How to Make Your Own Natural Vapor Rub

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Wellness Mama » Blog » Natural Remedies » How to Make Your Own Natural Vapor Rub

Hopefully cold and flu season won’t strike your home this year. But in case it does, this natural vapor rub is a good home remedy to have around. It’s safe to use with adults and kids alike and is great for clearing up congestion!

I used to keep regular Vicks Vapor Rub and the baby version on hand for times when the seasonal cold would hit. That is until I realized it had PETROLEUM in it … yuck!

In the name of not consuming or slathering my children’s skin with anything that’s more beneficial to a car engine, I’ve been making this easy homemade vapor rub ever since. You can read more about the problems with petroleum jelly (Vaseline®) here.

How to Make a Natural Vapor Rub Alternative

The familiar blue bottle of vapor rub was a staple around my house growing up. Now as a parent, I understand why. Cold and cough treatment options are limited for babies and kids. And vapor rub is invaluable for soothing the coughing and congestion that can really interfere with everyone’s ability to get a good night’s sleep. The most essential component to getting well and staying well! 

Don’t let the ingredient list deter you from making this recipe, either. If you don’t have the necessary ingredients on hand or don’t want to take the time to make this salve, mixing the essential oils with coconut oil works almost as well!

Store-bought Chest Rub

Thankfully, since I started making DIY natural products more companies have come out with natural versions. (Options are great!) I 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.

I haven’t found it in a store near me yet, but if you have a Whole Foods or a natural health store nearby you might be in luck! Here are several good natural vapor rub options available on Amazon:

Essential Oil Vapor Rub Safety

If you’re making this for babies or young children make sure to use essential oils that are safe for their age. I take the safe use of essential oils very seriously and err on the side of caution. I love this kid-safe line of essential oils because it takes a lot of the guesswork out of choosing the correct oils. The Sniffle Stopper is most like my blend in this recipe.

I sometimes make a gentler kid-safe version of this recipe by using just 4 drops of the eucalyptus and fir oils and omitting the rest. Here’s a list of all the essential oils used, what they’re for, and their safety precautions. (Also see the additional safety notes below the recipe).

Essential Oils for Vapor Rub

  • Eucalyptus – The most popular chemotypes are E. Radiata and E. Globulus. Radiata is a little gentler, but it’s listed as near threatened so it’s important to buy from a reputable grower. Both are considered safe for diluted topical use on children ages 3 and up. Don’t apply eucalyptus to the face or sinus area of young children as it can cause breathing issues.
  • Peppermint oil Like eucalyptus, peppermint has 1,8 cineole in it that can cause breathing issues in young children if not used properly. It’s considered safe to use a .5% dilution (not on the face) for children ages 3 and up. Adults can use up to 5% topically, depending on the use. This recipe keeps it at less than 1% for older children and adults, and less than .5% for children 3-6. Peppermint is about 50% menthol, so it’s great for stuffy noses.
  • Rosemary – This oil is a little harsher on little ones than some of the others. It’s high in camphor which makes it good for circulation and congestion. It’s a safe decongestant for ages 7 plus and the recommended maximum dilution is 4% for kids (up to 16% for adults). I omit this one when making a homemade vapor rub recipe for little ones.
  • Cinnamon leaf – NOT cinnamon bark! Cinnamon leaf is gentler on the skin and is great for the immune system. It’s slightly warming and according to Tisserand and Young it’s safe for topical use with infants ages 3 months and up. Cinnamon bark has a high risk of skin irritation, can only be used topically in tiny amounts, and is not safe for children. Personally, I skip this one with young kids.
  • Clove – Sometimes I’ll use clove instead of cinnamon leaf in this chest rub recipe. It can be used on ages 3 and older in certain situations, but it’s not the most gentle option. It’s not my preferred option for young children so omit for little ones.

