Homemade Vapor Rub

Ditch store bought remedies and whip up this natural decongestant for your next cold. Plant based + powerful, this natural homemade vapor rub works.

Natural homemade vapor rub recipe

Cold and flu season is upon us once again, and searches for natural decongestants and homemade vapor rubs are on the rise. The beginnings of a cold – the congestion, achy body and head, runny nose – always have me reaching for a green smoothie. But once that cold has taken residence, I just have to ride it out. Bleh. One of the most uncomfortable parts of being sick is chest and sinus congestion.

We’ve partnered with Plant Therapy to make this homemade vapor rub recipe.

essential oils for homemade vapor rub

Natural decongestants vs store bought

Store bought medicines contain unsafe chemicals, and even their ‘natural ingredients’ can be super processed. Always read labels, even on more natural-looking brands, as these can sneak in ingredients that aren’t necessary and are harmful. According to the Mayo Clinic, popular store bought options contain toxic ingredients. Even though it is a topical treatment, these chemicals are absorbed through the skin. This means they can still cause harm even if they aren’t ingested. I’ll stick to ingredients I know are safe, and a natural chest decongestant recipe that actually works!

ingredients for natural decongestant

Homemade Vapor Rub as a natural decongestant

When a cold/flu hits and congestion sets in, I use all the tools I’ve got to get rid of it quickly + naturally. Here are some of my fav natural chest decongestants:

  • Humidifier: This is a super simple way to add moisture into the air, which helps your ability to breathe. I keep one in each of my kid’s rooms, so they can use it whenever they feel stuffy.
  • Saline nasal rinse: I was a bit skeptical about pouring salt water into my nose until I tried it… this is a great way to relieve pressure, push out snot, and open up your sinuses.
  • Spicy food: Seriously! I LOVE spice, and use it liberally when I start to feel congested.
  • Diffusing essential oils: Specific scents can help calm the mind + body, and actually help you breath better. I love the brand Plant Therapy, because their products are USDA Organic, and top quality. This natural decongestant is going onto your body, so using good ingredients is essential.
How to make homemade vapor rub

Homemade vapor rub

I don’t buy a vapor chest rub anymore—I make it! It’s easy to make, but the real benefit comes from knowing you are using something natural rather than a concoction full of unsafe chemicals and other icky things. Our DIY natural decongestant uses 100% natural extra virgin coconut oil, shea butter, and essential oils. It’s safe as well as effective. (Note: don’t use on infants without first consulting with a healthcare professional!)

Note: After application of my natural decongestant, be sure to wash your hands with a carrier oil (not just water). I like to use coconut oil, yet olive oil is a great one as well. This helps get any essential oil remnants off of your hands, so that you don’t rub them into your eyes inadvertently.

Using essential oils to make homemade vapor rub

The highest quality essential oils

I love Plant Therapy essential oils because they are 100% pure, natural, and of the highest quality. In fact, Plant Therapy works directly with Robert Tisserand, a world renowned essential oil expert, and adheres to the strictest standards of quality in the essential oil industry.

Plant Therapy oils are selected from the producer after being vetted and the oil(s) tested 3-5 times for purity before being bottled in the Southern Idaho facility. Each bottle contains a tracking number that corresponds with information that is available on the website so consumers can see the testing results for themselves. All of this attention to detail and dedication to quality means that you are getting the very best essential oils on the market to use in this homemade vapor rub.

Natural chest decongestant ingredients

Extra virgin coconut oil serves as a carrier oil, but is also very moisturizing and soothing to the skin. Shea butter is also moisturizing, but gives the mixture a thicker texture so it’s not too greasy. Essential oils I’m using: cinnamon, eucalyptus, rosemary, and peppermint. These oils help promote healing and soothe swollen tissues for easier breathing. The cinnamon also has a slight warming effect.

Eucalyptus oil in natural chest decongestant

Homemade Chest Rub recipe

To make the Natural Vapor Chest Rub, simply melt the coconut oil and shea butter together, then stir in the essential oils. Transfer to a jar or other resealable container and store in a cool, dry place. It will keep a fairly long time – I think we’ve used the same batch for five years. Just to be sure, only make one batch at a time. It will last for the whole cold weather season and even through allergy season too!

To use, remove a small amount from the jar with clean hands. Rub in palms and apply gently to the chest area. Cover lightly. We recommend wearing an old t-shirt to prevent the oils from staining bedding or other fabrics and surfaces.

How to store homemade vapor rub, a natural chest decongestant

More natural remedies

I don’t want to use something unless it works, and I LOVE when I find natural remedies that work better than over-the-counter medicines. I’ve used these recipes for years, and share them with everyone I know. We should all feel empowered to take control of our health, and do it through plants. Check out more rawkstar recipes like the natural decongestant, and share them with your family too!

Do you have some fav natural remedies you swear by? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to try them too!

