Homemade Herbal Vapor Rub to Relieve Coughs and Congestion

Written by Courtney, Contributing Writer

Seeing our children suffer from a cough is no fun at all. However, coughs have their place in healing and should usually not be suppressed. If we prevent a cough from doing its part in recovery, we can set our child up for a much more serious illness. What starts out as a simple cold could quickly turn into bronchitis or pnemonia if mucous is allowed to settle in the chest.

At times, a cough can interfere with recovery when it causes severe irritation and prevents our child from getting adequate rest. We can ease our child’s discomfort while still allowing a cough to do its job.

Soothing herbs and honey protect the throat from dryness and irritation, but don’t “turn off” the brain’s response to cough like some cough remedies do. Propping a child slightly helps to prevent the infection from settling in the lungs. Steam, poultices, and chest rub salves help to break up the chest congestion and make our child feel better fast.

Natural Remedies to Relieve a Cough

Eucalyptus and other essential oils can be very effective in relieving a cough. The oils help to increase oxygen flow and break up chest congestion. Some have antibacterial and/or antiviral properties as well! We can include these essential oils in stream treatments (diffused in vaporizors or humidifiers or in towel steam treatments) or in chest rubs, applied topically with a carrier oil or salve.

For years, I simply added essential oils to olive oil, similar to this recipe, and rubbed it on the chest for relief, but I’ve come to prefer a salve over the oil. It’s not as greasy or messy and it’s much less likely to spill.

Making a chest rub salve is simple. It’s also safer (and cheaper) than the store-bought brands, like Vic’s, which are made from a petroleum base and contain questionable preservatives and other ingredients.

How to Make a Chest Rub Salve

To make a chest rub salve, you will need a pan to melt the ingredients and a container to store the finished product in. I prefer metal tins, either 2 ounces or 4 ounces for this type of salve. Used moisturizer containers work well, too.

The size of your container will determine how much salve you make, so I will list the ingredient amounts in parts instead of a pre-determined amount. Over the years, I have found this to be much easier than trying to adjust a recipe to fit the container I store it in.


Simply melt the oil and beeswax in a pan and then add the essential oils. Pour into your metal tin(s) or other container. And that’s it!

The salve will harden within 10-15 minutes. If you find it is too soft, like the consistency of an ointment, you can scoop it back into the pan, remelt it and add more beeswax. If it is too hard, remelt and add more oil. I’ve also remelted to add more essential oil when I wasn’t satisfied with the strength of the oils.

This is a basic chest rub salve recipe that can be altered or added to to suit your individual needs or preferences. Essential oils of hyssop, rosemary, peppermint, thyme are a few examples of other oils that help relieve chest congestion. (Some essential oils should be avoided during pregnancy, so check the safety of any oils you plan to add if pregnant.)

We also use this salve to help relieve nasal congestion. When applied right under the nose, it helps to clear the airway instantly!

What are your favorite home remedies for relieving the discomfort of a cough?

Disclaimer: The writers at KOTH are not certified medical professionals of any kind and are not qualified to give you medical advice. Our goal is to help to educate and inspire you to take responsibility for your own family’s health and make informed choices of your own, not to consult you on medical treatment. 

Disclosure: This post includes affiliate links.

About Courtney

Courtney is passionate about natural and simple living. She believes in taking the time to nurture her family with nourishing food and healing through nature, knowing that God is the giver of life and that he has supplied us with ample resources for health and healing. She blogs at Simply Nurtured, where she shares her thoughts on raising a healthy family, with the belief that the foundation for a healthy life begins in the womb and in the early years. She also owns the Simply Nurtured Shop, where she sells natural products for mom and baby.

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  1. I am new to essential oils and have a question about cooking equipment. Since some oils are pretty potent and not considered safe for ingestion does anyone know if I use my daily cookware to make an essential oils receipe if this will affect our food that’s also cooked in these pots and pans? Of course they would be washed etc before cooking, but just curious if there’s residue or corrosion of cookware to be careful of. Thanks!

  2. Coming a bit late to the party, but I just found this post through google (I think, or surfed on in from somewhere else I found through google, LOL). Anyway, thanks. I’ve been using just an oil base, but it is pretty messy. I am definitely going to try your recipe now!

  3. Hey thats awesome news here on vapor homade colds for coughs … lol s

  4. Where do u buy beeswax and the oils?

  5. Bailey Keenan says:

    This looks great, but can you tell me what age it is safe for? Camphor seems like a strong oil for infants. Thank you! :)

  6. Dogpackmomma says:

    Thanks & Happy Trails!

  7. Andrea Kennedy says:

    You can use castor oil in place of the coconut oil. I make an herbal chest rub with castor oil infused with mullein and lobelia, thickened with beeswax with essential oils of rosemary, eucalyptus and peppermint added. I also sprinkle essential oils: eucalptus, peppermint and lavender on my children’s pajamas when they are congested and it helps them breathe while they are sleeping. Thanks for the recipe and all the great ideas.

  8. I made this and it works so nicely in place of petroleum based vapor rub. I feel great smearing this all over my toddler. It’s been very useful for the cold that we seem to keep passing around. Thanks!

  9. My daughter is allergic to coconut oil. Is there an oil I can substitute for the coconut oil in this recipe?

  10. Our family definitely needs this right now, can anyone suggest where the most affordable place is to buy ingredients?

    • Jackie Messinger says:

      MountainRoseHerbs.com is a wonderful place to buy all of these ingredients. I have been using their stuff for several years and have never been disappointed.

  11. Where do you find the tins to put it in? I’ve never seen them in a store. I looked online but some are food grade others aren’t. I know we won’t be eating it but didn’t know if the oils would erode the tin or anything crazy like that! Thanks!

  12. This looks awesome!

  13. Thanks for sharing this recipe! It looks a lot easier than I would have imagined! I needed this the past few weeks….I should go and make it before any of us need it again!!

  14. Nice post!I have been looking for more natural cold and cough remedies for this cold/flu season.Its really help to me because this cold season I always suffering cold..

  15. @Christina, That sounds like a great mixture! I love the scent of garlic, especially that lingering scent on my fingers after chopping it for a meal! I know, not all people like the small of garlic, though. Garlic is a powerful antibiotic, so hopefully it will clear it so you don’t end up with the meds.

  16. @REBA FANSLER, I haven’t tried the mustard, but I’ve heard it works wonders. You are fortunate to have a mom who taught you so well! I think about that often when treating my own children…how they’re learning these long-lost remedies as I treat them!


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