Combating Allergies with Essential Oils
What Are Allergies?
An allergy is the body’s immune systems rejection of a substance or foreign invader. In reaction to the foreign invasion of allergens, the body sends out a group of white blood cells called T-cells to fight off the invaders. In skin allergic reactions, this causes redness and irritation. Your risk of developing an allergy isn’t necessarily related to something being natural or chemical, but instead it can be related to your family’s health history. Seasonal allergies and their related symptoms are different. The signs and symptoms can include runny nose, sneezing, itchy, red or irritated (may seem dry) eyes and notably can include skin reactions. Allergies can make you feel drained and unable to participate in outdoor activities and, when severe enough, can break down our immune system and play havoc on our lymphatic system. By preparing ahead of time, you can help to combat the symptoms associated with allergies. Seasonal allergies start in the spring, for some states as early as February and continue through early summer. Our first concern is tree pollination, which begins yearly in the spring. We get a little reprieve before the late spring to early summer grass pollination begins. Then in late summer and early fall, we are fighting ragweed. In the more tropical climates grass may continue to pollinate throughout most of the year. When plants pollinate can also vary depending on changes in usual temperatures or an unusually rainy season. Ragweed can grow almost anywhere and most heavily in the Midwest and the Eastern Coast and it is the biggest for allergies. Once it ragweed starts blooming, it will release pollen from August through November. In many areas of the country, ragweed pollen levels are highest in early to mid-September. Aside from Ragweed, other concerns include underbrush burning, Cockleburs xanthium, Lamb’s quarters Chenopodium album (delicious and nutritious), Pigweed Amaranthus retroflexus (another edible and nutritional food), Sagebrush Asteraceae, Mugwort Artemisia vulgaris, and Russian thistle Echinops exaltatus, or commonly known as Tumbleweed. There are many other factors, such as high humidity or heat that may heighten your symptoms. Ways to help control your allergies may include checking the weather channel or on the internet for the pollen that day in your area, keeping windows and doors closed, moisture level down to avoid mold and mildew growth which are contributors and, although rain washes away pollen (all that yellow is gone, after all), pollen counts can sky rocket after rain. When possible, avoid outside activities on dry windy days. On pollen days, take a shower to wash away any possible pollen on you or in your hair. It’s not a good sleeping partner. If you are like me and work outside often, where protective gear such as a NIOSH-rated 95 filter mask, especially if mowing or other activities that stir up the pollen.
Essential Oils' Role in Fighting Allergies
Essentials oils play a terrific role in fighting off or preventing various allergy symptoms and in some cases, help rid the allergy itself. Many essential oils have strong therapeutic antimicrobial properties to combat airborne microbials as well as bacteria of many strains. The can also support and boost the immune system, work as anti-histamines and open congested airways. Those who do not want to take RX medication or seasonal allergy medications may find great relief by inhalation of essential oils. I've searched and have chosen my pick of essential oils that may help you control or, in some cases, rid you of your allergies. Since everyone is unique, one remedy cannot work for all. The oils I’ll introduce you to seem to work for most. Play around and find what suites your uniqueness and personal chemical makeup. Many of the following suggested oils are excellent immune stimulators, have strong anti-infectious, anti-microbial, and antihistamine properties, depending on the individual oil. But they can also offer emotional, mental or spiritual support.
Applications to Consider
There are several applications for using essential oils; diluted topically, diffusion, steam inhalation or inhalation through inhalers. When fighting allergies, inhalation seems to be the best application for essential oils. Diffusion and inhalers work great.
