15 Best Essential Oils for Sore Throat, Cough & Congestion

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated - Medically reviewed by Zemira Barnes (MS)

Respiratory health often seems to be the most vulnerable part of the body, and at the slightest sign of the flu or a common cold, the throat begins to hurt, the sinuses get congested and the urge to cough begins to rise up from the chest. These three common symptoms can be painful, inconvenient and long-lasting if you fail to treat them properly. Using essential oils for sore throat, cough and congestion symptoms is an excellent option for rapid relief.

A sore throat typically occurs when you have a viral infection, which can inflame the mucous membranes in the throat and cause those tissues to become irritated. Nasal congestion occurs for a similar reason, when the nasal tissues become irritated and the mucosal membranes begin releasing extra mucus in response, causing a stuffy nose and blocked sinuses. When that excess mucus runs down into the throat or is sniffed and swallowed, it can take up residence in the lungs, along with other fluids and phlegm. This chest congestion can cause tightness, pain or discomfort, which leads to coughing, the violent, hacking response of the lungs and chest to expel excess mucus, or in response to irritation in the throat.

Clearly, all of these symptoms are closely linked, but with the proper use and blends of essential oil for sore throat, cough and congestion, you can quickly soothe this inflammation and get on the road to recovery. [1]

Essential Oils for Sore Throat, Cough & Congestion

Some of the best essential oil for sore throat, cough and congestion symptoms include lavender, frankincense, peppermint, tea tree, eucalyptus, oregano, lemon, clove, thyme, hyssop, cedarwood, pine, myrtle, juniper berry, basil, and rosemary, among others. These benefits are possible due to the expectorant, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, sedative, anti-spasmodic, moisturizing and stimulant properties of these essential oils.

Lavender Oil

Of the best essential oil for sore throat, cough, and congestion, lavender oil is at the top of the list. It can quickly cut through mucus and phlegm buildup in the sinuses and respiratory tracts, improving breathing and soothing the inflammation-causing coughs and sore throats. [2]

How to Use: Topically apply a few drops of lavender oil to your pillow before you go to sleep, or mix it with other carrier oils and rub it on your chest so you can inhale the beneficial aromatic compounds all night long Ylang Ylang oil can also be added to your bath water before bed.

Myrtle Oil

The soothing and anti-inflammatory nature of myrtle oil helps relieve discomfort in the throat and eases the pain of excessive coughing. By calming those spontaneous reactions that can make your throat feel raw, it can speed up the healing process. [3]

How to Use: Rarely used along, myrtle oil can be combined with eucalyptus or pine oils to make soothing massage oil or chest rub, which can be applied at night before you go to sleep.

Hyssop Oil

The antibacterial properties of this oil make it a potent defender of respiratory health, able to counter the underlying infection causing your cough and congestion symptoms. Hyssop can loosen mucus and is also anti-inflammatory in nature, helping to heal the irritated tissues in the throat. [4]

How to Use: Adding a few drops of hyssop oil to a boiling pot of water and then inhaling deeply can stimulate your immune system and clear out inflammation quickly.

Thyme Oil

With both antioxidant and antibacterial abilities, thyme oil is able to stimulate the healing of damaged tissues in the throat and lungs, as well as neutralize the bacterial or viral infection causing your symptoms.

How to Use: You can easily add 4-5 drops of thyme oil to a steam inhalation treatment, or simply blend the oil in with a carrier oil and rub on your chest at night. Using an oil diffuser is also an effective use for this oil.

Clove Oil

This essential oil has antimicrobial, antiseptic, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, and has been proven to combat many specific strains of bacteria that cause respiratory illness, including various Staphylococcus strains. It can also help purify the blood and boost the immune system. [5]

How to Use: The best way to use clove oil is to add 3 drops to a cup of warm water and use this to gargle with, providing direct contact between infected areas and this powerful oil.

Oregano Oil

Not only is oregano oil an expectorant, helping to clear out congestion of the sinuses, but also cuts through thick phlegm in the chest, helping to relieve pressure in the lungs and the tightness that often causes fits of coughing. [6]

How to Use: This oil is very potent so only 1-2 drops need to be added to a steaming pot of water. Place your head under a towel and inhale deeply to clear your sinuses quickly.

