How to Make Your Own Natural Vapor Rub

How to make your own natural Vapor-Rub for illnesses

Hopefully cold and flu won’t strike at your home this year, but this is a good remedy to have on hand in case it does.

For babies and small children especially, treatment options are limited, but congestion and coughing can really interfere with their ability to sleep well.

We used to keep regular Vicks Vapor Rub and the Baby version on hand for illnesses, until I realized that it had PETROLEUM in it.. yuck!

In the name of not consuming or slathering our skin with anything that is more beneficial to a car engine… I’ve been making this really easy homemade version ever since.

If you don’t have the ingredients or don’t want to take the time to make this recipe, mixing the essential oils with coconut oil works almost as well. All ingredients for the recipe below  (including tins or lip chap containers to keep it in) are available here.

Also, I recently found a pre-made natural vapor rub in case you don’t have the ingredients on hand and there is even a formula specifically for babies and children.

Homemade Vapor-Rub-What You Need

Important Note:

Many essential oils, including these, are not considered safe for babies or small children. Always check with a doctor or healthcare provider about using herbs or essential oils on young children.

5.0 from 2 reviews
How to Make Your Own Natural Vapor Rub
Prep time
Total time
Homemade vapor rub is similar to Vicks vapor rub but without petroleum jelly. Naturally effective with essential oils!
Recipe type: Remedy
  • ½ cup olive oil, coconut oil, or almond oil
  • 2 level tablespoons of beeswax pastilles
  • 20 drops of Eucalyptus Oil
  • 20 drops Peppermint Oil
  • 10 drops Rosemary Oil
  • 10 drops cinnamon or clove oil (optional)
  1. Melt beeswax with oil of choice in a double boiler until just melted.
  2. Add the essential oils (use half the amount for a baby version or dilute with coconut oil before using)
  3. Stir until well mixed and pour into some type of container with a lid to store. Little tins work well, as do small jars. I also always make a few in lip chap sticks to keep in my purse or use on baby feet.
  4. Use as needed to help sooth coughing and congestion.
Make sure to dilute for babies and children and use as little as is needed. Can also make with the herbs instead of essential oils by infusing the oil with 1 tablespoon of each of the herbs in a double boiler over medium heat for 2 hours.
What are your tried and true remedies for beating illnesses? Ever made your own? Share below!

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Reader Comments

  1. Jess M. says

    Thanks for posting this!  I have always loved Vicks but never paid attention to the fact that it has petroleum in it…boo!  Hopfully I can find all those ingredients & get some made pronto since I love to grease baby girl up especially when she gets the croup.  Love your site BTW!!

    • Charlotte Quevedo says

      I strongly disagree that cosmetic grade petroleum is harmful. What research do you have to back this up? I know of a person who has done a lot of research on cosmetic mineral oil and petroleum, they are not only just as natural as coconut or any other oil, they are better at certain things, such as moisturizing. I have very curly hair and it was always relentlessly frizzy until I started using pure fragrance free mineral oil. My son’s lips were relentlessly dry and I tried everything. A watee based moisturizer with vaseline cured him. My daughter had a chronic scalp condition. I started using fragrance free mineral oil. The “chronic” condition was gone in a week. Now she does not need it anymore. I would not avoid something because it has mineral oil or petroleum. Cosmetic mineral oil is safe and natural. It is proven to be the best moisturizer there is.

