Most of us are allergic to something, do you know what your family’s allergies are? If not, you should. Allergies are serious business – consequences can range from a mild, itchy skin rash from brushing against an irritant plant to fatal anaphylaxis such as a peanut or shellfish allergy.
Luckily modern medicine can relieve most of the symptoms of allergy, and it saves lives every day. Many of us try to minimize our exposure to drugs as they come with side effects. Where possible, I like to use natural remedies to treat minor ailments.
I’m not saying you should break out the massage oils if your kid’s airway is swelling after eating a peanut. Of course not – that would be negligent and stupid. However there are lots of cases when using essential oils is appropriate. Read on to find out how to use essential oils to treat allergies.
What Is an Allergy?
Let’s start with a refresher course on the immune system. Your immune system is like a little of army of cells that are ready and waiting to fight any invaders which may try to attack your body. For example, if you have a viral infection such as a cold, your body responds by making your eyes water and creating thick mucus to trap and expel the foreign particles.
Your immune cells are amazing things, but they’re not always that clever. Sometimes they malfunction and over-react to things that aren’t harmful, such as pollen, dust and certain foods. This is how an allergy comes about.
Types of Allergy
As I’ve already mentioned, the term “allergy” covers a wide spectrum of reactions. Here are some of the basics:
This is an immune response to pollen, resulting in sneezing, a runny nose and watery eyes.
2. Skin Irritation
This covers insect bites, hives and contact dermatitis. Symptoms include redness, dry skin and itching in a localised area.
3. Food Intolerances
Generally less severe than a true food allergy, food intolerances result in digestive upset such as diarrhoea, nausea and cramps
4. Anaphylactic Reactions
Some triggers result in a very severe immune response called anaphylaxis. This results in swelling of the face, abdominal pain, cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, hives and most dangerous of all – closure of the airways making it impossible to breathe.
Anaphylaxis usually starts within 20 minutes to 2 hours of exposure to a trigger. Triggers include nuts, shellfish, soy and bee stings.
Using essential oils in allergy types 1-3 may provide some relief, however never try this with an anaphylactic reaction. It it is a medical emergency that needs to be treated by a professional.
1. Lavender Oil
Lavender oil helps with skin allergies and hayfever due to its anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic properties. It can be used in a few different ways, as follows.
For hayfever, you can put a few drops of lavender oil onto a cloth and inhale the vapour deeply. You could also use a vaporiser or essential oil burner.
For itchy rashes, mix the oil with a carrier such as coconut oil as directed on the label and apply directly to the affected area. Don’t do this if the skin is broken, however. Alternatively, add a few drops of lavender oil to your bath and soak for 25 minutes to soothe your skin. (source)
If you are looking for a good oil, to use, I recommend this therapeutic grade lavender essential oil.
2. Peppermint Oil
Menthol is the compound in most mint oils which is responsible for its cooling, anti-inflammatory and pain-relief properties. It’s useful for hay fever and food intolerances.
If you are suffering from a runny or blocked nose due to hay fever or another allergy, menthol can help clear it. To make a steam bath, fill a bowl with hot water, add a few drops of peppermint oil and place a towel over the bowl. Put your head under the towel and inhale deeply for 5-10 minutes to allow the peppermint vapour to reach deep into your airways. (source)
For symptoms of food intolerance, you can take peppermint oil in capsule form. It has antispasmodic properties, meaning it relaxes the muscles of your digestive system, relieving cramps. It also soothes inflammation and helps with gas. (source)
For a great peppermint oil, check this one.
3. Chamomile Oil
Most of us are familiar with chamomile in tea form, to help us relax. Another less-known remedy from this daisy-like flower is to treat skin allergies and insect bites.
Dilute 2-3 drops of chamomile oil in a teaspoon of carrier and apply directly to dry and itchy areas of skin. If you have an insect bite, apply a drop of neat chamomile oil directly on the bump. (source)
Here is my recommendation when it comes to chamomile oil.
4. Eucalyptus Oil
Eucalyptus oil has been used for hundreds of years as an antibacterial and antifungal agent. However, it has more diverse applications too – including as an allergy relief. It has anti inflammatory properties and also helps break down mucus, making it a great treatment for hay fever. You can use it in a steam bath, diffuser or oil burner to release vapour for inhalation.
Not only that, but if you or someone in your household suffers from a dust mite allergy, eucalyptus oil can kill dust mites. Try spraying soft furnishings with a solution of 15 to 20 drops eucalyptus oil to 1 quart distilled water. It should take effect within 2 hours. (source)
Use this eucalyptus oil if you go that route.
5. Lemon Oil
Lemon oil has similar properties to lavender and peppermint oil when it comes to hay fever relief. It can help clear mucus in the respiratory tract and has soothing anti-inflammatory and cooling effects
Use this majestic pure one to help with your allergies.
If you’re using any of the above essential oils for the first time, make sure to do a patch test first. You can be allergic to the very thing you’re using to try and cure your allergies! Most oils shouldn’t be used neat so always dilute with a carrier oil or other liquid.
I think it goes without saying but I’m going to say it anyway – if you have a serious allergy, don’t try to treat it with essential oils. If you or a family member is at risk of anaphylaxis make sure to carry an epipen and antihistamine tablets at ALL times. It could save a life.
I hope this article has helped you learn a little about how to use essential oils to treat allergies. I’m glad to say I no longer go through a full pack of antihistamine tablets during hay fever season. You should see good results too – let me know how you get on in the comments!