Homemade Vapor Rub

Ditch the nasty chemicals and make your own homemade vapor chest rub to soothe and help ease congestion. Made with top quality essential oils, coconut oil, and shea butter.
4.7 from 3 votes
Course: Natural Remedy
Cuisine: Healing, Plant-Based
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 1 tub
Author: Jen Hansard


  • mixing bowl
  • air tight container
  • double boiler


  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp shea butter - optional
  • 10 drops eucalyptus oil - for ages 3+, use only 3 drops for children
  • 10 drops peppermint oil - for ages 3+, use only 3 drops for children
  • 4 drops rosemary oil - for use in ages 10+
  • 4 drops cinnamon oil - when making to use for children, use cinnamon leaf instead


  • In a double boiler, gently melt coconut oil and shea butter. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes.
  • Stir in the essential oils. Pour into a clean container with tight-fitting lid. Allow to solidify and cool completely before using.
  • Store in a cool, dry place for up to six months. To use rub a small amount between the palms to soften and apply to the chest as needed.
    Homemade vapor rub using essential oils


  • Eucalyptus and peppermint oils should only be used in ages 3+ and in very small amounts.
  • If making for children, just use Peppermint and Eucalyptus essential oils.
  • Other oils that can be beneficial for a children's vapor rub are: lavender, tea tree, spruce, and pine.
Tried this recipe?Mention @simplegreensmoothies or tag #simplegreensmoothies!
#1 Green Smoothie Of all Time— no joke!
About Jen Hansard

Mom of 2, ran across the Grand Canyon and lover of smoothies, coffee & tacos. I transformed my family's health with a realistic plant-based diet. I also found myself again along the way.

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Ratings & Comments

  1. Angel C says:

    Hi, I was just wondering what your thoughts were on camphor? It’s something my mom used on all of us when we were congested or had a cold. (It was not applied topically. She used to put a small piece in a cloth sack and used a diaper pin to fasten it to our gowns). Thank you!

    • Simple Green Smoothies says:

      That’s a great thought Angel! Plant Therapy’s white camphor oil would be a great one to use in this natural decongestant recipe. You could try swapping out the rosemary oil for camphor. Thanks for the share! 🙂

  2. California says:

    How much coconut oil do you use as it is not listed.

    • SGS Rawkstar Carissa says:

      If you scroll to the bottom where it says “Ingredients” you will see the measurements. This recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of coconut oil.

      Hope that helps!

  3. Jen Hansard says:

    My family has been using this recipe for YEARS now and love it. It’s got a much more therapeutic scent to it and really opens the airways.

  4. Aimee Dewar, Essential Oil Specialist says:

    I think you’ve done a great job presenting this, but I do want to mention: 5 years is really too long to keep using a batch of this with these oils in it. Eucalyptus for example, even stored in ideal conditions (cool, dark, sealed tight) has a 3 year or so max shelf life. Past that you risk nasty dermal irritation. It’s not a clear cut “definitely as of now” but it’s more likely as it ages and it’s not pleasant. I would encourage you to make a smaller batch every year or two. That aside, this looks lovely.

    • SGS Rawkstar Amanda says:

      Thanks for your feedback + expertise Aimee. Can you tell me more about your work with essential oils? I’d love to learn more!

    • Aimee Dewar, Essential Oil Specialist says:

      I’m happy to talk to you and help any way I can. I have practiced Herbalism for more than 30 years. I have used essential oils for several years as well, and started to pursue education so that I could help people and most of all, help people understand the nuances of safety issues surrounding them. I am currently enrolled in a NAHA and AIA certified school, on my way to becoming a certified aromatherapist. I have completed my 159 hour course work and final (thus my school’s certificate of EO Specialist) and am still working on my case studies and research paper. I have also already taken several more elective courses, which will eventually count toward my advanced scholar program (oh so many goals!). I am by no means as educated or experienced as many, but I’m working on it. And I like to share knowledge when I can. Ultimately my goal is to use my herbal and EO understanding to work in a free clinic type setting. Thanks for asking and if I ever can help, feel free to contact me.

    • SGS Rawkstar Amanda says:

      Hi Aimee,

      Wow! This is amazing! Thank you so much for taking the time to share your background!! You’re totally rawkin’ it! And I will definitely reach out if we continue to share more about essential oils!

  5. Jodi says:

    What size jar did you use?

  6. Bonnie says:

    2 question’s
    * What does tablespoons x ounces mean?
    * u say store “up to 6mos” yet also say u have had yours for 5years?

    • SGS Rawkstar Amanda says:

      Hi Bonnie,

      Are you outside of the US? Check out our Rawkstar Conversion Guide to help with the measurements!

      And yes, Jen has had this vapor rub for AWHILE!! Because you only have to use a really small amount for major congestion benefits. But it really is best to swap out for a new jar after a few months.

  7. Nancy Frazier says:

    Can this be used on a child with Tree Nut allergies?

    • SGS Rawkstar Amanda says:

      Hi Nancy,

      Tree allergies can be funky. It’s always best to check with your child’s allergist before using any coconut products.

  8. Hi Jen ! Thank you ! This is a great idea also for the kids ! But the essential oils must be 100% pure 🙂 Do you know doterra ? It will be a pleasure for me to send you some samples 😉 please let me know xx

    • SGS Rawkstar Amanda says:

      Hi Adriana,

      Plant Therapy’s are! That’s why we love them so much! 🙂 But we’re always up for learning about different essential oils. Checking them out now!

  9. Nicole says:

    What would you recommend to replace the coconut oil if there is an allergy to tree nuts?

  10. Beth says:

    Can’t I just buy this little jar from you? 🙁 Looks like it would work great! Would love to use it on my little kiddos.

    • Jen says:

      Oooooh— that would be fun to sell! Maybe one day I could make some and sell it. I could see it being a fun Farmer’s Market stand. DIY Home Remedies. 🙂

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