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.
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