Essential Oils for Sinus Infection: Do They Work
Published Sept 20, 2021
A runny nose, headache, facial pain, sore throat, and mucus dripping down your throat can only mean one thing: sinus infection. And like many people suffering from sinusitis, you’re probably looking at essential oils as a potential cure for your sinus infection.
But before you order a whole box of essential oils from Amazon, let’s step back and analyze the facts.
What You Need to Know About Sinus Infection
According to the CDC, about 28.9 million adults in the US have been diagnosed with sinus infections. This translates to about 11.6% of American adults making it one of the most common medical conditions in the country.
Sinus infections or sinusitis usually happens when mucus gets trapped in the hollow cavities in our nasal area. These cavities are what we call our “sinus cavities.” When the trapped mucus builds up, they prevent the air from flowing freely between the cavities.
The mucus buildup also serves as an ideal breeding ground for viruses and bacteria. This causes the sinuses to get inflamed, thus blocking the airflow.
Allergens like dust, pollens, pet hair, and even low temperatures can also cause swelling in the sinus area. It also causes increase mucus secretion leading to buildup. This is why sinus attacks usually happen during winter or when you’re exposed to dust and other allergens.
Other risk factors that can increase your chances of having sinus infections are:
- smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke
- seasonal allergies
- a previous cold
- a weak immune system
- taking drugs that suppress natural immune responses
- medical conditions that affect the structure of the sinus (nasal polyps, deviated septum, etc.)
Sinus infections can either be acute or chronic. While the former can easily be treated, the latter may necessitate surgery.
Do Essential Oils Really Work Against Sinus Infections?
Since ancient times, people have been using natural plant oils to treat a lot of diseases. From skin rashes to stomach problems, there’s an essential oil for that.
But do they work against sinus infections too?
For now, the research on the effectiveness of essential oils for sinus infections is quite limited. But a review published in 2015 demonstrated the antimicrobial activity of certain essential oils. It also explained how essential oils work against bacteria that are causing respiratory tract infections.
This means that if your sinus infection is caused by viruses and bacteria, essential oils may help.
Another clinical review also suggests that aromatherapy may be effective in treating certain medical conditions including sinusitis.
However, more studies are needed to come up with more conclusive proof.
How Essential Oils Can Help With Sinus Problems
As mentioned, there is yet to be any conclusive proof of the effectiveness of essential oils for sinus infections. But several studies have demonstrated the benefits of essential oils for people suffering from sinusitis.
For instance, a 2013 study concluded that aromatherapy is effective in reducing anxiety and improving a person’s sleep quality. While a review and meta-analysis of 12 studies reported that aromatherapy can help treat pain when combined with conventional treatments.
This means that even though essential oils may not treat sinus infections directly, they can help reduce the severity of symptoms.
Since stress and anxiety often exacerbate sinusitis symptoms, a good night’s sleep can help you recover faster. Plus, their pain-reducing properties can ease sinus headaches and facial pains associated with the infection.
The Best Essential Oils for Sinus Infections
1. Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oils are typically used to treat scars, acne, and other inflammation problems. But studies suggest that their antibacterial properties can also help with sinus issues.
This essential oil comes from Melaleuca alternifolia or the tea tree. Aside from its antiseptic, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties, it’s also a known immune booster. These make the tea tree oil ideal for treating respiratory tract infections like sinusitis and allergic rhinitis.
What makes the tea tree oil deserving to be on the top of our list is that it is easily accessible. You can get it anywhere, whether from an online shop or your local drugstore.
2. Eucalyptus Oil
As the name suggests, eucalyptus oil is derived from the eucalyptus plant. This oil is traditionally used as a cough remedy. But many people don’t know that it can also help with other respiratory conditions like asthma, bronchitis, and sinusitis.
Studies suggest that the cineole in eucalyptus oil can help relieve symptoms of sinus congestion. Cineole is a natural compound that can help ease congestion by clearing the air of bacteria and other microbes. It also suppresses cough and reduces pain and inflammation.
3. Peppermint Oil
Peppermint oils contain menthol, a compound known for its cooling effect and is often used in vapor rubs, nasal sprays, inhalers, and cough syrups.
According to studies, menthol in specific concentrations can stimulate our body’s menthol receptors (yes, we really have that). This creates a sensation of the nasal passages opening which helps you breath better.
Another study also found that peppermint oils have strong antibacterial and antioxidant properties. A study in China also suggests that this oil is highly anti-inflammatory which may help reduce inflammation in the nasal passages.
4. Oregano Oil
Oregano oils contain carvacrol and thymol, two compounds known for their potent antibacterial and antifungal properties. When inhaled, these substances can inhibit the growth of bacteria in your nasal passages thus providing sinus relief.
