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. Sherri Miash Avatar
    Sherri Miash

    I am surprised to see again someone posting use for eucalyptus EO and peppermint EO for babies and kids. In your own article you state you use Plant Therapy because they have marked their oils for what is kid safe. LOOK at the label you recommend for this and you will see both these oils are absolutely not kids safe, especially for babies!

    1. Jamie Larrison Avatar

      There’s a lot of confusion and controversy about eucalyptus and peppermint for young children. Robert Tisserand (who developed the kid safe line for Plant Therapy) gives safety guidelines for their use in little ones. He recommends peppermint can be used at a .5% dilution ratio for ages 3-6, and eucalyptus globulus or eucalyptus radiata are safe at .5% for children under age 3. CHildren ages 3-6 can safely use up to 1% eucalyptus. In this recipe the peppermint is omitted for young children and the eucalyptus is used at a .12% dilution ratio, well below the safe limit. With essential oils a lot of what’s safe for kids depends on the method of application, the dilution ratio, and the age/weight of the child.

  2. Fotini Avatar

    Wonderful article! I just wanted to ask what your suggested lavender essential oil amount would be if I used it in a baby vapor rub formula with eucalyuptus (those two would likely be the only essential oils I’d use).



  3. angela Avatar

    do I have to use beeswax? I have everything but that on had for this terrible cough my daughter has.

  4. Beth Avatar

    Thank you for sharing this in addition to the more kid-friendly version. This was so helpful for my sensitive skin kiddo.

    I always appreciate any home remedy that is made with natures goodness!

  5. chelsea Avatar

    Hello, I saw in another post of yours you said peppermint should never be used around babies or young children, but in this article it said it just needs to be diluted? Just hoping for a bit clarification. Thank you.

  6. Brianna Yates Avatar
    Brianna Yates

    I found how well eucalyptus oil helped clear my toddler’s congestion and I just thought to make a few jars myself! Thank you for this simple and lovely recipe.

  7. Bethany Rose Avatar
    Bethany Rose

    When I know that I’m getting sick (which is all the time with a compromised immune system), or if my personal care attendants are ill, I always make sure to have a ton of homemade disinfectant spray on hand. I simply use boiled and cooled water, a smidge of epsom salts (to help keep the spray pump mechanism unclogged), white vinegar, tea tree oil and another disinfectant EO on hand (lavender, citrus something…you know which ones). 🙂 And I make sure that I have lemon juice and raw honey at all times, too. Here’s to a healthy summer for babies, kids and adults alike.

  8. Sheryl Avatar

    Awesome recipe. Thank you!

    Can I substitute soy pastilles for the beeswax and grapeseed for either almond or olive oil? Thank you.

  9. Liz Avatar

    I’m really excited to try this but hesitant to use my double boiler because… how do you clean the wax and oils out when you’re done?

    1. Beth Ann Avatar
      Beth Ann

      Paper towel as soon as it is cool enough to touch works really well. Hope that helps. I had made homemade deodorant using a similar recipe and found the beeswax and oil combination actually washed out decently well in sufficiently hot water after I had wiped out as much as I could with paper towel.

  10. Justine Avatar

    Why wasn’t camphor added to your above ingredients. Is there a issue or problem with camphor? Thank you for your response.

  11. Morgane Avatar

    Hi! I have solar-infused some olive oil with dried eucalyptus and peppermint, following your instructions from another article (my thought is that the result will be even “stronger”). I was just wondering if I could also add some menthol crystals? If so, how much should I add? Thanks a lot in advance! ?

  12. Karen Avatar

    Wellness Mama, First, thank you for all of your great ideas and recipes! I love reading your posts – they often spark new ideas and new directions for me to take in making my own blends.

    After seeing so many asking questions about using eo on their kids, or on themselves if pregnant, I had to respond. I’ve taken classes on eo safety, and researched and studied intensively the oils I’ve bought – and several I haven’t bought (because my research showed me better alternatives).

    The article links posted above are well worth reading!

    Robert Tisserand’s webinar on essential oils and the skin, and his book Essential Oil Safety are great tools to have on hand if you are making/using essential oils blends. He does not recommend using eo on young children, but he won’t go so far as to say not to. He does say to use them with great caution if you use them on children. Their livers are still maturing and cannot process the oils like adult livers can. As a result, they would reach toxic levels much faster than adults. I believe one of the articles listed above said if using eo on kids, to dilute total eo to 0.5%. That is 3 drops total eo in 1 ounce of carrier oil – and that is for oils considered “safe” for kids. Oils with the chemical constituent 1,8 Cineole are not safe for children under 10, and many oils contain 1,8 Cineole. It can cause central nervous system/breathing problems.

    To go along with that, if you are pregnant, according to the person who taught my first eo safety class (an RN who works in an ICU unit), there are very few oils that are safe for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Even smelling them could cause problems – like causing contractions to start. Any oils used will also get into the baby’s system.

    Moms and Moms-to-be, you’re using essential oils because you want to do the very best for your children – I love to see that! You’re doing a great job asking about it before using them too. I don’t want to scare anyone, because these oils have been a true blessing in our lives. I just want to make sure everyone stays safe while using them.

  13. Larissa Avatar

    Hi, is 10-20 drops of essential oil too much for a baby???? Even though it’s diluted with a carrier oil ??? If am using therapeutic grade essential oil should I reduce the amount ? Please advise thank you so much

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar

      Depending on the baby’s age, I am very careful with essential oils and would definitely dilute by at least half for use on a baby and check with a doctor or aromatherapist to be safe before using in any amount.

  14. Sarah Avatar

    Would you say the almond oil works as well as the coconut? I find the smell of coconut oil so overpowering but it makes such a smooth lovely cream!

  15. Meghan Avatar

    Hi, I wasn’t sure if you were aware of this or not, but none of the oils that you listed would be safe to use on young children. Some better alternatives would be: Cypress, Fir Needle, Frankincense, Ginger, Juniper Berry, Sweet Marjoram, Black Pepper, Pine, and Spruce. Those are all safer alternatives to kids 2yrs and over. That said, the recipe that you did post sounds like it would work great for grown ups!

  16. DJ Avatar

    Hi! I don’t know if any of you know this, but the “Fruit of the Earth” aloe Vera gel is very deceptive in its labeling. It says 100% gel, NOT 100% aloe Vera. Check the label. I think aloe is the third or fourth ingredient if I remember right. There are gels out there that are 100%, but not that one! It’s just a clever play on words that’s just downright deceptive for those of us wanting to use natural ingredients. ?

  17. Andrea Avatar

    I have read that peppermint and eucalyptus oils are unsafe to use on children under 6 due to the 1,8 cineole that can slow down breathing.
    I would be more comfortable using cypress oil, as it is considered safe for children. Would this be as effective?

3.78 from 35 votes (35 ratings without comment)

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