms after four days.

While this isn’t necessarily evidence that you should ingest eucalyptus oil, it speaks to how powerful the active ingredient cineole can be in the treatment of COPD.

Lavender oil

Lavender oil is known for its soothing scent and antibacterial properties.

One study on mice found that lavender oil might suppress inflammation of mucous in the respiratory system, as well as help with bronchial asthma. This suggests that lavender oil might be a good treatment for COPD.

More research is needed on the effects of lavender oil in humans.

Sweet orange oil

Orange oil has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. In a study that compared a proprietary oil blend with eucalyptus oil and orange oil, orange oil demonstrated clear abilities to help with COPD.

Orange oil also releases a lovely scent that that has been shown to calm anxiety.

Bergamot oil

Bergamot is another member of the citrus family. It’s popular for the way it smells, as well as its ability to soothe the nervous system.

Bergamot may work well to soothe pain and soreness caused by the coughing symptoms during a COPD flare-up.

Frankincense and myrrh

These two popular, ancient essential oils have a long history as remedies for respiratory conditions. Research has demonstrated their anti-inflammatory effects, and they have many other properties that may boost your health and help you feel better.

But what we know about how frankincense and myrrh help specifically with symptoms of COPD is mostly anecdotal. When there are other essential oils that have been proven to work for COPD, these two might rank lower on your list in terms of proven remedies.

Essential oils are a natural home remedy, but that doesn’t mean that they’re safe for everyone.

Some oils can counteract the effectiveness of other medications. Oils like cinnamon, clove, and lemongrass can actually irritate your mucus membrane and might make your symptoms feel worse.

Oils should only be diffused in well-ventilated places, and diffusing treatments shouldn’t exceed more than 60 minutes at a time.

Consider anyone close by who might also be breathing the aromatherapy, including children, pregnant women, and pets. Some essential oils are toxic to pets and not recommended for pregnant women.

To use essential oils for COPD, you can use a diffuser to release the essential oil into the air. You can combine multiple essential oils recommended for COPD treatment, such as citrus oil and eucalyptus oil, to maximize the benefits of the treatment.

Mixing a few oils meant for diffusing can also have a soothing effect on your nerves, as the scent of the oils fill your space, which can boost your mood.

Some people with COPD experience depression as a result of their diagnosis. Diffusing essential oils regularly in your bedroom or living room may be beneficial for your mood.

If you prefer to apply essential oils topically as a form of COPD treatment, dilute the oils mentioned above with a carrier oil, such as coconut oil or jojoba oil. A good rule of thumb is to mix 6 drops of your essential oil per ounce of carrier oil.

Gently massage the diluted oils across the glands in your neck, at the pressure points of your temples, and around your chest area. Topical treatment is helpful to loosen congestion, soothe muscles that may ache from coughing, and make breathing easier.

There are plenty of other herbal treatments and nutritional supplements that you might consider using for COPD. Speak to a doctor first, as some herbal supplements can counteract the effectiveness of traditional COPD medications.

Also remember that herbal supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA, which means their potency and safe dosage recommendations can vary. Only purchase herbal supplements from suppliers you trust.

If you’d like to try herbal treatments and nutritional supplements for COPD, consider:

Changing your diet to include more of the antioxidant vitamins, such as vitamins E and C, may also improve your lung function.

People who have COPD are at a higher risk for other conditions that affect your lungs, such as the flu and pneumonia. Even the common cold can put you at risk for further damaging your lung tissue.

Don’t try to use essential oils to self-treat a COPD flare-up that prevents you from breathing or results in shortness of breath. If you notice the following symptoms, you should seek out a medical professional within 24 hours:

  • presence of blood in your mucus
  • green or brown mucus
  • excessive coughing or wheezing
  • new symptoms like extreme fatigue or difficulty breathing
  • unexplained, sudden weight gain or weight loss (more than 5 pounds in the span of a week)
  • forgetfulness
  • dizziness
  • waking up short of breath
  • swelling in your ankles or wrists

There’s no cure for COPD, but conventional treatment can be complemented by treatment with essential oils to manage its symptoms.

Research indicates that for many people with COPD, some essential oils can soothe symptoms, promote healing, and strengthen your immune system to help prevent flare-ups. You can shop for essential oils at your local pharmacy or online.

Keep in mind that COPD is a serious condition, and it’s important to follow your prescribed treatment plan. Speak with a doctor about ways that alternative therapies might work alongside your COPD medications.