One randomized clinical trial in Iran also found that oregano oils and extracts can help relieve symptoms of chronic rhinosinusitis.
5. Rosemary Oil
Rosemary oils and extracts have been traditionally used to treat coughs and colds. But a 2016 review also described it as a rich source of phenolic phytochemicals which are highly antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.
Like eucalyptus, rosemary oil is also rich in cineole, a compound known for mucolytic, bronchodilating, and anti-inflammatory properties. Studies also show that rosemary essential oil has excellent free radical scavenging properties that can help combat oxidative stress. According to a 2012 research, oxidative stress is one of the main factors causing chronic sinusitis.
6. Clove Oil
Clove oils are widely known for their soothing aroma which is good for relieving blocked sinuses. But what many didn’t know is that clove oils also have excellent antibacterial, antifungal, and antioxidant properties. This makes them ideal for relieving sinus infections.
Though several studies posit the benefits of essential oils for people suffering from sinus infections, there are risks associated with aromatherapy. So if you’re planning to use essential oils, there are things you should be careful about.
For one, you should avoid applying oils directly onto your skin. Using undiluted essential oils may cause irritation and a burning sensation on people with sensitive skin. Its strong aroma can also irritate the nose. Though uncommon, some people have also reported developing rashes and allergic reactions to essential oils. If you want to apply essential oils topically, make sure to dilute it with carrier oils and do a patch test first to avoid an all-out allergic reaction.
Also, if it isn’t yet obvious, essential oils (unless they’re food-grade) are not made for consumption. Ingesting even just a small amount may cause significant poisoning. If you have children at home, make sure to store your oils in a place out of their reach. In case of accidental ingestion, immediately gargle with water and go to the nearest hospital.
How to Use Essential Oils for Sinus Relief
Now that you know it isn’t safe to apply essential oils directly to your nose, you’re probably wondering how to use them to relieve your sinus issues. Here are some ways to decongest your sinus using essential oils:
Place the oil bottle near your nose or under your nose and take a sniff. Sniffing the bottled oil will allow the aroma of the oil to travel through your sinuses, therefore relieving the blockage.
This is one of the most popular methods of using essential oils for nasal decongestion. In a small basin, pour out hot water (make sure it’s hot enough to produce steam) then add a few drops of essential oils. You can combine different essential oils depending on your preference. Then put your nose close to the basin and inhale the steam coming out of it. You can also put a towel over your head to confine the steam near your nose.
Using an oil diffuser
Another option is to dilute oils and add them to essential oil diffusers. Adding oils to diffusers disperses micro oil droplets into the air. So if you’re using an oil diffuser, make sure to use it indoors or in an enclosed space to maximize its benefits.
Other Home Remedies to Treat Sinus Infections
If essential oils don’t work, there are other ways to treat and prevent sinus infections at home such as:
Have you noticed that when you have a cold, taking a hot shower helps you breathe better? The same is also true when you have a sinus attack. The moist heat from the shower helps loosen the mucus that’s blocking your sinus cavities and helps relieve sinus pressure. All these help open up the blocked passages in your nose.
If taking a hot shower isn’t possible at the moment, a warm compress will do too. Just like hot showers, the moist heat from the compress helps ease the swelling in your sinus area, thus opening up your sinus passages and relieving sinus pressure.
Saline Nasal Sprays
When you search for sinusitis home remedies, saline nasal sprays never fail to show up. It’s one of the go-to remedies for people wanting quick relief from sinusitis symptoms. The salt in saline nasal sprays helps restore moisture to your sinus cavities. This, in turn, prevents or helps relieve inflammation which, as you know, causes sinus infection.
Most pharmacies sell over-the-counter saline nasal sprays or make one at home. You can also use a neti pot or a squirt bottle to do regular saline irrigation.
This is one of the lesser-known natural remedies for sinus infections. Also dubbed as the “good bacteria”, probiotics are living microorganisms that help your body fight disease-causing bacteria. Though they’re usually associated with gut health, there are probiotic strains that are beneficial for people suffering from sinus issues. You can get probiotics from food but if you want to maximize their benefits, you can try taking a probiotic supplement that is specially formulated for respiratory infections.
When to Seek Medical Care
Essential oils can only do so much when it comes to providing sinus relief. If you have severe sinus infections or chronic sinusitis, essential oils and other home remedies may not be of much help. In which case, you should seek medical help. When it comes to treating and managing chronic sinus issues, talking to your doctor is still the best solution.
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About The Author
Judy Ponio is a professional writer and SEO specialist. She works hard to ensure her work uses accurate facts by cross checking reputable sources. She is the lead author for several prominent websites covering a variety of topics including law, health, nutrition, and more.