Baby Vapor Rub Essential Oils

  • Fir – Douglas fir or fir needle are gentle options that are great in a DIY vapor rub. They help the respiratory system and are generally safe for infants 3 months and older when diluted properly.
  • Cedarwood (Virginian) – This woodsy-smelling oil makes a great ingredient in moisturizing men’s lotion. But it’s also perfect in home remedies for coughing and to help relax.
  • Lavender – Like tea tree oil, lavender has skin-soothing properties. It’s also high in monoterpenes, making it great for respiratory support. 
homemade vapor rub
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3.78 from 35 votes

Natural Vapor Rub Recipe

A soothing and petroleum-free version of the classic over-the-counter cough and cold vapor rub.
Prep Time4 minutes
Active Time6 minutes
Cooling Time30 minutes
Total Time40 minutes
Yield: 5 ounces
Author: Katie Wells

Materials

Baby Vapor Rub (6 months and up)

Instructions

  • Melt beeswax with your carrier oil of choice in a double boiler just until melted. You can also use a heat safe glass bowl on top of a small pot.
  • Turn off the heat and stir in the essential oils.
  • Stir until well mixed and pour into a container with a lid to store. Small tins work well, as does a glass jar.
  • Allow the vapor rub to cool completely and harden.
  • Use as needed to reduce coughing and congestion. See safety information in article.

Notes

I keep some of this vapor rub in lip balm containers too. These go in my purse or I’d use them on the bottom of my young children’s feet.

Safety Notes

Many essential oils, including some of these, aren’t considered safe for babies or small children. Make sure to always dilute essential oils for babies and children. I also use as little as needed. The natural vapor rub recipe is safe for ages 3 and up with the necessary modifications listed in the recipe. You can also put the vapor rub on the soles of their feet (ages 3-6) for a gentler option.

The baby-safe vapor rub version keeps the dilution at .5% and uses gentler oils. Experts generally consider these oils and at this dilution safe for babies 6 months and older. You can also cut the amount in half and use 2 drops of each essential oil if preferred.

Always check with a qualified healthcare provider about using herbs or essential oils on young children.

You can also make this recipe with 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.

This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Lauren Jefferis, board certified in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

What are your tried and true remedies for beating congestion and cough? Ever made your own vapor rub? Share below!

  1. Tisserand, R., & Young, R. (2013). Essential Oil Safety (2nd ed.). Churchill Livingstone.
  2. Fensham, R., Laffineur, B. & Collingwood, T. (2019). Eucalyptus radiata. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2019: e.T133374163A133374165.
  3. Parker, S. (2021). Carrier Oil Shelf Life. The Lipid Oils Academy.
  4. Robbins, W. (n.d.). Essential Oils Directory: Essential Oil Properties, Uses, and Benefits.
  5. Shutes, J. (n.d.). Aromatic Program Charts. The School for Aromatic Studies.
Sources
Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.

Comments

150 responses to “How to Make Your Own Natural Vapor Rub”

  1. Cindy Avatar

    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)

  2. Christine Avatar
    Christine

    Hello,
    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.
    thanks,
    Christine

  3. sydne Avatar

    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

  4. Kristin Avatar

    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.

  5. Brandy Avatar

    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.

    1. regina Avatar

      Then why are you even on this site then? Obviously you’re an advocate of using petroleum products that are a direct co/industrial waste product of the big oil industry. How do you think they get rid of their hazardous waste? They jar it, market it as safe and effective then sell it to the public… Pretty clever huh?
      But to each his own.. if you’re ok with using hazardous waste then by all means … Most of us on this site are here to find TRULY healthy remedies for our families.. Again why are you even on this site?

  6. Devangi Avatar

    Hi

    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?

    1. Vicki Barber Avatar
      Vicki Barber

      Set it in a double boiler. It will re melt then poor into container of your choice

      1. Devangi Avatar

        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.

  7. Michelle Avatar

    My baby is 6 month’s old can I use this? I really don’t want to use Vick’s vapor rub!

  8. Stephanie Avatar

    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!

  9. Laurel Avatar

    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.

  10. Melania Bernarda Avatar
    Melania Bernarda

    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!

  11. Theresa M. Houghton Avatar
    Theresa M. Houghton

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

  12. Annabel Avatar

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

  13. Diana Prins Avatar
    Diana Prins

    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!!

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