Friday, February 5, 2010

Asthma and Aromatherapy

I received my fourth inquiry this week regarding the use of the oils I love to help ease Asthma.

Since I need something to direct folks to for the answer to a "frequently asked question" I found an article I wrote a year or two ago and thought it should be shared.


Please be aware that there is NO WAY to predict what oils can or will trigger an attack in an individual. Quite obviously, if you know you are allergic to, let's say pine and spruce trees, then avoid the use of the various conifer (needle) oils. If most flowers bring on an attack, avoid the floral oils, and so on.
Any oil you intend to try should first be "tested." Put a drop of the essential oil on a tissue or cotton ball and hold it at arms length from the sufferer. If it seems well tolerated, gradually bring it closer until the tissue or cotton ball is right under the nose. If it can be inhaled with no negative effects it is safe to try.
Do not try testing more than two essential oils per day, separated by several hours.  (There are some who think I'm overly cautious advising this approach, but I'd much rather you stay safe than advance too quickly.)

Please don't use any of the essential oils in a steam inhalation during an asthma attack. The use of steam, I'm told,  almost always worsens the attack.

There are two oils that are said to have 'antihistamine like' properties and are said to prevent asthma attacks.

BLUE TANSY OIL (tanecetum anuum) There are authorities who state that Blue Tansy oil can halt an asthma attack in its tracks (Jeanne Rose is one of them)...and I have clients who say that diffusing a bit of this oil in an aromalamp each morning has allowed them to cut way down on allergy medications. Blue Tansy may prove useful both as an antihistamine to help prevent attacks, and as a treatment during an attack.(Jeanne Rose writes that she personally will put a drop of Blue Tansy on a sugar cube and take it internally to ease an Asthma attack.  Our clients feedback indicates that inhalation is just as effective. The choice is up to you, but it is certainly the first essential oil I would reach for.

AMNI VISNAGA (khella) oil is supposed to have a similar effect, however it's only fair to say that most people enjoy the scent of blue tansy (sweet and apple scented) and find the scent of ammi reminiscent of last week's coffee grounds. The drug Intal (cromolyn sodium) has its origins from ammi visnaga. Khella Oil must be used (by inhalation) on a daily basis, not just when an attack threatens.


Since this blog was written we have started working with a relatively new essential oil from Australia, Fragonia (tm).

FRAGONIA(tm)  Our experience is that is is a very useful oil for inhalation with any sort of lower respiratory issue, especially for asthma. We know of people who have been able to forego use of their daily Rx inhalers by the use of a Fragonia Inhaler on a daily basis.  As with any other natural remedy, the cautions listed above still apply.  See below.

One of my French mentors wrote, years ago: "Asthma is a tricky thing, different circumstances can trigger attacks in different people, so caution is important here. A large number of Essential Oils have(or are reputed to have) effects on the respiratory system, which isn't very surprising considering that they are breathed in and that scents are often very pleasant things. A large number will also carry warnings that they may trigger an asthmatic attack. Also, not a surprise when you consider things."  It is because of the oils powerful effects on the respiratory tract that well tolerated essential oils can bring swift relief to Asthma sufferers.


The following oils are listed in order by both their ability to be tolerated without causing a reaction, and their effectiveness.

* Blue Tansy (tanecetuum anuum) Jeanne Rose states that Blue Tansy is a natural source of theophylline, a bronchiodilator,which would explain its being recommended for asthma crisises. Many sources write of the links between childhood asthma and adult eczema and other dermatitis conditions. Although we do not recommend internal usage, she says she personally uses one drop of this oil on a sugar cube for bring her asthma attack to a halt. Kurt Schaubelt extolls this magnificent deep indigo oil for its antihistamine/anti-allergen properties. He suggests using it (applied to the solar plexus) in blends for asthma, or diffusing it in blends for emphasema...blending Pine, Cypress and just a touch of this lovely Tansy. (Obviously it is first necessary to test all the oils, as described above,  before blending!)