        • Kay says

          It is sourced from nature as you stated, but unless you know for a fact that the petroleum jelly you are using is not contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), then natural doesn’t always equate safe…

      • Aleta says

        This oil is a common ingredient in anything that requires a smooth gliding action, and may be listed under different names, including petrolatum or paraffinum.
        Mineral oil acts as a moisturizing agent only to the extent that it keeps the area of skin that it is applied to moist. While most moisturizers include important nutrients that support the fragile-and always aging-facial skin mineral oil provides no nutrients whatsoever. It actually seals off your skin, preventing it from breathing.Your skin is the body’s largest organ, and it works together with the kidneys to rid the body of toxins. However, your skin needs to be able to breathe to perform these functions. Kim Anderson, a health care consultant to Arbonne International, states that “mineral oil coats the skin like plastic wrap, disrupting the skin’s natural immune barrier and inhibiting its ability to breathe and absorb the ‘natural moisture factor’ (moisture and nutrition).” In addition, mineral oil attracts needed moisture from cells deep inside your skin. This means that cell renewal is slowed, collagen breaks down, and the connective tissue is destroyed. Normal cell development is slowed down and the skin ages prematurely when skin cells are robbed of moisture.
        There are other serious health concerns connected to mineral oil. Applying it to your skin repeatedly can cause various negative hormonal effects, including ovarian dysfunction, endometriosis, miscarriages, and damage to the immune system, Anderson states.
        This information is taken from an online article, “Why Mineral Oil is Bad for Your Skin”

      • Jane says

        Charlotte, With all due respect, you seem to be confusing 2 completely separate elements in your post – there is a VAST difference between petrolatum, a chemical and mineral oil, a natural alternative – as a 4th generation Herbalist, I personally wouldn’t use Vasel*ne for anything – other than a creaky door hinge or the like.
        Skin is the human body’s largest organ. It is porous – whatever you put “On” it, goes “In” it – no differently than if you were to EAT the chemical you are applying – Scary when you stop & consider it, isn’t it?
        I respect everyone’s opinions as to however they choose to live, eat, stay well – I merely wanted to clarify what seemed to be an oversight.
        Namaste, Jane

      • Jess says

        I realize I’m coming late to this party, but why the vehemence in favor of petroleum products? Personally, I have one child who cannot tolerate anything that has petroleum in it – food, cosmetic or otherwise. I’m strongly in favor of easy to achieve alternatives. They keep my son from getting headaches, stomachaches and uncontrollable anger. I’m not strongly opposed to you using petroleum products for your children if you find them helpful, but please don’t scream how safe they are for everyone at me because they harm mine.

      • Nikki says

        Petroleum is completely disgusting. If u notice when u use it, it only moisturizes topically not entering your skins layers. I am a skin specialist and my closest friend is a scientist that actually tests harmful environmental things we use on a daily basis. Petroleum is ranked among the top ten. Why don’t you get YOUR facts straight.

  2. Rebecca Lewis says

    I use vicks on my own feet at times. It helps me to sleep better and soothes any tired or sorness that I may have in them. I think this would even smell better. Thanks

  3. says

    How well does this work for you?  I tried making my own (different recipe) and it worked a bit but then not so well, especially when the kids (and I) were really stuffed up. Thanks!

    • Tiffani says

      Try making it a bit stronger and putting it in the top of you scentcy burner works great to alleviate stuffy noses and allergy symptoms!

      • Jessica says

        Love this idea! Thanks. :). Love this site too, thanks Katie. ( same name as my little girl, Love It! ) love the uses for Coconut oil too, tried one so far and can’t wait to try some more!

    • Cindy Sharp says

      The menthol in the eucalyptus is a great cough suppressant. I use a pre-mixed thieves oil (clove, cinnamon, eucalyptus, lemon, rosemary) that stops coughing better than any prescription or OTC cough syrup I’ve ever tried. The other herbs are anti-bacterial. However, please be careful to dilute well!

  4. Deb Conner says

    Thanks for the ideas! Is the coconut oil to be used in place of the olive/almond in the vapor rub? I didn’t see it listed as an ingredient.

  5. Sarah says

    Thank you wellnessmama for the recipe. I didn’t care for the peppermint/cinnamon scent. I had an old jar of vicks baby vapo rub, and it had in order: rosemary eo, eucalyptus eo, lavender eo. With that as my guide, I followed your recipe and instructions, with substitutions. I did 30 drops rosemary eo, 20 drops eucalyptus eo, 20 drops lavender eo. I love it.

