Home Remedies for Calming Difficult Breathing

breathing difficulties

We’ve all had that nasty bug one time or another! Some of us get really down with either bronchitis or the croup after having a particularly bad cold or flu!

Once or twice during my pregnancy I experienced such a bad cough I thought my ribs were going to break!

Persistent and extreme coughs can cause anything from sore muscles and sleeplessness to broken ribs or injured backs. Add to this that you’ve already had an injury or a recent surgery and you are in a world of hurt!

I am going to point out some easy tips for easing this hurt and helping you get the rest you crave and need desperately.

You probably already know how our lungs function, with the education we have access to these days. We can learn that lining our breathing passageways are cilia hairs which are constantly moving and waving upward to carry dust particles and mucus up and out of our lungs.

1.  Bring a pot of water to a boil. Take it off the stove-top. Place the pot on a pot holder on the table. Place a few drops of Eucalyptus oil in the pot. Sit up to the table and lean your face over the pot, in the steam, not too close to the edge of the pot where the steam is too hot, with a cloth over your head to keep some steam inside and just breathe deeply, in and out. I recommend using an eye mask. You may find this soothes and opens up the airways. Nice to do right before bedtime. If preferred, you can add other oils mentioned here. I also recommend using this method as apposed to using in a bath, if your skin is sensitive, or you have a fever. That way the body is not heated, raising the body temperature. (There are hydrotherapy methods purposely used to raise the body temperature when a fever is desired to give extra assistance to the healing process. Under these circumstances I still would recommend not using the oils at the same time. Hydrotherapy baths are generally best if taking a long soak, adding to the possibility that skin irritation might occur)

2. Also at bedtime a chest-rub can be made with a preparation using Jojoba oil. Jojoba oil is a carrier oil. Mix in a couple of drops of Lavender and Tea Tree (Melaleuca) oils. Tea Tree reduces mucous, helping to loosen the mucous in our lungs.



40 thoughts on “Home Remedies for Calming Difficult Breathing”

  1. Hello, I really appreciate you sharing this information. I have been an asthmatic my entire life. My experiences from the results of severe coughing are an access developing in my right upper lobe, immediately after recovering from that was a chronic pneumo thorax, (lung collapse), of the same right lung. I had to get a chest tube inserted and In the hospital for 18 days. When I was a child, my mother used a vaporizer that she would do what you describe here. To help me with my breathing, (life-saver). However, these days since recovering from my collapsedear lung and under the advice of my pulmonary therapist, have taking my meds as prescribed. However, at an expense which is the ‘cilia’ in my lung is emaciated. But that’s painless for now. Nevertheless, the home remedies that you describe here brought back some memories and have given me an idea. To turn to home remedies, they did work afterall.
    Excellent article!

    1. Thank you so much Linda, for this very important note! This brings back memories of my childhood, going to sleep with relief and waking up feeling better. I also remember caring for my children in this way and it is essential for small children! I am looking for the perfect vaporizer. Do you have a suggestion?

      Thanks so much!


    2. Hi Linda,

      I am so sorry about what happened when you were younger! I am also sorry about the side effects of your meds. There must be another way!
      Please, will you let me know if you find any relief, if using this or similar home remedy on a regular basis? I would like to know you have some relief!
      Winters we have the heater on more, of course. Are you more deeply affected by this? As you may see in other comments, I will be researching more on this topic for later comment. Thanks for your kind comment, Lynne

  2. Hi!
    I really thank you for this tip. I recently got the flu and a cold and I wish I had seen this sooner. This is a great way to even just loosen up all the gunk in one’s head and help clear the nasal passages. Thank you for the wonderful post!

    1. Hi Melody!

      Thanks for your comment. I hope you do not need this information anytime soon, but when you need it I hope you will remember. Also, I should say this method relieves and prevents coughing. If I know that I am going to cough as soon as I lay down, I have used it to make sure I get a good nights rest. Good planning ahead for those nights when you think you are over the cough but not! How long was your longest lasting cough? I have been known to have one hang on for 16 days. Also, please see the comment by Linda about using the vaporizer. This is good for children, particularly, since they could get burned by the steam. Stay well, Lynne

  3. It is one of the worst things in the world when you have a hard time breathing. Unfortunatly my dad has COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder) which really affects his breathing. He finds it very difficult to breathe in the cold weather like this here in Ireland. I’ll suggest a few of these ideas to him. It won’t solve the issue obviously as that is permanent. Maybe they might ease it for him though. Thanks for the suggestions.

