DIY Vapor Rub for Cough and Congestion

DIY Vapor Rub for Cough and Congestion by Survival Life at

Our friend Gaye Levy at Backdoor Survival always has great tips for living a more self-reliant lifestyle. Today she is sharing with us her recipe for a DIY healing vapor rub for coughs and congestion.

Check it out below, and be sure to visit her site for more awesome homesteading tips, recipes, and more.

When it comes to prepping, having the ability to fend for yourself for an extended period is a universal goal.  First comes water, then comes food, and next, for many, comes first aid.  And therein lies the rub, no pun intended.

A cold or cough can take you down in a flash, whether it is an annoying sniffle or a wracking, chest-pounding cough.  It is no fun, and you are going to want to get rid of it fast. Alas, there are all types of over-the-counter remedies available to you, but there are a few problems with them.

First, they may include ingredients—chemicals, really—that elevate blood pressure.  Then there is the sugar, the preservatives, and a bunch of other unpronounceable stuff.  The topical ointments can be just as nasty and may contain thick, gooey petroleum jelly.

You can judge for yourself, but the article Petroleum Jelly May Not Be As Harmless As You Think will give you some insight as to why you don’t want to use it.  Ever.

So what are you supposed to do when someone in your household comes down with what we like to call “the creeping crud”?

My solution is to make your own DIY healing vapor rub for coughs and congestion.  Now, truth be told, I have been meaning to make up a batch of DIY vapor rub to have on hand but never quite got around to it.

As bad luck would have it, Shelly (aka the Survival Husband) recently came down with a severe case of chest congestion and a cough so bad it made his stomach hurt.  It was time to set things in motion and make some DIY vapor rub to see if it really worked.

The good news It has now been three days, and his recovery has been a miracle.  We both thought he would be down for a week, but here we are today, and his wellness quotient is at 90%.

How to Make DIY Healing Vapor Rub

This is so darn easy that it is almost embarrassing.  I am first going to describe what I did, then add some variations.


  • 1/2 cup Coconut Oil ( I use Tropical Traditions but any brand will work)
  • 15 drops of Eucalyptus Essential Oil
  • 15 drops Peppermint Essential Oil
  • 15 drops of Rosemary Essential Oil
  • 10 drops Cedarwood Essential Oils
DIY Healing Vapor Rub


Put your coconut oil in a bowl and add the essential oils.  Get out a fork or whip and mix them together until light and fluffy.  If your home is on the cool side, the coconut oil will be quite firm, and whipping it up a bit will soften it nicely.

Note that if you have the luxury of time (because you thought to make your Healing Vapor Rub in advance), put the jar of coconut oil in a pan of hot water on the stove and leave it there until it melts.

I did not have the luxury of time, so I used my stick blender to whip up the coconut oil and essential oils and was pleased with the results.

When your Healing Vapor Rub is soft, fluffy, and to your liking, transfer it to a small, clean jar and you are done.

That’s it.  Were you expecting something more difficult?


  1. Substitute olive oil, jojoba oil, Plain Ole Salve (soon to be renamed “BDS Simple Salve”), or any other preferred carrier oil for the coconut oil.  You may also use a combination of carrier oils.
  2. For a more salve-like consistency, you can also add 2 teaspoons of beeswax pastilles to the coconut oil and process the two in the same manner as DIY Healing Salve.  Add the essential oils after the beeswax has melted.
  3. Cedarwood is not what I would call a mainstream essential oil, so consider its use optional.  That said, I am convinced that its ability to break up phlegm was a factor in the success of quickly nailing the symptoms of chest congestion.  More about that is below.

How to Use DIY Healing Vapor Rub

Generously rub your DIY Healing Vapor Rub all over the chest and neck area every three to four hours.  Also rub some on the bottoms of both feet.  If stuffiness is a problem and is making breathing difficult, put a little dab on the upper lip to help clear the nasal passages.

Note:  This is a strong dilution of essential oils so if you plan to use it on children, I suggest doubling the amount of coconut oil to make a half-strength version.

A Special Word About Cedarwood Oil

When I received my bottle of Cedarwood essential oil from the SN Oil of the Month Club, I did not have a clue as to how I was going to use it.

I took to my big fat book on essential oils as well as Valerie Worwood’s book and read that is was useful for sleep and bronchitis.  While interesting, that was not enough.

A Special Word About Cedarwood Oil

Then, at the Organic Facts website found this:

If you are suffering from cough, cold, and related congestion, you should try Cedarwood Oil to alleviate the irritation. It is an expectorant and efficiently eliminates coughs and removes phlegm from the respiratory tracts and lungs, thereby relieving congestion. It also gives relief from headaches, red and watery eyes, and other symptoms of coughs and colds.

A small amount of this oil can also help you get a good night’s sleep when suffering from a cough and cold. By stimulating the loosening of phlegm and the coughing which will remove it, you also protect your respiratory tract and overall health from toxins and conditions that excess phlegm can cause.

After reading that, I knew I was on to something.  As another one of those inexpensive oils I favor so much, this one is a keeper and I intend to identify other practical uses over time.

By the way, as a side note, I am rubbing Cedarwood on my own feet and chest to see if it will help me sleep more soundly.  Supposedly, it will trigger the production of Melatonin.

The Final Word

One of the things I like about this version of DIY Healing Vapor Rub is that it comes together very quickly.  A stove or other heat source is not required and I can make small batches to suit my needs.

The same general procedure can be used with other essential oil remedies as well.  I find that while it is nice to have a big fat jar of this kind of salve, sometimes, I will simply mix up a bit of coconut oil with my EO of choice and give it a whirl.  I find that in the long run, this is less wasteful than making a big batch of something that does not work as I had planned.

One more thing.  A reader recently asked my opinion on using plastic jars to hold EO concoctions.  While I prefer to use glass, I often use small 1/2 and 1-ounce jars for my ointment salves.  They are inexpensive, easy to clean, leakproof, and unbreakable when tossed into a day pack, pocket, or handbag.

For longer-term storage of six months or more, sure, use glass. But for my thinking, plastic is fine for day-to-day use.  It really is a matter of preference.

Want to know more? Check out these related articles:

25 Home Remedies for Cold and Flu | Survival Tips

Home Remedies For Cough | Homemade Cough Syrup

Home Remedies Infographics | Healthy Living Off The Grid

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!

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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on May 14, 2015, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.

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DIY Vapor Rub for Cough and Congestion

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