    • Katherine Turcotte says

      It is important when using essential oils that you list the Latin binomial name as well. Eucalyptus has more than one …..E. globulus is one type, E. smithii is another and there is also E. citriodora (which is similar to citronella used as bug repellent scent). Another important consideration is if the oils are pure essential oils and that they are not adulterated. Research is the key here. I would not use petroleum jelly but would opt for a more natural base such as the olive oil.

    • Cat Ellis says

      2 tablespoons of pastilles weighs 1 ounce. You can take your shavings, and weigh them out to one ounce on a scale.

  6. says

    How is a vapor rub like Neosporin? ( Stated on the picture above)? Vapor rub helps sooth coughing and congestion and Neosporin you put on your minor wounds. I could not find anything in your article either relating it to Neosporin as the picture says.

  7. Kathy says

    When the kids had coughs, I would steam chopped onions, garlic and cabbage using a strainer setting inside a pan with a little water until it was slightly cooked, then wrap up in a white cloth rag, (an old t-shirt worked great). Then put it on their chest. (be sure to let it cool to nicely warm to avoid burns). This will loosen the cough and bring up a lot of the congestion. They didn’t like the smell but would ask me to put it on after they fell asleep. ; ). It was a lot of work to make in the middle of the night when they started coughing and I was sleepy so I think I’ll make some of this for my grandchildren! Thanks for the ideas!

  8. says

    I didn’t have any beeswax so I mixed 1T oil with a drop or two of each oil. It really improved the headache and stuffy nose I woke up with this morning! I will use the rest of this while I wait for the beeswax I am ordering :) thanks so much for the recipe.

  9. Jacquelyn Lopez says

    Just made it and it’s perfect!! I truly never knew you could make your own things with basic oils that are extremely effective. Thank you!! I look forward to learning more and making more awesome recipes!

  10. says

    You mention to dilute it for babies and children. I have a 27 month old, how exactly do I dilute it? Can I maybe use half the recommended essential oils? Thanks in advance!

  11. says

    This makes about a 3% dilution. Never use more than 1% with children…and peppermint eo is a stimulant and can increase respiratory issues and mucous production. Clove eo and cinnamon eo are known skin irritants and mucous membrane irritants and should be used in small %’s, if at all (and never cinnamon bark eo).Just stick with the eucalyptus eo and 1%…even for adults. More is NOT better in the world of essential oils and they are very effective in small %’s. Please, always research essential oils (from a couple reputable sources) before making homemade recipes. Not all essential oils are safe and can be used without proper education. Spend $60 and get a good safety book (like Robert Tisserands Safety of Essential Oils), not recipe book, if you make a lot of things with essential oils (and particularly if you have children)…you might be surprised at what you find…

  12. Diana Prins says

    Thanks – I am working hard on social responsible by avoiding products which are animal tested (like Vicks) eat healthy with lots of juicing , planting organic/heirloom seeds and and and … as I am not medicating us with chemicals … this is rather awesome!!

  13. Annabel says

    How much would you dilute this for infants? 1:1 ratio? Making this for my daughter this morning, don’t want to hurt her :(

  14. Theresa M. Houghton says

    I love this but my husband is deathly allergic to eucalyptus is there a substitute I can use to keep it effective still?

  15. Melania Bernarda says

    This is an awesome post! Thanks. I just have 2 comments, every time I click on the different links to purchase the essential oils it gets me to the same place. And, what is a double boiler? I have been following your posts for a while and find them amazing! So happy that I stumbled upon them. Great work!

  16. Laurel says

    products like this can help for foot problems like fungus and in grown toenails…I have found that applying Vicks’ and then wrapping my toes over night there was a reduction in toe nail problems. If you add camphor you get a muscle rub like Tiger Balm ingredients include Camphor, Mint, Cinnamon, Cajuput, Clove, and Menthol.
    Cajeput is Melaleuca leucadendra (also called Melaleuca cajeputi) it is related to the Bottle-Brush bush.