Diffusion can be used at home. In a public forum, there is always the risk of someone having an allergic reaction, even when using what we consider "safe" essential oils. Although diffusion is the safest mode of application, some oils come with precautions to consider. Many oils are unsafe to use around animals, especially cats. Many are unsafe with children, especially the very young. As a precaution and to avoid possible neurological side effects, it’s best to avoid full strength diffusion longer than 30/60-minute intervals with a 30/60-minute break. All night diffusion is discouraged. At a low dilution rate and with oils that present no concern, diffusing 1-3 drops for longer periods is considered safe. It's up to the individual to know the safety concerns that may come with each oil. Steam inhalation is a quick relief for congestion. Bring a quart of water to a high steam (not boiling). Once your water is heated, turn it off and carefully transfer to a heat resistant bowl, add 1-2 drops of essential oil(s), cover your head like a tent to keep steam in, and keeping your eyes closed, take deep cleansing breaths. After, let the water stand to release the rest of the essential oil molecules into the air to help combat airborne microbials. It is unsafe to add more than the recommended amount of oils. Inhalers are quite easy to assemble, take no more than 15 drops of essential oil and last for several weeks, depending on usage. You can also use your blends topically to enhance the effect. Night time application on the chest and neck will allow you to inhale as you drift into the night, giving you added protection. I do this by adding my blends to a nice unscented lotion or a carrier oil that compliments the skincare of the oils. For those that suffer from skin allergies, we have those covered too. Diffusing and inhalation can certainly help, especially if your skin allergies are related to your seasonal or inherited allergies. Topical applications using selected essential oils and carriers that compliment blends for skin healing properties can reduce and may even eliminate skin allergies. When looking at supportive essential oils for allergies, we look for essential oils that fight allergy pathogens and associated symptoms, support the immune system and help open airways. Of course, essential oils come with the added benefits of having other therapeutic actions that can keep us healthy and support us emotionally.
Hydrosols are a good place to start for children, especially if you are unsure of the safety of an oil. Hydrosols are distilled specifically for their waters and therapeutic actions. It’s a misconception that all companies sell the water left behind after essential oil distillation when many distill for this very purpose. The aromas of hydrosols are much lighter than their essential oil counterparts. In addition, in some cases, the aroma may not even smell the same as the essential oil.
However, the therapeutic benefits are present. Hydrosols are perfect for small children and pets, where the harsher oils need to be avoided and are often under estimated in their powerful actions.
If you choose to use topical application, suggested maximums will be noted where necessary. However, I recommend following up on each oil you choose to use in your Aromatic life.
1. Bergamot Citrus bergamia (FCF), like all citrus oils, contains d-Limonene, a component that is known for its strong supportive actions to the immune system, acting as an antispasmodic by calming spastic coughs. Blending with oils such as Eucalyptus (active against pathogens) adds an extra punch. Oils with Limonene can cause skin sensitization, especially if oxidation occurs. This can be avoided by keeping your oils in airtight bottles, in a refrigerator, out of heat and air. For the skin, blending with skin friendly oils lessens the chances of reaction. Skin friendly oils include Lavender Lavendula angustifolia, any Helichrysum, Cedarwood Juniperus virginiana, Patchouli Pogostemom cablin, Sandalwood Santalum album and Vetiver Vetiveria zizanoides and are some nice choices. Adding an anti-oxidant such as Vitamin E will also increase the avoidance of your product oxidizing. 2. Chamomile German Matricaria recutita is an anti-histaminic as well as an anti-allergenic. It’s shown to have anti-viral properties and may help open your airways, which often becomes a symptom with allergies. The component Chamazulene is present in German Chamomile and is an antihistaminic. There are no safety concerns. 3. Helichrysum Italicum (Corsica) contains neryl acetate, an airborne antimicrobial, analgesic, antioxidant, anti- inflammatory, antibacterial, antispasmodic, antiviral, and most importantly, anti- allergenic. Skin or seasonal allergy symptoms can include itching, swelling, and discomfort. Helichrysum can relieve these symptoms that can manifest from allergies. Helichrysum has no documented safety concerns. 