Truth be told, my allergies basically ruin my life in the spring, and after over a decade of taking the same over-the-counter medication year-round, I noticed it stopped working and I had to switch to something else (not fun). I wish I had known about essential oils for allergies—yes, they apparently work—to ease my transition from one med to another, or maybe to treat my symptoms altogether. And I'm not the only person plagued by the pesky itching, sneezing, and clogged sinuses, since a reported 40 to 60 million Americans have allergic rhinitis (and that number is only continuing to grow).
Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS, tells us that allergens are substances like mold, dust, or pollen that trick our immune systems into thinking they're invading it. This causes our bodies to produce antibodies that release histamines and other types of chemicals responsible for triggering things like itching, sinus pressure, and sneezing. "When the body is already dealing with high inflammation, any allergen sets off an increased reaction," says Axe. "That means that when the body's immune system is overworked and stressed, introducing an allergen sends the body into overreaction." Basically, what essential oils do is reduce inflammation, which causes your body not to react when you come into contact with allergens.
Meet the Expert
Josh Axe DNM, DC, CNS is a doctor of chiropractic, certified doctor of natural medicine, as well as a clinical nutritionist. Axe has authored several celebrated and bestselling books including Eat Dirt, The Real Food Diet Cookbook and Essential Oils Ancient Medicine.
Keep reading to see the top five essential oils for allergies and exactly how to use each.
If you're trying to fight the symptoms of allergies that you're already experiencing (congestion, scratchy throat), reach for peppermint oil since it's an expectorant and can give you some relief. Studies have found that this oil is anti-inflammatory and can lessen symptoms of both allergic rhinitis and asthma. PS: Keep it in the house to fight headaches, fever, and a lack of energy, too.
How to Use It: Apply it topically to your skin (do a patch test first), diffuse it, or drink water with one to two drops in it once a day.
Have you ever had that head congestion related to sinuses that literally makes you want to close your eyes to relieve the pressure? Well, eucalyptus oil not only calms your throat and helps with asthma, it also works to clear your head. On top of that, research has found that it forms a cold sensation in the nose that increases airflow.
How to Use It: The oil is most effective if you apply it directly to your skin—but it must be diluted with a carrier oil first (try it on the neck, chest or bottoms of your feet). Axe also suggests adding a few drops to a bowl of boiling water, placing a towel over your head, and then inhaling the scent for up to 10 minutes.
Basil oil seems to be less popular than other essential oils, but that doesn't mean it's any less effective. It decreases your response to inflammation and aids the adrenal glands, which basically help with almost every single bodily function. According to research, the oil has antimicrobial effects and can kill bacteria, yeast, and mold that can be responsible for allergic reactions.
How to Use It: Add a drop of basil oil to any food—soup, salad dressing—you name it. You can also mix it with coconut oil and apply it topically (try the chest, temples, and back of your neck).
Lemon essential oil is known to help with sinus issues including congestion and the effects of seasonal allergies. As a preventative measure, you can diffuse it into the air to kill bacteria and other allergens in your home. Word to the wise: Don't apply it directly to the skin if you're heading out in the sunlight since this oil can make you more susceptible to burns and blistering from the sun.
How to Use It: Put a few drops into your drinking water, apply to skin if you're not going in the sunlight, or diffuse it in the home.
Frankincense's more potent scent just happens to be one of my favorites when it comes to essential oils. And it also helps get rid of any anti-inflammatory activity, which happens to include allergies. And studies have found that frankincense works to fight inflammation, which can lead to sinus infections if not treated.
How to Use It: Put a few drops in your diffuser, apply it topically to skin, or breathe it directly from the bottle or from some drops on a handkerchief.
Take your pick from these essential oils for allergies and see how they can change your life.
American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Allergic Rhinitis. Updated June 17, 2020.
Sim LY, Abd rani NZ, Husain K. Lamiaceae: An Insight on Their Anti-Allergic Potential and Its Mechanisms of Action. Front Pharmacol. 2019;10:677.doi:10.3389/fphar.2019.00677
Sadlon AE, Lamson DW. Immune-Modifying and Antimicrobial Effects of Eucalyptus Oil and Simple Inhalation Devices. Altern Med Rev. 2010;15(1):33-47.
Swamy MK, Akhtar MS, Sinniah UR. Antimicrobial Properties of Plant Essential Oils against Human Pathogens and Their Mode of Action: An Updated Review. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2016;2016:3012462.doi:10.1155/2016/3012462
Sharifi-rad J, Sureda A, Tenore GC, et al. Biological Activities of Essential Oils: From Plant Chemoecology to Traditional Healing Systems. Molecules. 2017;22(1).doi:10.3390/molecules22010070
Siddiqui MZ. Boswellia Serrata, A Potential Antiinflammatory Agent: An Overview. Indian J Pharm Sci. 2011;73(3):255-61