    1. Hello Dan! Thanks, but please look at Rocky’s comment! There is caution for COPD. Please expect another reply soon, when I have a moment to research another remedy for your dad! Let’ s look at other options. I am sure we will find something of value out there. I am not a physician, nor a licensed E.O. Therapist.

      This home remedy is for the common cold and flu.


  4. I love this! I do many of these techniques including drinking hot beverages and resting the best that I can. This was a great read. The vapor rub truly feels great on your chest when you have difficulty breathing, however my advice is for anyone with respiratory illnesses that are chronic or terminal to consult your pulmonary physician. Sometimes these conditions can actually worsen due to the vapor rub as a treatment. I know because my late great grandmother had COPD, and I used it to give her relief and caused her to lose her breath. I couldn’t get it off her fast enough! But luckily I did, and she lived another 2 months after the incident. But for other conditions like cold, flu and allergies, these are awesome!

  5. Lynne,
    When I was younger, I had chronic bronchitis. My mom would use the chest rub to ease the cough. I do not know what was in it as my mom is gone now. Similar to your other method, she would bring water to boil and put it in a cup with a tea bag, this would also help, she did use the towel to keep in the vapors. This was over 50 years ago. I like your Eucalyptus oil in hot water with a towel, this will work well and break up your cough. I am lucky that I don’t have this problem now. These methods work.

  6. Hello Lynne, very short and sweet.
    Your above recommendation for a free airway passage is effective. I have in the past used the same process, but in a humidifier. It produces steam and heat that warms the few drops of essential oil applied. Thank you for an easy to apply remedy.

    1. Hello again EJ!

      Just this morning on Facebook I saw that you can use Peppermint, Tea Tree and Lemon oils in a vaporizer! I wonder if Spearmint might have a similar effect, but this bears more research. I am only here to learn and I love the give and take of a forum! Thanks for taking your precious time to chat with me. Wish we all could actually sit down together and enjoy a cup of Peppermint tea! If you have any more home remedies to share, or wish to learn more, I hope you will come back soon! Lynne


  7. I love all the tips!
    My son gets a cold all the time and it’s upsetting to watch him suffer. The hydrotherapy looks great and I will give that a try next time he gets a cold and see if he gets better breathing and relief from it.

    Thanks for sharing!

  8. These are great easy tips to help clear up your lungs and airways. Being sick is never fun and finding anything to help you feel better is really helpful. Luckily I don’t get sick often, but my sister seems to, so I will tell her about these ideas so she can feel better quicker next time.

    1. Welcome and thanks for your comment and I am glad you stay well most of the time. You must be doing something right!
      I hope your sister stays well the rest of this cold season. I hope to learn more, in this forum, about how to get and stay well.
      If you find any easy home remedies for her immune system feel free to let us know and discuss it.


  9. Hi Lynne,
    Thanks for the great advice! I love this treatment I use it every time I have a cold it really helps clear out the sinuses. Keep up the great work!

  10. Hi Lynne,

    Great post and great suggestions. I am lucky I don’t have any breathing issues but I know lots of water is also good and adding lemons to water in the morning can give the body a good cleanse.

    I remember watching Mrs Brady on the Brady Bunch using the pot and towel over the head trick many years ago haha! So it definitely works! 🙂

    Keep pushing out the gold,


  11. I have used the steam of a pot before but I never knew about the adding oil to it. What are the benefits of adding that oil to the water? I know the steam will help open your airways. Does the oil add to that?

    1. Yes, there are properties in the oils that actually work to open our airways. These are tried and true, but old fashioned remedies. They are reviving and coming back to the notice of younger generations. There are numerous companies who sell them and many are young people with young families who I am meeting on Instagram. I am amazed, but also concerned, knowing that injuries happen all of the time with these remedies. So while I promote their use, I emphasize the safety precautions, while I am on Instagram. I hope that these young families will use locked boxes for these bottles of “Gold”! I will soon provide a link to at least one craftsman who makes these.