4. Juniper berry Juniperus communis Often acne can be a reaction from allergies. Juniper serves as an excellent as astringent due to its antiseptic actions. It’s skin healing, anti-inflammatory, cleanses and helps to increase the healing, is an immune stimulant, and activates white blood cells. No safety concerns, although if oxidized, it can irritate the skin. 5. Lemon Citrus limon, like all citrus, is high in d-limonene. Lemon is another great astringent as well as an antioxidant, skin penetration enhancer, anti-bacterial, and an immune stimulator. Skin penetration enhancers helps other essential oil constituents along that normally penetrate the skin. Just like all citrus, it’s supportive to the immune system. Follow previous cations for citrus oils. 6. Lavender Lavendula angustifolia is an anti-allergenic, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, supports the immune system, skin healing, decongestant and more. It blends well with German Chamomile for allergies, with Tea Tree and/or Thyme ct. linalool for infections (including fungal infections and candida) and with Helichrysum italicum for bruising, wounds and skin healing. No safety concerns for Lavender. Don't confuse Lavender with Spike Lavender, which does have safety concerns. 7. Niaouli Melaleuca quinquenervia ct. 1,8 cineole is distilled from the leaves of the Niaouli tree, a member of the myrtle family, that grows in Madagascar. Niaouli has several different chemotypes which should be indicated by the ‘ct’ when listed and on the bottles. Niaouli is excellent for supporting healthy lungs and airways, asthma, eases coughs and chronic bronchitis. Niaouli's components help to combat allergies and related symptoms as well as support the immune system. The safety notes I have researched include a caution with asthmatics and for maximum usages, for 3-24 months old, 0.5% maximum, 2-6 years old, maximum of 1%, 6-15 years old, 2% maximum and 15 plus years old Tisserand suggests maximum of 5% and last, those that are pregnant, a maximum of 2%. This oil is often adulterated so only purchase from a company that has gc/ms analysis reports available onsite. 8. Orange (sweet) Citrus senisis, like all citrus oils, contains high quantities of the component d-Limonene which is supportive to the immune system as well as activates white blood cells. Sweet Orange is a skin penetrator enhancer and is a great addition to topical applications. Sweet Orange is not phototoxic as is most citrus oils. As noted, oils with Limonene can oxidize easily. To avoid oxidation, follow proper storage and when used in a product, add an antioxidant such as the great Vitamin E, between 0.1-0.2% per ounce of product. 9. Palmarosa Cymbopogon martini var. motia is an airborne antimicrobial. Palmarosa is over 70% in the component geraniol, an anti-fungal, airborne antimicrobial, cicatrisant as well as an anti-inflammatory. Palmarosa is an emotionally supportive oil by calming and uplifting. Palmarosa has no safety concerns. 10. Patchouli Pogostemom cablin is a great choice for fungal related allergies. As to the respiratory system, allergic asthma may be induced when fungal spores (which are smaller than pollen grains) are inhaled into the lungs. Using Patchouli in an inhaler may help reduce the chances of an allergic reaction. Patchouli has been shown to stimulate the immune system, is anti-bacterial, and has a cooling effect which is nice on skin allergies. It’s great in insect repellent sprays and topical rubs. Patchouli is also an anti-inflammatory and can ease topical inflammations caused by allergies. Patchouli has no known safety concerns. 11. Ravensara Leaf Ravensara aromatica requires a low dilution but packs a powerful punch against allergies. Topically, Tisserand recommend for those 15 the topical maximum of 1%, 6-15 years old, 0.5 and those 2-6, maximum of 0.25%. Ravensara should not be used on those under the age of 2. When blending with this oil for children, my recommendation is 0.0625% or less, depending on the child. Ravensara is best avoided during pregnancy. 12. Rose absolute Rosa damacena is an antispasmodic and works as a bronchial dilator. Citronellol has direct relaxing action on vascular smooth muscles. Studies have shown that Rose has antispasmodic effects. The main component of the absolute, phenylethyl alcohol, alleviates histamine-induced bronchoconstriction (in vitro), and has shown potential use as an anti-asthmatic agent. Rose absolute's maximum recommendations 0.25% for 3-24 months, 1% for 2-6 years old, 2% for 6-15 years old, 15 years old plus is maximum 2.5 and those pregnant, no more than 1%. These percentages do not apply to Rose otto, which is far less. 13. Sweet Marjoram Origanum marjorana contains the component Terpinene-4-ol and is often used in blends created to relieve or alleviate skin inflammation and allergies as well as heal the skin. It serves as a powerful sleep aid. I use it often in my sleep blends. Sweet Marjoram can be used with other oils to relieve constriction from your bronchial tubes, and seems to be especially helpful for those with bronchial asthma. Sweet Marjoram suggested maximum use is 3-24 months old is 0.5%, 2-6 years old is 2%, 6-15 years old is 3%, 15 plus maximum is 55 and those that are pregnant, the maximum suggested is 2%.
