Essential Oils for Allergies
In this article, you will learn about:
- Allergies & Essential Oil Applications
- Food Allergies
- Skin Allergies
- Respiratory Allergies
With spring around the corner, many are dreading so-called allergy season. Others know that allergies come in many shapes and forms and at any given time. At its core, they are just another manifestation of inflammatory illness – a plague on our generation!
Let's learn how to combat allergies of various kinds with natural remedies, lifestyle changes, and of course, essential oils for allergies.
Allergies & Applications
The term “allergies” covers a broad range of issues, which means you won't find just one treatment or preventative measure to match it. Many claim that lavender (used to calm the system), peppermint (used to open up the sinuses), and lemon (used to cleanse the body) are the prototypical essential oil remedy. Countless people have benefited from ingesting 1 drop of each oil in a gel capsule and/or diffusing a blend.
With that said, the scientific literature hasn't validated this approach and there isn't an essential oil for allergies or an allergy remedy, per se. But when we look closely at manifestations of allergies, we can easily find remedies that might help bring relief.
There are many kinds of allergies, and you might have a combination of them or just one. To generalize the main ways allergies show themselves, you might have the following list:
Other considerations might be whether the allergic reaction is topical, like hives, or systemic and chronic.
Allergic reactions that appear topically carry their own sets of variables, from the severity of the reaction to the range of causes. You might even react externally to something you consume.
Allergies that manifest on the skin can be itchy or painful, cause swelling and redness, and other unpleasant symptoms. Once you've identified the allergen and have avoided it, the reaction typically subsides. If it's something you really need relief from, though, there are things you can do to ease the reaction. WebMD's remedies include (1):
- Cooling it down
- Soaking it in a soothing substance
- Using an anti-itch cream
Making a compress of something like ground oats, it suggests, can help to soothe the inflammation and itching.
- Natural Remedy Application: Cooling and anti-inflammatory essential oils can be helpful for relieving symptoms of a skin allergy reaction. If you know you're not allergic to any of them, some suggested oils to dilute into a carrier oil include chamomile, peppermint, and lavender.
- A strong anti-inflammatory carrier like calendula-infused coconut oil is suggested, though calendula and chamomile may be a problem if you have a ragweed allergy!
For the sake of categorization, we'll mostly discuss nasal allergies – congestion, sneezing, runny or stuffy nose – here. Technically, asthma is a key component to respiratory allergies and carries plenty of nuances in cause and treatment. But, like food allergies, asthma can be life threatening. Aside from good diet and lifestyle habits to help alleviate the symptoms, DIY treatments are inadvisable, especially outside of the care of a skilled physician.
With that out of the way, nasal and respiratory allergies are the most common forms of allergies and are the cause of that dreaded seasonal attack. This kind of respiratory reaction comes when the body targets something inhaled – like pollen or pet dander – as a virus. The result is not unlike the symptoms of a cold, when the body is attacking an actual virus.
Unlike the other allergies we've discussed here, nasal and respiratory allergens are not easy to avoid since most of them are airborne and pervasive. Instead, the focus for remedies and treatments usually lies in symptom control.
Essential oils are best inhaled for respiratory allergies, moving through the airways to help clear the passageways. Lavender essential oil is a standout choice, not only helping to suppress symptoms and clear the airway but also to modify the immune response. (2)
You might also consider minimizing airborne toxins by changing the kinds of cleaners you use in your home. Indoor pollution via conventional cleaners can be a major aggravator for allergies and asthma. (3) Switching to all natural, DIY cleaning products can protect your family's airways while keeping your home fresh.
Some of the most dangerous allergic reactions come with food allergies. The anaphylactic response to a peanut allergy is the hallmark in our minds, putting allergic individuals at serious risk sometimes from as little as cross-contamination from peanuts.
Food allergies can be a reaction to one or many foods or additives, and the reactions are just as varied. A true food allergy involves the immune system – as all allergic reactions are an over-response from the immune system – and according to the Food Allergy Education Network will include symptoms like these (4):
- hives (localized or wide spread)
- swelling (lips, tongue, face)
- nausea, discomfort, vomiting, stomach pain
- shortness of breath, cough, wheezing
- pale appearance, fainting, weak pulse, dizziness, confusion
- blue tinged lips or face
- tightening of the throat, hoarseness, trouble breathing/swallowing
- itchy mouth or tongue
It's important to distinguish the difference between food allergies and food intolerance. A food intolerance may be uncomfortable and unpleasant, but also potentially treatable with gut healing and other remedies. A food allergy, on the other hand, poses a different kind of risks, and it's dangerous to experiment with treatments.
Focusing on gut health can be a huge part of healing the body when dealing with both food allergies and general allergies. For example, probiotics may help with respiratory allergies! (5) While you may not be able to completely overcome food allergies without help from an allergist, you can begin to heal the body at the source of the problem.
- Natural Remedy Application: For food allergies, it's best to work closely with an allergist to help adapt to and hopefully overcome the allergy. While we can play with potential combinations of oils and remedies for some allergies, food allergies are no game.
- Essential oils shine here, with many oils working well against nasal congestion and respiratory concerns. When allergies are “acting up,” try an essential oil steam to break up the congestion.
- Drop 1-2 drops of your chosen oil or a pre-mixed blend of oils into a bowl of boiling hot water. Lean your head over the bowl and breathe the steam in. Stay here for 5-10 or 15 minutes. For extra intensity, drape a towel over the back of your head to trap the steam. Suggested oils include eucalyptus, peppermint, and lavender.
Safety & Contraindications
When it comes to drug interactions and contraindications, there are literally textbooks devoted to the study of essential oil safety, and I must defer to the chemists, pharmacists and experts who understand this complicated topic more than I.
With that said, as a trained researcher and doctor, I think it’s important to note that there is virtually no research out there discussing how essential oils interact with drugs in human clinical trials. Essentially, what this means is that essential oil safety is still a wild frontier in the science community and no one really knows (for certain) how essential oils will interact with drugs or your body.
Let common sense be your guide. Still, be sure to maintain proper dilutions, and general safety considerations still apply. As always, discontinue use if any adverse reactions occur and consult your physician immediately.