  12. Great idea. I know when my animals have been ill the vet has recommended taking them in the bathroom with me when I take a shower to get some steam. I have used this myself, but it is so much easier to do this with a pot. I’ve never thought of that. Do you think this works better than using a diffuser?

    1. Yes Marlena, I believe it does, since you can cover your head and really get a good steam directed at you. A diffuser works too, when you want to lie down in bed and still gain relief. Also, there is less chance of a child getting injured. I do not recommend using a pot for a very small child. I remember the days when my mother had a great vaporizer that directed the stream of steam near my nose, but not too close.

      I recommend using the steaming pot, with all safety precautions adhered to, then lay down for the rest of the night with the vaporizer or diffuser nearby. Thanks for asking, Lynne

  13. Thank you Lynne,
    Wow, these are some very simple yet great tips for helping to overcome tough breathing. I often struggle with lots of congestion and these remedies definitely clear it up.


    1. I am sorry that you struggle often. I wonder what you could do for this. Could there be allergies involved, such as dust and mold. Sometimes these are not as simple to solve as you would think. I once had to break my lease due to the apartment manager not being able to clear out the mold out of it. They tried and failed. Or, it could be a chronic sinus infection, which may need antibiotics or another essential oil to clear up. There are some E.O. that I plan to try using for some wintertime distress I seem to have when the heaters are on. Take care, Lynne

  14. I actually had a bad flu recently and I coughed really bad for a month.

    Next time I will definitely try the Jojoba oil recipe. I actually have tea tree oil already and I need Jojoba oil then I am good to go 😉

    1. I am very sorry you did not have all of your oils ready and you suffered more. This happens to me. I learn about something and it takes a while to gather all of the right ingredients. I hope you will remember to obtain everything and be ready next time. These oils are like gold, the gold kings used to keep. Do not go for too cheap. Look for quality and purity. I hope you do not need this anytime soon, however!


    1. Good Mike! I hope it helps. Any different or newer ideas for using essential oils and using them safely, please let us know. I just discovered the use of wicks! I had seen mention of these on Instagram. I thought they were referring to taking wicks that are used in kerosene lanterns and using them for this purpose. Then I saw wicks, specifically for essential oils selling in the store. These wicks are used in the diffusers. I am, at present, looking for the best diffuser for my budget. Thanks, Lynne

  15. I wish I had seen this a few days ago. I had a really bad ear infection in which I had so much mucous coming out of my head it was sickening. So that leaves me to the question would the boiling pot and the Eucalyptus oil would have worked in this case?

    1. I am sorry for this Ronnie! Yes, Eucalyptus oil with steam might have gone far to relieve the congestion, also using a vaporizer or diffuser, but sometimes things move along to far for simple remedies before we catch them. You must have known that you had to see a physician to obtain an antibiotic. I do try to avoid this, but every once in a while things progress too rapidly. It is of great importance that we do not allow our ear infection to progress to rupture of the ear drum! Are you all right?

      It is also possible that you could use a carrier oil mixture with Eucalyptus and Melaleuca. These relieve congestion and infection. For pain, use Helichrysum, Basil and Geranium. Valerian, Idaho Tansy and Marjoram and Vitex may be used also.

      Don’t let the many kinds of oils listed worry you. I am finding that any three oils used together for many needs goes a long way to work. Speaking from some experience, choose your best or favorite oils you have.

      Put the mixture in the palm of your hand and dip a small piece of cotton ball in it. Place the cotton in your ear, then rub the back of the ear and the bone behind the ear with the oils left in your hand. These oils absorb deep inside, penetrating to within the region of pain.

      The Helichrysum has been mentioned as helpful if some hearing loss has resulted from your issues.

      Juniper is mentioned, but I am not sure I know enough about this. I had seen this oil recommended for bladder infections. Then, I found out that the reason it helps is because this strong oil causes the inner lining of the ureters to slough off,which by default removes the infection. I am not sure this is safe, since you are removing the lining, rather than curing the infection from the lining. I hope that makes sense! I might not want to do this to my ear either! This is partly why I created this forum, due to finding out that some of what we hear is not safe to use. Be safe and well, Lynne

  16. Wow ! Thank you for sharing this excellent information. While reading this information, I had a stuffy nose, and now I don’t. I tried this right after reading, and all I can say is success. I am ready for tomorrow when I go for a run and see if this remedy helped clear up my lungs.

