Can Essential Oils be Used for Treating Asthma?
Asthma is a long-term lung disease. The airways in the lungs become inflamed and swollen, causing the airways to tighten. This makes it difficult for air to pass through and for the person to breath.
According to The American Lung Association, nearly 26 million Americans have asthma, including more than 7 million children. It is the third leading cause of hospitalization among children.
There is no cure for asthma at present, but there are many treatment plans that can help people lead normal lives. Although there is a variety of asthma medicines on the market, some people prefer more natural treatment options.
Many people looking for a natural and more cost-effective treatment option have turned to essential oils. This article will look at the use of essential oils to treat asthma, along with other treatments for the condition.
What is asthma?
Asthma makes breathing difficult, which can lead to symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. This sequence of events is referred to as an asthma flare-up or an asthma attack.
It is not known what causes asthma, but some people are more at risk of developing the disease than others. It is not uncommon for asthma to run in families and for environmental factors to play a role.
Exposure to dust, chemicals, or irritants in the workplace can increase the risk for asthma. Damage from respiratory infections during infancy or early childhood as well as bad allergies can lead to asthma.
An asthma attack can happen at any time and anywhere. There are certain situations where people are more likely to have an asthma attack, however. These cause the following types of asthma:
- Exercise-induced asthma
- Occupational asthma
- Allergy-induced asthma
Exposure to any type of irritant can cause allergies to flare up or simply irritate the respiratory system, triggering an asthma attack.
Natural essential oils for asthma
The therapeutic capabilities of essential oils are nothing new and may be helpful for some people with asthma. The following oils have some evidence to suggest a health benefit for people with asthma:
- Peppermint: One of the common causes of asthma attacks is exposure to allergens that trigger the release of a compound called histamine. Peppermint can help to stop the release of histamine in the body. A substance called methanol is present in peppermint and can relieve stuffy or blocked noses, which can help people with asthma to breathe better.
- Lavender: This essential oil is used for a variety of things. It has natural sedative and anti-inflammatory characteristics that may help people with asthma fight inflammation.
- Eucalyptus: Research suggests that eucalyptus oil may have anti-inflammatory properties.
- Tea tree oil: This essential oil helps by reducing inflammation. In doing so, tea tree oil can help reduce the body’s allergic response.
- Roman chamomile: Another essential oil with anti-inflammatory properties. It can also help part of the lungs called the bronchus to relax as well as relieve coughing.
Using essential oils
There are three common ways that people with asthma can use essential oils.
- Aromatically: Some essential oils such as lavender and eucalyptus can bring relief through inhalation. Diffusing essential oils into the air could also help to purify the air and get rid of potential allergens.
- Topically: Essential oils can be absorbed through the skin. People should be sure to research the oils properly as some must be mixed together to avoid skin irritation.
- Internally: Some essential oils are available as supplements and can be taken internally. Not only are essential oils a natural way for people to treat asthma symptoms but they can also help patients avoid side effects from allergy shots or other medications.
Risks and considerations
People should always be careful when using essential oils. They may not be a good fit for every person with asthma. Some oils can give off a strong odor that can trigger asthma symptoms and attacks.
Essential oils can cause an asthma attack in people who are easily triggered by strong smells or chemicals.
Essential oils are not recommended for people with asthma who are very sensitive to smells and whose symptoms are easily triggered by them.
People should make sure that the fragrance does not cause a problem before using any essential oil. Some essential oils can also irritate the skin, so people should test a few drops on the skin first.
Oils should always be diluted because they can cause skin rashes when pure. Essential oils should not be given to children without a consulting a doctor. They can cause skin irritation, and some of them contain some strong ingredients that are not child-friendly.
Though some people with asthma have had success with essential oils, they are not a replacement for medical care. Research studies are being carried out, but there is no firm evidence that proves essential oils are a reliable treatment option.
Asthma patients should take any medicine prescribed by their doctor and go for regular checkups. If anyone experiences any asthma symptoms that do not seem to go away or get worse, they should see a doctor. There is no cure for asthma and, left untreated, it can be very dangerous.
Other treatments for asthma
To diagnose asthma, a medical doctor will perform a series of tests. They will carry out a complete physical exam and obtain the patient’s medical history. Other possible tests to diagnose asthma include:
- Lung function tests
- Allergy testing
- Imaging tests
After a doctor diagnoses asthma, they will prescribe medication to help control the problem. There are several medicines commonly prescribed including:
- Bronchodilators: These relax the muscles around the airways
- Anti-inflammatories: Commonly referred to as corticosteroids or steroids, these reduce the swelling and mucus inside the airways
- Antibiotics: These can treat attacks caused by bacterial infections
Some people have well-controlled asthma that does not cause many problems. Others may experience attacks that can be severe and even life-threatening. Asthma medicines do not cure asthma but they do help to improve symptoms. As a result, it is important to follow a doctor’s orders.
Though effective, some of these medicines can cause some unpleasant side effects and can be expensive.
Preventing asthma from getting worse
People cannot always prevent asthma but there are things they can do to keep it from getting worse. It is vital to follow a doctor’s prescribed treatment plan.
Essentials oils may be a helpful treatment but people should always consult a doctor before using them. They are not recommended for some patients such as pregnant women.
People should also stay up to date with influenza and pneumonia vaccinations. These illnesses can trigger attacks. Identifying and avoiding things that can possibly trigger asthma attacks is also important. These can include certain foods, pets, and chemicals.
Those with asthma who have been approved to use essential oils can use them to supplement their current treatment. They can be helpful in relieving some asthma symptoms but should be used with caution and extreme care.
People with asthma should always pay attention to their breathing to learn to recognize their asthma attack warning signs. If an attack comes on, they should be sure to treat it immediately. Asthma is dangerous and quick response and treatment could be the difference between life and death.