Sweet Marjoram presents no safety concerns. To avoid topical irritation, suggested maximum is the standard. drops per ounce of carrier oil. Sweet Marjoram has no known safety concerns. 14. Tea Tree Melaleuca alternifolia is an antispasmodic and bronchial dilator. It’s great in a steam to keep congestion and infection under control. Most respiratory conditions can benefit dramatically from the use of Tea tree oil, including those related to allergies. Tea tree is a skin healer, decongestant, eases constricted bronchial airways as well as coughs, is an immune stimulant, and works great with oils high in the component (constituent) linalool. Tea Tree is prone to oxidize, as are citrus. When using oils that may oxidize in your products, you can add Vitamin E, a great antioxidant between 0.1-0.2% per ounce. Here are a few of my favorite blends for fighting allergies that can be used in the various applications outlined. If you choose topical use, 9 drops to one-ounce carrier is approximately 1% . We say approximate since orifices can vary depending on the company you purchase your essential oils from. Most use the standard size which I've based the 9 drops per ounce on. Check safety on each oil if using on children, those who are pregnant, nursing, taking medications, elderly or other health issues.
These are a few allergy blends that have worked for me.
Blend one • 5 drops Orange (sweet) Citrus senisis • 5 drops Rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis ct. camphor • 5 drops Sweet Marjoram Origanum majorana • 3 drops Palmarosa Cymbopogon martini var. motia
For children under 10 years of age, replace with Rosemary Rosmarinus ct. camphor with Rosemary Rosmarinus officianalis ct. verbenone.
Blend Two • 5 drops Bergamot Citrus bergamia • 5 drops Sweet Marjoram Origanum marjorana • 8 drops Lavender Lavendula angustifolia
Safe for all ages, following appropriate dilution rates.
• 6 drops Chamomile German Matricaria recutita • 6 drops Helichrysum Italicum (Corsica) • 6 drops Sweet Orange Citrus senisis
Safe for all ages, following appropriate dilution rates.
• 5 drops Bergamot Citrus bergamia • 8 drops Patchouli Pogostemom cablin • 5 drops Sweet Marjoram Origanum marjorana Patchouli: Caution if breastfeeding.
Blend Five • 5 drops Niaouli Melaleuca quinquenervia ct 1,8 cineole • 5 drops Juniper berry Juniperus communis • 8 drops Sweet Orange Citrus senisis Niaouli: caution with asthmatics. Avoid if pregnant and with children under 10 years of age.
Based on the information provided, now it’s your turn to get creative with your blends, keeping in mind dilution rates and safety precautions provided.
1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378874111003941 German chamomile 2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8893526 Patchouli (full text upon request) 3. Koh, K., Pearce, A., Marshama, G., Finlay-Jones, J. and Hart, P. (2002) Tea tree oil reduces histamine-induced skin inflammation. British Journal of Dermatology 147, 1212-1217. 4. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1742-7843.2009.00492.x Rose absolute 5. https://www.academia.edu/32184537/Pharmacology_of_Ficus_religiosa-A_review Rose absolute/eugenol and phenylethyl