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I woke up with a headache and pressure all through my cheeks, eyes and forehead. Two ibuprofens and a Tylenol later, the pain was somewhat dulled, but the pressure was still making me non-functional. Sinus pain is no fun, as anyone who has experienced it knows.
Fortunately, aromatherapy came to my rescue and relieved the symptoms enough that I could get on with my day. I am going to walk you through my process of creating this blend, but if you want to just skip ahead to my final blend, scroll to the bottom.
In order to choose the oils for the blend, we need to understand a bit more about sinusitis. The blend should bring relief from both the symptoms and the underlying cause.
What is sinusitis?
Sinusitis is an inflammation of the sinuses. While most of us are aware of the sinuses to the right and left of our noses (called the maxillary sinuses), there are other sinuses including behind the bridge of the nose (ethmoid sinus) and in the forehead area above our nose and eyebrows (frontal sinus). Their main function is to produce mucus to lubricate the lining of our noses, but they also make the skull lighter and provide some resonance for our voices. (Cedars-Sinai)
In sinusitis, the sinus cavities become inflamed and swollen (the suffix –itis in any word in medicine usually means inflammation). This causes the lining to swell, and prevents proper drainage of the mucus. This is why sinus pain often feels like pressure.
Sinusitis often occurs in conjunction with a cold or allergies, but it can also be caused by bacteria, fungus, or viruses as well as by anatomical reasons like nasal polyps or deviated septums. (Mayo Clinic)
If untreated, sinusitis can lead to more serious conditions such as meningitis. If your sinusitis doesn’t soon resolve with home treatment, you should see your doctor.
What are the symptoms of sinusitis?
Acute sinusitis can cause nasal discharge, congestion, and pain in the cheeks, nose and forehead. It can also make your teeth ache. This is because the roots of upper teeth are very close to the maxillary sinus, and occasionally the root tips actually extend into the sinuses. (Mayo Clinic). One little trick to tell if your pain is sinus or dental related is to bend over, if the pain increases when your head is upside down, it is usually sinus pain.
What essential oils are good for sinusitis?
When choosing essential oils for sinus conditions, we want to address both the symptoms and the cause. So now that we know more about sinusitis, let’s see which oils are good options.
For mucus buildup (also known as catarrh) we find that black pepper, eucalyptus, rosemary, peppermint, lavandin, marjoram, myrrh, myrtle, niaouli, pine and tea tree are anti-catarrhal.
For pain, we look to analgesic oils like cajeput, eucalyptus, frankincense, lavandin, spike lavender, lemongrass, Spanish marjoram, sweet marjoram, peppermint, rosemary, and tea tree.
To address the underlying causes of sinusitis, we look to oils that address inflammation as well as antiseptic oils.
Almost all essential oils have some antiseptic properties. Since sinusitis can be caused by bacteria, viruses or even fungi, we are narrowing things down to those that work against more than one type of microbe (e.g. bacteria, virus, or fungi).
Both tea tree oil and oregano oil are antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal. Other oils that are effective against more than one type of micro-organism include bergamot, eucalyptus, ravensara, niaouli, and lavender.
For inflammation, there was a long list of oils so I narrowed it down to the most common oils as well as those already appearing in other categories above. My shortlist included chamomile (both types), eucalyptus, frankincense, helichrysum, lavender, myrrh, bergamot, juniper, myrtle, niaouli, peppermint, pine, spearmint, tea tree and thyme.
I also looked through several of my aromatherapy books to see which oils were specifically recommended for sinusitis. I made note of the oils that came up in multiple sources. They included: eucalyptus, peppermint, pine, thyme, myrtle, ravensara, lavender, rosemary, tea tree, and frankincense.
Putting all of that together, my final blend was:
4 roman chamomile (inflammation)
4 peppermint (mucus, pain)
4 eucalyptus (mucus, pain)
6 tea tree (anti-microbial, pain)
3 scotch pine (mucus)
Save this blend for Later:
How to use essential oils for sinusitis:
Any time the respiratory system is involved, inhalation is a great way to use essential oils.
- Steam inhalation
A steam inhalation can be beneficial because often dry air aggravates sinusitis. The steam can help to moisturize your nasal passages and bring an extra layer of relief.
To prepare a steam inhalation, place 3-4 drops of the blend in a bowl of hot water. If your water is not very hot out of the tap, you may boil water, but be sure to let it cool for a few minutes before using. A scalded face is not pleasant.
Cover your head with a towel and place your face about 10-14 inches above the bowl to start. It is better to start further away and work your way closer than to get a big whiff of oils and hot steam in your face. I like to close my eyes so the steam doesn’t irritate my eyes.
Inhale the steam for 5-10 minutes up to a few times a day. If you find yourself getting overwhelmed by the scent or the heat, uncover your head and take a break for a few moments.
Children under 5 should not use steam inhalation. Do not use your steaming bowl for food use after putting essential oils in it.
- Make a nasal inhaler
You can also use a sinus blend in a nasal inhaler. This is a great option because it is very portable. You can pop it in your bag and take it to work or school and take a few sniffs every once in a while.
You can purchase blank inhalers that come with all the parts you need to make your own. Place the cotton wick in a dish with the essential oil blend and let it wick it all up. Using tweezers, place the saturated wick inside the inhaler and screw on the cap. It should last for a few weeks.
- Diffuse with a clean ultrasonic diffuser
Using an ultrasonic diffuser will add a little bit of moisture to your air, which can help ease the irritation from dry air, though not as much as a humidifier or a steam inhalation.
Add 5 drops of the blend to your diffuser and run it for 20-30 minutes three times a day.
Be sure that your diffuser is clean so that you don’t inadvertently add more microbes to the air.
- Essential oil necklace
The final way to use this blend is to put a drop or two in an essential oil necklace. The heat from your body will encourage evaporation, and the proximity of the pendant to your nose means that you will smell it for as long as you are wearing it.
Essential oils can be a simple home remedy for sinus pain. There are many oils that can address both the symptoms and the root cause. You can follow the method I used in this article to create your own blend using the oils you have on hand. I’ve already done the research for you (be sure to bookmark this on Pinterest so you can refer back to it).
First published May 2014, Completely Updated December 2017
Sources Consulted in preparing this article:
Purchon & Cantele. The Complete Aromatherapy & Essential oils Handbook for Everyday Wellness
Keville & Green. Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art
Hoare. The Complete Aromatherapy Tutor
Lawless. The Complete Illustrated Guide to Aromatherapy
Schnaubelt. Advanced Aromatherapy
Lavabre. Aromatherapy Workbook