Sinus pain, caused by swelling inside and around the nasal passages that produce mucus, is common during cold, flu, and allergy seasons. You can use aromatherapy for sinus pain and congestion to help reduce sinus pressure and inflammation.
What is Aromatherapy
A related, but less frequently used technique to reduce pain and pressure is aromatherapy. It is a complementary medicine that relies on healing properties of herbs as applied in essential oil forms. The concentrated oils can be diluted in added oil and applied to the skin or can be inhaled in some forms. Simple use relies on using a single oil scent to trigger relaxation, energy, or other moods. More complex aromatherapy is undertaken with specific recipes that combine oils to enhance individual properties and improve health and healing. Quantities and reasoning for herbal selection in these recipes date back thousands of years.
How To Help Relieve Sinus Pressure
Two common complementary approaches to reducing sinus pressure are steam and irrigation.
Steam treatment is comprised of hot water vapour inhaled to moisturize the nasal passages, strengthen membranes and reduce swelling. Steam sources include electrical vaporizer machines, old-fashioned towel-over-a-hot pot techniques (but watch for burning), or prolonged bathroom steam from long showers. An additional benefit of steam treatment is that lung airways are opened up. You can add 1-2 drops of essential oils listed below. The rule of thumbs is 1 drop/quart of water.
Nasal irrigation consists of salt water application directly to the nasal passages to reduce mucus, moisten airways, and improve drainage. One of the oldest forms of irrigation is with a Neti Pot, a device that allows the user to pour warm salt water into one nostril while the head is on its side, so that the saline drains out the other nostril. Newer forms of irrigation include pressurized plastic bottles that force the saline from one nostril to the other or to the mouth cavity so that the user can stand normally. These irrigations can improve not only sinus pain but also nasal allergies, sore throats, and ear pain.
Essential Oils and Methods to Treat Sinus Pain and Pressure
Some of the most common oils used for sinus pain and pressure are tea tree, lavender, bergamot, eucalyptus, and oregano. These essential oils can be diluted with plain oil and massaged onto key areas of the head and neck: behind and below the ears, on the back of the neck, on the temples, and on the topmost part of the nose (taking care around the eyes). These spots receive immediate relief with this technique. The essential oils can also be inhaled indirectly from the bottle for more direct effect in the nasal passages, can be added to a humidifier or used in the shower or in a diffuser.
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil has antiseptic and antimicrobial properties and helps eliminate germs causing infection in the sinuses while boosting the immune system to prevent future infections. The vapours in tea tree oil open up the sinus passages and breathing airways while relieving nasal congestion. It can also be use therapeutically for sinusitis, rhinitis, respiratory tract infections, laryngitis, and bronchitis.
Lavender is highly antiseptic, or cleansing, and is also known for soothing and relaxation properties. Thus, it can be absorbed to help remove mucus or bacterial particles and its scent can relax the muscles that tighten during sinus headache.
Bergamot is a sweet citrus compound that fights viral and bacterial germs, so it can prevent additional infection from developing at the source of sinus pain; it is a cleansing antiseptic and energizer as well because of its citrus properties.
Eucalyptus is often combined with menthol to relieve sinus pain and open airways, because it is anti-inflammatory and antibacterial. When used in combination with menthol and camphor, counterirritation reduces sinus pain and antiseptic activity gives a cooling effect, so that blood vessels constrict mildly to reduce swelling and open airways.
Oregano, through unknown mechanisms, decreases excessive immune reactions and swelling, such as those seen with allergy, and prevents germ buildup of all kinds.
The potential side effects of essential oils include:
- Irritation and burning: Essential oil may cause irritation and burning. Always dilute essential oils with a carrier oil before applying it to the skin. Do a test, by applying a small amount to a small area of your skin first and see if you get any reactions.
- Asthma attacks: Some people with asthma may react to breathing in the fumes.
- Headaches: If you inhale too much essential oils, it may lead to headaches instead of helping with it.
Consult a licensed aromatherapist for continued treatment, and consult a doctor for pain that is not relieved by traditional or complementary medicines.
Traditional remedies, such as spray or oral decongestants like phenylephrine, can temporarily constrict blood vessels to decrease swelling and improve breathing; however, most over-the-counter remedies can only be used for short times and have their own side effects. Sinus pain duration can seem unending when allergies and infections flare during the winter months, so better and more options are needed such as using aromatherapy to help with sinus pain and congestion during the cold and flu season.