Experiencing a runny nose, itchy eyes, and constant sneezing? If so, you may have seasonal allergies, also known as allergic rhinitis.
While allergies are common and usually not cause for major medical concern, they can be quite uncomfortable, even interfering with your day-to-day functioning.
The good news is, there are plenty of effective and safe seasonal allergy treatments, including medications and home remedies.
Some scientific evidence suggests they may be useful, but it’s always best to consult with a healthcare provider before trying a new allergy treatment.
In this article, I’ll explore symptoms of seasonal allergies and what the research says about essential oils for allergies.
I’ll describe popular ways to use essential oils, then six essential oils for allergies.
Lastly, I’ll share cautions about essential oils, other treatments for allergies, and when to see a doctor for allergies.
Symptoms of Seasonal Allergies
Seasonal allergies — aka allergic rhinitis or hay fever — can cause several uncomfortable symptoms.
Your body releases chemicals when you’re allergic to something in the environment.
These chemicals trigger the allergic response which is your immune system’s attempt at protecting you from the allergen.
Seasonal allergy symptoms can differ from person to person, but common allergy symptoms include:
- Runny nose
- Itchy eyes
- Itchy skin or rash
- Wheezing or trouble breathing, if you have asthma
What time of year you experience allergy symptoms depends on what you’re allergic to.
Seasonal allergies commonly affect people in the spring, summer, and fall, when grass, trees, and other plants pollinate.
Some people experience winter allergies or even year-round symptoms.
What the Research Says About Essential Oils for Allergies
Essential oils are concentrated liquids that contain chemical compounds from plants. Some people use home remedies like essential oils to manage their allergy symptoms.
But as with any treatment, it’s important to consider the scientific research before trying something new.
The research, so far, is limited — but that doesn’t necessarily mean essential oils can’t be a helpful addition to other treatments.
For example, one study published in 2016 found inhaling essential oils for five minutes twice a day for a week improved allergy symptoms and overall quality of life.
Essential oils aren’t the ideal solution for everyone; more research needs to be done to determine their effectiveness and safety for treating allergies.
Also, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate dietary supplements like essential oils, so there’s no way to be sure a product is high-quality and pure.
If you want to try essential oils for your allergies, consult with your healthcare provider or a K doctor to make sure it’s a safe option for you.
Your provider can also help you determine additional evidence-based ways to treat your allergies.
Popular Ways to Use Essential Oils
There are several methods for using essential oils.
Aromatherapy focuses on the odor of the oils, and it can be done a few ways.
Some people use essential oil diffusers in their homes, while others smell oils directly from the bottle.
You can also put a few drops of an essential oil on a cotton ball and smell it. Topical application involves applying an essential oil directly to the skin, so your body can absorb it.
It’s best to use a carrier oil, such as coconut oil or olive oil, if you’re going to put essential oil on your skin.
Certain oils are not safe for topical application, so always research or speak to a healthcare provider first.
Six Essential Oils for Allergies
While there’s not a huge body of research supporting essential oils for allergies, some small studies have found certain ones can improve people’s symptoms.
Peppermint essential oil has been shown in many studies to reduce inflammation.
Because sinus congestion and other nasal symptoms related to allergies typically stem from inflammation, smelling peppermint oil could theoretically improve your symptoms.
One animal study found peppermint oil can relax muscle contractions that contribute to cough.
If you’re experiencing a cough due to allergies, peppermint oil may help.
Lavender is relaxing, so it may help to smell it when you’re feeling under the weather.
One study shows that inhaling lavender essential oil can prevent inflammation associated with allergies, and that it prevents mucus cells from enlarging.
One study found lemon in the form of nasal spray had anti-inflammatory effects, and that it was beneficial in treating allergy symptoms.
It’s not clear whether simply inhaling lemon essential oil would have the same effect. It may be better used to improve your energy levels if you’re feeling sluggish due to allergies.
Eucalyptus essential oil also has anti-inflammatory properties, so it may help to alleviate congestion.
It also has a cooling sensation, like peppermint, so you might experience some relief by inhaling it.
Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil, too, has been found in scientific research to stave off inflammation.
Simply breathing in the cool scent of tea tree oil may help relieve congestion and other upper respiratory allergy symptoms.
Inhaling sandalwood oil, especially when it’s combined with frankincense and Ravensara oil, has been shown in a study to improve allergy symptoms — in particular, sneezing, runny nose, itchy nose, and congested sinuses.
Cautions About Essential Oils
Unlike other over-the-counter allergy treatments, there’s not enough empirical evidence to suggest essential oils are a safe and effective way to improve symptoms.
