Homemade Vapor Chest Rub


As we head into cold and flu season, here’s a classic cough remedy from my herbal pantry: homemade vapor chest rub to have ready in your pantry or medicine chest! While it’s now easy to purchase natural vapor rubs, and of course, there’s good old Vicks Vaporub, Making your own herbal remedies is really satisfying though, and Vicks is made in a petroleum jelly base with turpentine oil for scent.

This recipe goes back to my early days as an herbalist-mom when all you could find was the petroleum-based stuff – and as a purist about what I put onto my kids' skin, I wasn’t having it. These days, I’m a lot more relaxed – so if Vicks is all you have time for – it’s fine to use and really works, too.In fact, vapor rubs have solid evidence behind them for quieting irritable coughs both during the day and at night – helping your child, which also means helping you, get a better night’s sleep where there is a cold, bronchitis, or other cough.

And of course, it can be used for grown-up coughs with colds, too. Not only that, but vapor rubs double as rubs for grown-up's aching muscles and joints.

The main precautions for use are:

  • Use only in children 2 years old and over
  • NEVER use this – or any chest rub product – on the face!
  • Don’t get this in the eyes.
  • For homemade rubs, avoid using camphor.
  • Don’t apply to broken or irritated skin.
  • See a medical care provider for cough as appropriate.

What you'll need:

  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. grated food grade beeswax
  • 1 tsp. eucalyptus oil
  • Small glass jars with lids: either  4-1 oz. jars, 2-2 oz. jars, or 1-4 oz. jar

(You can purchase these ingredients online from Mountain Rose Herbs or other herbal product distributors).

To prepare it: 

  • Melt 1/4 cup of coconut oil together with 1/4 cup of olive oil and 2 heaping Tbsp. of beeswax on low heat in a small stainless steel or glass pot.
  • Stir continuously until the beeswax is completely melted – about 2 minutes or so.
  • Carefully remove the hot oil from the burner and let cool for a minute.
  • Add 1 tsp. of Eucalyptus essential oil.
  • Stir well.
  • Pour into glass jars.
  • Let cool to room temperature and store in a cool place – a medicine cabinet, for example. Keeps for up to 2 years.

Gently rub a thin layer onto the chest. Put an old t-shirt on after applying to avoid staining clothes. Repeat up to several times daily. Mild redness under the area where it is applied is normal; however, this should not cause discomfort, a rash, or blistering.

References
Paul, I. et al. Vapor Rub, Petrolatum, and No Treatment for Children With Nocturnal Cough and Cold Symptoms. Pediatrics. Vol. 126 No. 6 December 1, 2010 pp. 1092 -1099  

Want to learn how to make more herbal home remedies for kids? Enroll in Healthiest Kids University! 

Leave a comment

Read or leave comments 18 Comment


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Kathryn

Thanks for this, Aviva! Two questions! 1) Could I use a high quality eucalyptus lemon oil? I don't have plain eucalyptus. 2) I'm looking for a chest rub for my 9 month old. Would you recommend this one for him?


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    aviva

    I haven't tried it but I would think it would work... Aviva


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    Hadassah

    I've tried it and it isn't as good. But it's highly recommended as a mosquito repellent!


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Melissa

Question about the chest rub recipe in the newsletter. I read from a essential oil encyclopedia that most eucalyptus varietals are not safe for kids under 2. What age is this rub for?


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    aviva

    For optimal safety, use in children 2 and over, stay away from products with camphor, and NEVER use on the face!


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Megan

Wondering if the eucalyptus (doterra) is safe for a 5 month old


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    aviva

    For optimal safety, use in children 2 and over, stay away from products with camphor, and NEVER use on the face!


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Amber

Can we safely use eucalyptus on the wee ones?? I've read conflicting information about this.


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    aviva

    For optimal safety, use in children 2 and over, stay away from products with camphor, and NEVER use on the face.


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regina

@kathryn - Euc Citridora should NOT be used in place of Euc Oil. @Aviva There are many types of Euc oil, you should specify which are lowest in 1,8 cineole.


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    aviva

    Thank you so much for this clarification!


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Amber

Can I ask why you should stay away from camphor?


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Beth

Why do we need to stay away from products with camphor? I use the EO on my kids clothes when they are sleeping and it seems to work.


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Megan | Allergy Free Alaska

Thanks for the recipe! I'm interested in trying it - just curious if I can use eucalyptus essential oil instead of eucalyptus oil? If I did use the essential oil, any idea on how much I should use? ;) Thanks! Megan


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    aviva

    These are the same -- just follow the amount in the recipe. :)


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Danielle

Hello! Thank-you for the recipe!! I can only find cosmetic grade beeswax. Is this still okay?


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    aviva

    should be (bee? ha ha!)


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Susan

This is a much better formula than the menthol rubs we used on the kids. For my little ones who refused anything on their chest, my mother-in-law said she was taught to put it on the bottom of their feet and cover with socks. It worked so well, I now do it on me when i just can't deal with it on my chest. My kids who are now young adults still use it this way, but I will be making some of this up instead of the menthol rub!

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