  17. Stephanie says

    Love the entire website, anytime I think to myself, “Oh I’d like to make that”, I just come to your website and you already have an awesome DIY for me to follow. Thanks!

  18. Devangi says


    So I made this for my 6 month old with all the essential oils halved. Thing is I had bought a plastic container to pour it in but because it was too hot I poured it in a tall glass bottle initially for a few seconds. Just as I was going to transfer it my daughter started crying. I had to rush her to her. Now it’s set in the tall glass bottle and I don’t know how to transfer it in the small container. Can anyone help?

      • Devangi says

        Thanks Vicki. I was thinking of doing that but was a little skeptical because it is a glass jar. You reckon it would be okay in a double boiler?
        Cheers again.

  19. Brandy says

    Petroleum is all natural and can not hurt you at all. What is used in motor oil is not the same thing. I do not use coconut or olive oil. I sometimes use almond oil but it’s not often. I will be using petroleum since it is safe to use.

  20. Kristin says

    Thank you so much for this recipe! It is helping my baby breathe better through her nose and therefore breastfeed more easily. She absolutely despises any nose sucker, including the Nose Frida, and so this is a great help.

  21. sydne says

    I wish I would have seen this when I came down with a crippling cold a few weeks ago. After using th neti pot my nose was head were much less congested but it would return all too quickly, ginger, lemon and chili powder tea helped break my fever a few times. I bet this remedy
    would have really helped to ward it off. I will be sure to make some up so it will very on hand

  22. Christine says

    I am wondering on the thieves, you said worked better than any cough medicine, did you make that into a vapor rub or just an oil rub? Can you give me the ratio’s of the thieves oils? What brand of essential oils do you use? Some say the expensive MLM oils are just hype, buy from a more reputable company (you get what you pay for), etc. I know it should say 100 percent pure essential oil.
    Back to the better than any cough medicine, my children do not like cough medicine and I feel the chemicals can not be for them. I have tried the vicks and have tried to make a home made vapor and neither one stopped the cough. I had put it on the bottom of the feet. Thank you so much in advance for all your advice and help.

  23. Cindy says

    My best EVER “homemade remedy” – after 20+ years of supporting the company that makes Rolaids – 2 glasses of plain water for indigestion. I was chronically dehydrated so I literally had to choke it down because I seldom drank anything but coffee and tea BUT I haven’t had indigestion or a Rolaids in over 6 years. I also used to get the hiccups which I accidentally discovered Rolaids will also stop, almost instantly, but I haven’t had hiccups for 6 years, either. I was told this by an old sailor. He was 85 and still sailing! Since I’ve re-hydrated (which took 2 years!) I’m sure this has corrected a lot of other trouble, but 2 other things that were quite noticeable were less sagging (breast and eyelid) AND I no longer have my grandmother’s toenails – which I’d assumed was just from age. Half your body weight in ounces, per day. Plus, in my case, additional water in the amount of however much coffee I drink during the day. And you need some salt, to get the traveling in both directions, into and out of the cells. (I’ve learned a lot about dehydration since then, because it was just so awesome)

  24. Andrea Lazo says

    I have done more research about the essential oils safe for babies and children and the ones you mention are not the correct ones to use are babies 6 months to 2 years Sweet Orange, Cinnamon LEAF,Lavender & Fir Needle, for ages 6 years and up peppermint, eucalyptus and clove can be used.

    • Ashley says

      I read somewhere that eucalyptus oil should not be used on children under the age of 10 and definitely not on toddlers because it can cause respiratory problems. Anyone know anything about this?

  25. Bronwyn says

    Hi all! Just wanted to throw out a shortcut. At my local Co-op they sell Alba Botanica brand No-Petroleum Multi-purpose jelly. It has the same consistency as regular petroleum jelly. It is made with beeswax, coconut oil and vitamin e. Just thought I’d share as it cuts down on some of the ingredients list. I’ve used it before and it really works just the same.