* Hyssop montana/canescens (ex decumbens) My French mentor writes that in his experience this particular Hyssop (and no others!) is the safest essential oil to use with Asthma sufferers. It appears that the pino-camphone content in this hyssop chemotype is very low so I believe there is no toxicity, compared with the other hyssop types. He says he has had years of experience with it, mainly with diffusers and really love the oil! Best results with asthma patients, little children and allergic people. He says it is the first oil he will reach for in cases of Asthma. This hyssop ssp montana/canescens (ex decumbens) is only found in the Haute Provence, France. Blue Tansy and this Hyssop are the first two essential oils I would test.

* Green Myrtle Myrtus communis. A soft, gentle respiratory oil, very good for use with children, normally well tolerated. A very gentle expectorant that can ease coughing while loosening tight mucous.

* Litsea Cubeba. Litsea, sometimes called May Chang, has a clear lemony scent that also has bronchio-dilator and antispasmodic effects. It is normally well tolerated, but should be tested. It also blends aromatically well with amni visnaga (see above) and makes inhalation of the Khella Oil a lot more palatable. If I were to try daily inhalation of Amni Visnaga, I would most definitely blend it with the Litsea, both for the antispasmodic effect, but, more important, because the blend is amazingly pleasant from an aromatic standpoint.

* Cypress Oil Cupressus sempervirens All of the conifers may help with respiratory problems. Cypress, in addition, is an antispasmodic which can help relieve bronchial spasms. However, any of the "Evergreen" oils can cause an allergic reaction to many people, so please be very sure to test this with your asthma patient. (See test method above.)

Essential Oils: Try them in this order: Hyssop, Myrtle, Cypress, Lavender, Litsea cubeba, Petitgrain (or Mandarin) for stress and anxiety relief.


For inhalation:
* Hyssop Essential Oil
* Cypress Essential Oil
* Litsea cubeba Essential Oil:
One drop of each on a cotton ball to smell at will whenever breathing feels constricted.
Try the combination and if the effect is positive, mix as follows. In a small colored glass bottle (amber or cobalt) mix equal parts of the three oils. (1 15 ml (1/2 ounce) bottle will hold one measuring teaspoon of each oil.)

For Massage:
* Myrtle Essential Oil
* Lavender Essential Oil
* Petitgrain Essential Oil (or Mandarin Essential Oil):
This is a more complicated mixture. You will also need some carrier oil - Jojoba or Fractionated Coconut are our favorites, but use what you have available. For your trial of this mixture, take one tablespoonful Oil, add 7 drops Myrtle Essential Oil, 3 drops Lavender Essential Oil, and 3 drops Petitgrain Essential Oil (or Mandarin Essential Oil). Use this as a massage oil on the patients BACK, not chest. If the reaction is a good one, mix up some more as follows: 7 TBS Carrier Oil (this should be what is left in your 4 oz bottle if that is what you bought).
Add 1/2 tsp Myrtle Essential Oil, 1/4 tsp Lavender Essential Oil and 1/4 tsp Petitgrain Essential Oil (or Mandarin Essential Oil). This is a massage oil for his back. It can also be used on his wrists or ankles. It should be used every 15 minutes or oftener during an attack. It will not hurt him to use it once or twice a day as a regular thing if he thinks it makes his condition better.

I want to thank my mentor, Michel VanHove for his generosity in sharing blends that have helped his clients, and for all of the wisdom he has shared over the years.

UPDATE:   One oil that has proven VERY helpful by regular use in lessening the frequency and severity of Asthma outbreaks is Australian FRAGONIA essential oil. We have seen very successful results by the use of this amazing oil, which was not even on my horizon when this original article was written. Yes, you should test with your Asthma sufferer, all the warnings above still apply, but it is an amazing addition to the arsenal of respiratory essential oils.


wendolen said...


Several years ago I bought a little 2ml bottle of the ammi visnaga oil from you, but at that time there were some warnings on your listing about it being a potential liver toxin. You don't mention that here -- has more testing been done?

I bought it and then ended up always being a little too spooked to mess with it because of those warnings. I still have it -- how does this oil age? Would it still be good? (It's probably close to ten years old, but it's been closed up and in the dark almost all the time.)

aromatique essentials said...