Eucalyptus Oil

By boosting the immune system and stimulating blood flow in the respiratory system, eucalyptus oil can speed the healing and recovery process, while also contributing antioxidants to battle the underlying infections. Eucalyptus can help relieve coughing and short time bronchitis. [7] [8]

How to Use: Inhaling this oil is the best way for it to take effect, so using eucalyptus oil in room diffusers, steam inhalation therapies, aromatherapy sessions, and sprinkled on your pillow at night are all effective methods of use.

Anise star, basil leaves, and essential oil for sore throat, cough, and congestion

Essential oil works wonders on cough, cold, & respiratory issues. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Cedarwood Oil

The antispasmodic nature of cedarwood oil helps to calm many of the muscle spasms and irritations in the respiratory tracts. This can cut down coughing and improve breathing while you are trying to treat the infection and begin recovering.

How to Use: Blend this oil with a carrier oil, such as almond oil, and then apply it to the chest or neck before you go to sleep. [9]

Frankincense Oil

This oil is well known to reduce inflammation in the sinus passages and soothe pain in the throat, due to its antioxidant and relaxant qualities. It can also cut through phlegm and functions as an expectorant to eliminate that excess mucus from the body. [10]

How to Use: Not commonly used in topical applications or consumed, the best way to enjoy the benefits of frankincense oil is to add a few drops to your room diffuser, or use it in steam inhalation therapy.

Peppermint Oil

This is one of the most popular oils for respiratory health, as it can calm spasms, reduce inflammation (thanks to the menthol content), attack the underlying infection, and stimulate the expulsion of phlegm and mucus from the body. [11]

How to Use: Steam inhalation of this oil is popular, although most people prefer to rub 2-3 drops on the chest or neck mixed with a carrier oil before going to sleep, as this will give you a morning without immediate sinus congestion!

Tea Tree Oil

This powerful Australian oil is an antiseptic, antibacterial, antiviral, anti-fungal and antioxidant substance, and is excellent for relieving bronchial congestion. The volatile components in this oil can make quick work of a bacterial infection. [12]

How to Use: Due to the potency of tea tree oil, it should only be inhaled, rather than topically applied. Add 5-6 drops to a pot of steaming water, cover your head with a towel and breathe deeply for rapid, soothing relief.

Lemon Oil

Numerous studies have shown that lemon oil can inhibit the growth of bacteria, which makes this an ideal oil early on in a cold. Lemon oil contains high amounts of Vitamin C which can boost the immune system and prevent your illness from getting any worse. [13]

How to Use: Simply breathing in the scent of lemon oil can clear the sinuses and the aromatic compounds will do the rest. Add this oil to your room diffuser, steam inhalation, or aromatherapy practices.

Pine Oil

To relieve sore throats, the anti-inflammatory and expectorant properties of pine oil are extremely effective. They can help cut through the phlegm and make it easier to expel that bacteria-containing substance out of your body. [14]

How to Use: Add 5-10 drops of pine oil to your bathwater and take healthy steam, or put this oil in a room diffuser. Mixing a 1:1 ratio with coconut oil and applying it as a chest rub is also effective.

Rosemary Oil

With volatile aromatic compounds, as well as antiseptic and antibacterial properties, rosemary oil can quickly relieve sinus congestion, while also seeking out the bacteria causing your symptoms and aiding the immune system. [15] [16]

How to Use: Adding this oil to a room diffuser can help you protect your immune system all day long, but you can also use rosemary oil in more concentrated steam inhalation practices.

Juniper Berry Oil

Juniper berry oil is an antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory substance, making it very effective for soothing sore throats and for easing the urge to cough, which can relieve pain and prevent further abrasive activity in your respiratory tracts. [17]

How to Use: You can topically apply a diluted form of juniper berry oil directly on the throat or include this oil in aromatherapy or room diffusers for longer exposure to soothe chronic coughing.


While using essential oil for sore throat, cough, and congestion is very effective, as the list above shows, there are specific side effects for each oil you choose. With volatile acids, active ingredients and a diverse range of chemical compounds, some of these oils may cause skin inflammation, allergic reactions, complications with other medications or health conditions, fluctuating blood pressure, sedation, stomach upset and many other unexpected side effects. Before using a powerful natural oil as a respiratory remedy, speak with your doctor about any specific health risks, given your medical condition.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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