Essential oils do not treat the primary issue — your allergic response — so even if they improve your symptoms, the relief will be short-lasting.
In some cases, essential oils may even be harmful.
Some people find essential oils irritating, especially if applied to the skin, so talk to your healthcare provider before using them for allergies so they don’t worsen your symptoms.
Always follow the directions on your essential oil bottle.
Keep in mind that essential oils are not regulated by the FDA, so there’s no way to know whether a product is completely safe to use.
Never ingest essential oils, and always keep them stored away from children and pets.
Other Treatments for Allergies
Along with essential oils, other home remedies might help soothe your allergy symptoms.
- Allergy-proof your home: If you suffer from seasonal allergies, keep tabs on your triggers and do your best to avoid them. Close your windows during allergy season, and vacuum regularly to prevent dust from accumulating. It may also help to shower before bed and change your sheets and bedding routinely.
- Irrigate your sinuses: Flushing your nose with a saline rinse — for example, using a neti pot — can clear allergens out of your nasal passages. Saline nasal sprays may also help improve congestion, runny nose, and post-nasal drip due to allergies.
- Take an herbal supplement: A supplement called butterbur has been found in scientific research to be as effective as antihistamines in improving itchy eyes due to allergies.
- Try a humidifier: Adding moisture to the environment with a cool mist humidifier may improve your allergy symptoms. The increased humidity may contribute to the growth of mold in your home, so always clean your humidifier regularly.
Not seeing improvement from home remedies?
There are several over-the-counter medications that can improve allergy symptoms.
- Antihistamines: These over-the-counter medications stop the effects of histamine, the chemical that causes your allergy symptoms. Common antihistamines are loratadine (Claritin), cetirizine (Zyrtec), or fexofenadine (Allegra). In addition, diphenhydramine (Benadryl) can also improve allergy symptoms, but it’s more sedating than newer antihistamines.
- Nasal sprays: There are several types of nasal sprays that can prevent upper respiratory symptoms due to allergies. Steroid nasal sprays, such as fluticasone (Flonase), reduce inflammation in the nose so your sinuses can drain more effectively. Decongestant nasal sprays, such as oxymetazoline (Afrin) can improve congestion, but they may cause more side effects. They can also cause dependence if they are used for more than a few days.
- Eye drops: Antihistamines in eye drop form can help resolve red, itchy eyes from allergies, but they won’t help with other allergy symptoms. Examples of antihistamine eye drops include ketotifen (Zaditor) and olopatadine (Pataday).
- Immunotherapy: By injecting tiny amounts of allergens into your body, immunotherapy familiarizes your immune system with them in a safe way. Treatment takes place in an allergist’s office, and can take many weeks or months to work. Immunotherapy is best for people with severe symptoms that don’t resolve with other treatments.
When to See a Doctor
Anyone with allergies that don’t respond to home remedies or over-the-counter treatments should see a healthcare provider.
A medical expert can properly diagnose you and recommend an effective treatment to ward off your allergy symptoms.
It’s also a good idea to speak with a healthcare provider if your allergies get worse, or if you’re not sure whether you have seasonal allergies or an infection (such as the common cold or COVID-19).
People with asthma may notice allergies trigger their asthma symptoms.
Your healthcare provider can recommend a treatment plan for your allergies and asthma.
Always seek emergency medical care if you have an asthma attack that’s not responding to your normal medication.
You should also call 911 or go to the emergency department if you’re experiencing signs of a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis), such as:
- Severe shortness of breath
- Loss of consciousness
- Low blood pressure
- Extensive skin rash
- Fast and weak pulse
- Nausea and/or vomiting
If you have an epinephrine auto-injector (such as an EpiPen) for allergic reactions, give it to yourself right away.
You still need emergency care if the medicine helps your symptoms after you take it.
So call 911 or go to the emergency department immediately after using an epinephrine auto-injector.
How K Health Can Help
Did you know you can get affordable primary care with the K Health app?
Download K to check your symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and if needed text with a doctor in minutes. K Health’s AI-powered app is HIPAA compliant and based on 20 years of clinical data.
Frequently Asked Questions
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
Allergic Rhinitis. (2022).
Lavender essential oil inhalation suppresses allergic airway inflammation and mucous cell hyperplasia in a murine model of asthma. (2014).
Nasal irrigation as an adjunctive treatment for allergic rhinitis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. (2012).
Review of complementary and alternative medicine in treatment of ocular allergies. (2003).