Hi there, my name is Julie Nelson. I have been a practising Aromatherapist for about 14 years and lectured on Aromatherapy for 12years. I have worked with chronic lung disease for most of that time and have ahd some very good results. It is important to re-iterate that when treating any condition the treatment is specific to the individual and i recommend you consult with a qualified practioner before using any essential oils.
Red or sweet myrtle, german chamomile, melaleuca ericafolia, mandarin were my most used oils on a young child aged from 6yr's to 10 yr's. In the practioner's guide to Aromatherapy red or wild thyme and peppermint combined wererecommended for deep lung infections, I have used this combination with ravensara, lemon myrtle and eucalptus smithii.
Applications - topically applying the oils front and back of torso by gentle massage.These treatments were used as a complementary treatment along with orthodox medication. Never take anyone off medication wit out a doctors consent.

Marge said...

Wendolyn, re the Ammi visnaga, I honestly don't know it's normal shelf life, but I would five or so years, given good storage. Re the liver toxicity..I've seen no further evidence of that and think that used in normal amounts it should not be a problem.

Marge said...

Julie we really aren't discussing lung infections here, but rather asthma which is a whole different issue. My teachers (as mentioned in the article) stress massaging the back only when dealing with Asthma, not chest and back as you indicate. And I wouldn't recommend the use of Lemon Myrtle topically...when the producers warn against topical use, I tend to listen to them.

aromatique essentials said...

Hi Marge, I understand the difference between asthma and chronic lung and have had many successful treatments for both. I thought I would expand a little as we all learn from sharing of information. With lemon myrtle the dilutions have been low, and I have not experienced any problems to date.
I have found Germ. chamomile, red or sweet myrtle and frankincense to be very beneficial when working with asthma. As you said we need to be aware of the cause of asthma and treat each client as an individual.
Do you sell Blue Tansey, if so could you please send me the sizes, & cost as I would really like to add it to my collection. My suppliers do not sell it.
thank you for the opportunity to share.
Regards Julie

Marge said...

Didn't mean to sount snippy, Julie... and I appreciate your presence here. Yes, we have Blue Tansy. I am not listing it on our bulk page, only in retail sizes now, bec. my supply is running low (and I don't want to THINK about replacement costs!) You may order it at or from our "quick order page" (the alphabetical listing. My assistant, Christi, has a LOT of allergy problems and simply swears by its effectiveness. If the 15 ml won't do you, email me and we'll talk about a couple of ounces. Honestly can't spare more than that right now.

Unknown said...

Loved your article. It was very helpful and I think my son will be curious enough to let me test out the Blue Tansy sample Nature's Gift is sending me. If he likes it I think I'll combine it with Lavender or one of the other recommended oils. My plan is that after the pre-test to use a nasal inhaler. Does anyone know if they can be re-saturated with oil after the initial saturation? I found two YouTube videos on how to put them together but no answer to the above question. Can anyone help? The inhalers were about $1 apiece, maybe someone knows of a cheaper place to get them? Thanks again for the blog and I've bookmarked this and put it under my Herbal Recipes folder. Happy Holidays & blessed be!

Marge said...

This article was written years ago, and omits an oil that we have discovered is one of the most useful for asthma. Fragonia (tm) oil from Australia has proven amazingly helpful. In fact, my teenaged grandson has been able to come off his asthma meds by using a Fragonia (tm) inhaler on a daily basis. You may read more about it here:

labbie1 said...

After reading the article, I was expecting to see Blue Tansy recommended as a good oil for Asthma but when you got down to the recipes, it was not included. I am now somewhat confused about the efficacy of Blue Tansy with Asthma. Thanks! :)

Marge said...

Labbie, the blends were shared by one of my mentors well over a decade ago, before Blue Tansy became widely available. If you read ABOVE the blends you'll see that it is recommended, alone, more strongly than any oil. I'm just not really sure what I would blend it with. Also, its action is more anti-histamine than respiratory...the blends focus on easing the breathing and bronchial constriction.

labbie1 said...

Thank you! I appreciate your clarification. BTW, this is Yvonne from LAEO. :)

Unknown said...

Inula at low concentration less than 5% can be used and is my oil of choice for COPD(chronic lung conditions) and asthma. Place on the chest at low concentrations or inhale from the bottle without dilution.