    Would you recommend any additional essential oils to use in conjunction with eucalyptus to help better clear the lungs?

    1. Yes Bri! There are many choices! Basil, Marjoram, Clary Sage, Rosemary and Thyme. Clove, Cinnamon, Ginger, Nutmeg are nice together. Bergamot, Clove and Lavendar is a tried combo. They smell good together. Peppermint is an option, but this and Cinnamon should not be used for children. Pine, Spruce and Cedarwood may be nice together.

      Some oils with which I am not familiar have been mentioned, such as Hyssop, Ledum, Melrose, and Ravintsara. I have no idea what these smell like. I am still learning about all of this!

      This is a lot to keep on hand, so choose your favorites to start with. I would combine at least 3 to experiment with your preferences. Bergamot, Frankincense, Roman Chamomile, are some I will try next time I need them.

      Lemon may be used, diffuse throughout the air for preventing the spread of germs. An alternate is grapefruit oil. Melaleuca helps with this, but I am not fond of the aroma. I would use it anyway, in the case of flu or other extreme illness. I hope you get complete relief and stay well! Lynne

  17. Hi, just wanted to pipe in and say this works! My mom made me do this as a kid all the time, when I struggled with asthma and frequent bronchitis and pneumonia. She would also sometimes throw raw garlic in the pot (definitely had to keep my eyes closed then!).

    To this day, if I ever get a cold, I do a steam with essential oils. It’s nice to see this information shared online.

    1. Thanks Penelope! May I ask what other oils she may have used, or was it just garlic? Sometimes Asthma sufferers grow out of it when they grow up. Are you well now? I do hope so!


  18. Hi Lynne,

    Thanks for this post! Very useful! Bad colds are the worst, especially when you are trying to sleep. I’ll definitely try this remedy the next time I have a cold!



  19. Simple solutions to help with a cough! I love using essential oils for common ailments like a cough. I love your recipe for the chest rub and will use that if my daughters come down with a cough. At college there is always something going around! Can I use fractionated coconut oil instead of jojoba?

    1. Yes, fractionated coconut oil is great to use, so I have heard. At the moment I do not have any, plan to get some next time I need a new carrier oil. In fact, coconut oil has some other great benefits. It is antioxidant and disinfecting in effect. It raises our Caprylic acids which boost our immune system. It has a long shelf life and is highly stable. The least inexpensive seems to be through a Jet.com order, $7.99 / 4 oz. and eBay, $7.39 / 4 oz. I am not sure what the quality of either of those are. Any chance of coming back to let us know? Thanks, Lynne

  20. Hey Lynne,
    This is a great Article on difficult breathing! I love how you included the diagram at the top of the page, a visual picture of the Lungs is always helpful. I am intrigued with using more essential oils in my day to day life and cant wait for your next post! I also must say I love the Melaleuca products, my mom uses them a lot in her Vaporizer or Humidifer? and they always smell so nice and relaxing.


    I’m from Nebraska USA, I was diagnosed with Emphysema in July of 2009. I may had it for 6 months to 1 year prior to diagnosis. It started with a dry cough, shortness of breath, and fatigue. A chest x-ray confirmed it and I was placed on corticosteroids. As the disease progressed all medication stopped working. I was introduced to a clinic who used successful herbal treatments for Emphysema and other lungs related diseases. I used the herbal remedy my doctor recommended and all symptoms were reversed.

    1. Jessica, would you like to share which herbs you used and how they were applied or taken? I hope this message finds you well! Thanks, Lynne

  22. After having a persistent cough for over a year, I was diagnosed with COPD in March 2015. In 2016 my COPD got worse to the point where, not only did I have trouble sleeping at night, I also struggled to get air into my lungs. I read in a health forum of a herbal Centre) who provided successful treatment for COPD/Emphysema. I used their herbal remedy for 2 weeks, all my symptoms were reversed, i did another test for confirmation, I was declared COPD free.

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