How to Make Your Own Natural Vapor Rub

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homemade vapor rub
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
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


Baby Vapor Rub (6 months and up)


  • 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.


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.
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. 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.


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

  1. marisa Avatar

    I’m so confused I wanna make a vapor rub for my girls age range 3mons to 5yrs. I seen eucalyptus isn’t safe or peppermint on here. So y do in my organic earth’s best one has them. Also wondering can I just go off ur lotion recipe wit beeswax since it has Shea Butter nd add these oils but maybe half the drops for kids? Thank you!

  2. Jill Gosney Avatar
    Jill Gosney

    Is this safe while pregnant? And are the shower melts safe while pregnant?

  3. Krystel Avatar

    I have never used Vaor rub, but I just made this and I don’t know exactly where to put it? Chest? Feet? Anywhere?

  4. Nikki Avatar

    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!

  5. Katharine Trauger Avatar
    Katharine Trauger

    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…

  6. Lisa Salter Avatar
    Lisa Salter

    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?

  7. Vanessa Avatar

    Hi Katie,

    I can’t use rosemary due to my high blood pressure. Which EO can be used in its place?

    Thanks ????

  8. Cathy Avatar

    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!

  9. Julie Redmond Avatar
    Julie Redmond

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

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar

      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.

  10. rixa Avatar

    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!

  11. Dee W Avatar

    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.

  12. Margaret Nelson Avatar
    Margaret Nelson

    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

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar

      You could try to scale it down until he is pleased with the consistency. Or omit and then work up if it’s too oily without any beeswax.

  13. tash Avatar

    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.

  14. Ken Avatar

    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.

  15. Ami Avatar

    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.

    1. Jen Avatar

      I may be joining the conversation too late but why are most of these EO’s unsafe for children under 6? Is there a place I can read about this more? I ask, because I recently had some very sick children who needed some night time coughing relief (under the ages of six). I used the Vick’s Vapo Rub and read the ingredients-I admit for the first time (bad mom). Anyway, the active ingredients are camphor, menthol and Eucalyptus oil-seems not so bad…unless these EO’s are unsafe for my child (label said safe for kids 2 and up). I was shocked when I read the non medical ingredients which included two types of oils I had not heard of but something called “special petrolatum”… AND turpentine oil…say what??? Like the stuff my dad used to put his oil based paint laden paint brushes in to clean and stunk like nobody’s business??? Have I missed something? That seems worse than anything…seriously?? Anyway enough said, I would very much like to try this homemade version and would love any info about the EO’s and kids under 6….I feel horrible I put that product on them now!

        1. Sandi Avatar

          I don’t understand, these posts are inconsistent. You say in the above article that most of what is in this vapor rub is unsafe for children under 6. But then in this recipe you say to simply dilute it for kids. Are they safe for kids or not? Maybe pulling the recipe or modifying it would be the responsible thing. What if someone doesn’t read all these comments andtheir kids get hurt?

  16. Andrea Avatar

    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!

  17. Bronwyn Avatar

    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.

  18. Andrea Lazo Avatar
    Andrea Lazo

    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.

    1. Ashley Avatar

      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?

3.78 from 35 votes (35 ratings without comment)

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