  26. Andrea says

    I made this last season and used it every time we had a cough and congestion. I found it VERY helpful. I am making it again this week but I can’t remember if I added cinnamon or clove and I see they are optional. Why are they optional and what is their function? I really liked it last time so I want to make it optimal.

    Thanks so much!

  27. Ami says

    I just made it & I really like it. Although I do agree that next time I’ll omit the cinnamon, it made the skin burn.

  28. Ken says

    This was spot on. Thanks for all the comments. Won’t be following the Petroleum Industry suggestions; none the less it’s good to hear from all sides. For about 6 years I was a sun worshiper. I know, I know. I didn’t want to use the expensive and harmful oils so I used only Coconut Oil no additives. It was amazing for my skin and baked me dark brown. Oh, the good old days when I was young and foolish.

  29. tash says

    Petroleum is NOT the worst ingredient in vapo rub. Look at the ingredients again, it has turpentine which can make coughing worse, and more permanent.

  30. Margaret Nelson says

    I made this recipe for my husband and he likes it, just one slight challenge. My husband would rather have a softer end product. I will omit the beeswax, unless you have a better idea for me.

    By the way, I found it quite handy that one recipe of the vapore rub fits perfectly in a baby food jar.

    Th x

  31. Dee W says

    Thank you for providing some natural alternatives. I am eager to try this recipe in a variant with lavender instead of peppermint. I have developed a severe allergy to peppermint, and Vapo-rub is no longer an option for me when I have a chest cold. Glad to know that there are safe alternatives available.

  32. rixa says

    I didn’t know vicks had petroleum in it I just hate how greasy it is. I bet that’s why it’s so greasy! Working with what I had on hand I’ve been mixing up just coconut oil, menthol crystals, and eucalyptus. Melting the menthol crystals in the coconut oil then storing it in an amber glass container with a cap or old vicks container. It works wonders in the winter when my sinuses get all stuffed up and painful and isn’t all sticky and greasy like vicks!

  33. Julie Redmond says

    Can you tell me if this is suitable for pregnant women please? Love your recipes and all the amazing advice you give.

    • says

      I think that people should do their own research about the appropriateness of essential oils during pregnancy or while nursing, since some are not recommended during those times.

  34. Cathy says

    I didn’t have the beeswax but I did have a small lotion bar made from using Katie’s recipe. I melted the lotion bar and coconut oil together then added the essential oils (minus the cinnamon because I didn’t have any). It turned out great and my son is not coughing as much, and when he does he is actually bringing “gunk” up out of his chest. The lotion bars contain beeswax and cocoa butter. Thanks Katie!

  35. Lisa Salter says

    I was expecting this recipe to have menthol crystals in it. I happen to have some since making your menthol eucalyptus shower melts. Can the menthol be used in this in any way? Can it even be used on your skin?

  36. Katharine Trauger says

    I don’t have any essential oils except T tree. What about just warming the herbs, themselves, in the oil, to release all the constituents, and then adding the beeswax. Oh, and would it be okay just to use beeswax and not the pastilles? I have a lot of beeswax, but wonder what else is in the pastilles…

  37. Nikki says

    I made this with what I already had on hand, which was rosemary oil, lavender, Thieves (a blend containing clove/cinnamon and other things) and a drop of peppermint. I did less of the Thieves and only one drop peppermint, all mixed in about 1/4 cup coconut oil. Since it’s winter I find the solid coconut oil plenty thick enough without the beeswax. I ordered my eucalyptus yesterday, planning to remelt the coconut oil mix I made last night & add that to it. My son has had a cough the past 3 days, sort of like a bark, and the oils were helping but I was mixing them up each time and that was getting annoying! They’re definitely helping, though, he hasn’t had to go to the doctor and it’s markedly better today! Thanks for all of your awesome recipes!

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