I, like many, have always suffered with terrible allergy symptoms, as well as asthma. My girls used to laugh when I tried to scratch my itchy throat with my tongue which is as futile and awkward as it sounds. At the first sign of watery eyes and restricted breathing I’d grab my allergy medicine and brace for impact.
Then in 2016, I developed an additional allergy from my work environment which I now know was paper dust. As a result, I spent the better part of my days and evenings with a violent, spasmodic cough which seemed to be triggered every time I breathed. It was a miserable time. Fortunately, I had my essential oil blends (I was about four months into my aromatherapy certification) and did what I could to limit the symptoms which included sneezing, pain behind my eyes and in my ears, headaches, and sleepless nights. I even went to the doctor thinking I would be diagnosed with some kind of bronchial whatever, but instead I got a “your lungs are completely clean, can’t find anything wrong with you.”
Despite what the doctor said, however, my cough was persistent, violent, and uncontrollable. Not to mention I still suffered from all my other usual allergy symptoms especially during peak hay fever season. I realized that just applying essential oils to my body wasn’t going to be enough. I needed to take a holistic approach and do a little lifestyle overhaul for my respiratory system.
Naturally, topical application was/is my first port of call for treating my allergies with aromatherapy. In addition to removing/limiting the number of toxic chemicals in my cleaning cupboard, I also cut down on products full of preservatives and extras that my skin/body didn’t really need. I started making hand sanitizers and foaming (super fun) hand cleansers. I’ve always used bath salts as part of bathing ritual, but I became a lot more mindful of the kind of salts I created to work with any symptoms I was experiencing. Because of all the respiratory symptoms I would experience, I tried to ensure I used steam blends as consistently as I would take prescribed medication.
One of the most integral things I did was notice what was hanging around in my breathing space. I never really paid much attention to what was lingering in my air unless there was a high pollen count or a lot of dust. Fortunately, the doctor who told me my lungs were clean also suggested that I use a diffuser (I’ll save diffuser talk for another post). So, I did. I diffused all the time. I even bought a diffuser for my desk at work since work was the original culprit of my 2016 coughing woes. And it well…worked. I noticed I coughed a little less when I was in my “diffuser zone” at my desk and even my coworkers with sniffles and ailments benefitted a little from it, too. I also started solely using beeswax candles as they, unlike paraffin candles, burn clean i.e. no toxins or smoky residue which can aggravate allergies.
Aromatherapy Cleaning Products
It wasn’t just a matter of getting regular doses of essential oils into my air. I also started paying more attention to my cleaning products. On a scale of 1-10, I’m about a 9½ on cleanliness. But now that I have canine level olfactory senses from studying essential oils, just the smell of cleaning products alone is enough to give me a headache. That’s not an accident or coincidence. Inhaling those products can be just as harmful as coming into physical contact with them, especially if used regularly.
However, I don’t live in a biohazard zone so there’s no need to kill myself in the war on bacteria with harsh, toxic cleaning chemicals every week. So as much as I can, I’ve eliminated those products and substituted for gentle/eco alternatives to the heavy stuff. Since virtually all essential oils are antibacterial, antifungal, anti all the things, I also make a lot of my own products including bath/sink scrubs, air fresheners, and counter top sprays.
Inhalation & Aromatherapy
Unfortunately, I do have to venture out of the house and I can’t diffuse everyone and everything I come into contact with (would be nice though). While I get fewer episodes of allergy attacks, I do sometimes feel like I’m allergic to being out in the world. So, I don’t leave my house without my range of aromatherapy inhalers.
They sound a bit fancy, but really all you need is an essential oil and tissue. I put a few drops of whatever oil(s) I think I might need on that day – for instance, international flights need some heavy-duty oils – onto a tissue and inhale as and when needed. Think period costume dramas and ladies, and gentlemen with handkerchiefs. Those were doused in oils because people smelled, and the air was filled with all manner of things that don’t bear thinking about. I don’t think everybody smells. I’m just a little sensitive to particles so my makeshift tissue inhalers are a super simple way to quell any symptoms I might get while out and about.
So, as I gradually started to replace some bad habits with good ones and phase out toxicity in favour of natural, green products, over a year I noticed that my symptoms were beginning to disappear. Even during allergy season, my respiratory system seemed to be less offended; fewer headaches and throat and nose irritation, and that accursed cough was all but gone, which was really what prompted me to make all these changes in the first place.
By mid-2017 I was virtually allergy and asthma free to the point I rarely had to use my inhaler. Of course, I do get the occasional flare up, depending on my surroundings, but nothing near the kind of suffering of 2016. Most happily, I do not take allergy medications anymore and recently on a doctor’s visit, I was told I had 100% blood-oxygen levels. She couldn’t believe it when I told her I had been a smoker for 30+ years. Winning.
So, this is how I engaged in battle with my allergies by applying aromatherapy techniques. In case you’re wondering, my go to essential oils for respiratory relief are Ravintsara (Cinnamomun camphora ct. 1,8 cineole), Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens), Sweet Marjoram (Origanum majorana), and Melissa (Melissa officinalis). As ever, please always seek the advice of trained health professionals in conjunction with personalized complementary treatment. By personalized, I mean specifically for you. Natural and complementary therapies are not one size fits all. Don’t hurt yourselves when attempting to reduce allergies naturally using essential oils.