Today, we’re going to make another easy DIY recipe: homemade vapor rub. This rub is made with several essential oils to help you breathe easier, the natural way.
Last year, on a quiet afternoon, alone in my bathroom, I mixed a few ingredients in a simple glass bowl: cocoa powder, arrowroot, clay, and a dash of spice. The creation of my very first DIY, homemade foundation powder. Hesitantly, I dipped my finger in the powder and applied it to my face. I studied the mirror, inspecting my creation. Homemade make-up worked. It was a glorious moment. An addictive moment. An epiphany.
Since that quiet afternoon, I’ve been on a DIY kick. A mission to oust the chemicals and replace them with simple homemade products that actually work.
Body wash? I got that.
Boo-boo cream for ouchies? Homemade salve to the rescue.
Laundry Soap? Absolutely. Move aside Tide.
And the list could go on.
Last week, Piper started to get the sniffles. Sniffles led to congestion and no sleep. A couple of nights later, congestion struck again, this time it was my turn. Immediately, knowing a very rare cold was coming for our family, I made a batch of homemade elderberry syrup. While the elderberry syrup, broth, and probiotics went to work cold-busting, congestion relief and a good night’s sleep were needed.
Time for a new DIY?
I think so.
Colds always evoke memories of my mom with a little blue bottle. The smell that radiated from that bottle was like no other. The sweet relief it brought to my congested nose and chest was always welcome. My mom would gently rub the moist balm under my congested nose, back, and chest. Anytime I feel congestion coming on, my mind always goes to that blue bottle and my mom’s TLC.
With the memory of my mom’s healing touch and a love for DIY, this recipe was born in our time of need. A combination of simple, natural ingredients coming together to provide a relief for chest and head congestion. The warm touch and scent of this homemade rub is not only calming, but also contains antiviral and anti-bacterial properties. A vapor rub that’s natural and effective.
Note: I didn’t use this rub on our kids, just the adults, since rosemary, eucalyptus, and peppermint aren’t considered “kid-safe” essential oils for young children. Here’s a handy post about kid ages and essential oil use. Personally, as my son has gotten older (elementary school), we’ve used a small amount on the bottom of his feet with socks, when congestion strikes.
Homemade Vapor Rub
- 5 TB coconut oil
- 2 TB cocoa butter
- 1 1/2 TB beeswax pellets
- 20 drops eucalyptus essential oil
- 5 drops peppermint essential oil
- 5 drops lavender essential oil
- 5 drops rosemary essential oil
- 5 drops tea tree essential oil
- Place a glass bowl on top of a saucepan partially filled with water over medium heat. Add the coconut oil and cocoa butter. Melt
- Once melted, add the beeswax. Melt.
- Carefully remove the bowl from the heat. Allow the mixture to sit in the saucepan for 5 minutes. This will allow the mixture to cool so the oils aren't damaged.
- After 5 minutes, add the eucalyptus, peppermint, lavender, rosemary, and tea tree oils to the coconut oil mixture. Combine with a spoon.
- Pour the mixture into a glass jar. This recipe will make one 4 oz. jar of vapor rub. As the mixture cools the liquid will solidify, making it a creamy, spreadable rub.
Definitely keeping this recipe on hand.
How would you adjust this recipe for an elderly woman?
I don’t believe there are adjustments for adults, just young children. If there’s a concern, I would take the child’s suggestion, in the recipe notes.
After melting the coconut oil and butter together I removed from heat to cool for 5 minutes and then added the essential oils. But then realized I forgot to add in the bees wax before removing from heat to cool and add the oil. I put the mixture back over some heat just long enough to melt the bees wax. Will the oils be less effective now?
Hi Heather, some of the oils probably evaporated with the heat but it should still do the job.
Hello! I did the recipe and the cocoa smell is too strong. Smells like after eight balm. I thought it was going to be more like the vicks smell. Any idea what i did wrong?
I’m sorry this didn’t turn out how you were expecting. Kristin is on vacation right now with her family. I will have her respond once she returns!
Hi Kristin, I have made this this afternoon. To tell the truth I’m disappointed. I had high hopes, it came together in a flesh – but it smells like chocolate. Don’t get me wrong I love chocolate, but I excepted something else with all those EOs in the ointment. True, I used high quality cocoa butter that has that distictive chocolate smell but with only 2tbs in it I expected the EOs to come through much stronger. Do you think I can still use it? Will it have the expected effect and help my son sleep with his stuffy nose?
Hey Varga, I’m sorry to hear you’re disappointed. You don’t want an overwhelming EO scent. The EOs should do their job without being overwhelming. Cocoa butter does have a distinct scent, but shouldn’t overpower the EOs. Which brand of cocoa butter are you using? You could always add a couple of extra drops, if needed. How old is your son? As noted in the recipe, the EO’s used aren’t recommended for young children.
Thanks for the answer. I may try the extra drops next time, after weighting all the other ingredients on a scale to be able to calculate exactly how much is safe yet. There is a deodorized variety of cocoa butter I may try that as well to let the EOs shine through. My son is 14 and as big as a horse so no worries there. 😉
I don’t have cocoa butter what can I use as a substitute?
Hey Laura, You could try shea butter.
I used only coconut oil, eucalyptus oil, & peppermint oil, & it’s great!
Will buy lavender oil later on. I like it also for chapped/dry skin!
Hello, can i leave the cocoa butter? I cant find a shop selling it nearby. And I’ve heard that peppermint oil is good for stomach ache, lavender oil is good for insect bites and itchy skin and tea tree oil is good for cuts. So combining the 5 oils in your recipe, will the oils I mentioned still work for the ailments I mentioned? Or not.
I really want to try and make this but was curious as to the “thickness” of the final product. Do you think i would be able to put it in push up “deodorant ” style push up container? Ir is it too soft?
Hmmmm, good question, Elizabeth. I was to say, yes, since it’s similar to a lip balm consistency. You could try adding a bit more beeswax to give it a firmer texture. Maybe another 1/2-1 tablespoon. Let me know if you try it!
hi Kristin! i’m hoping you can help me find any EO’s that may be safe and helpful for this to be used on a 3 yo instead of the ones in this recipe? admittedly, when i first starting using EO’s I didn’t know that I shouldn’t use these EO’s on younger children and I did. THANK GOODNESS he’s ok but I’m scouring the internet/pinterest to find something to help him w this awful cough and congestion. Just thought I’d see if you knew anything. thx!
Hey Laura, I would try the Sniffle Stopper blend/synergy from Plant Therapy. It’s a blend from their kid-safe line. Then just add the recommended dilution amount (which looks like it is 3-5% dilution) to this recipe.
Hello! Is there an expiration date for the vapor rub?. Thank you.
Hey Pam, About a year :).
Eu faço com materiais como parafina que não é legal. A cera de abelha ou lanolina é muito melhor para saúde. Uso menthol e canfora, será que menthol e canfora também não são bons? estava pensando só em trocar a parafina, mas vejo que você só usa óleos essenciais.
Hey Monica Da Cruz lapa Moreira, I don’t have any experience with the ingredients you mentioned. Sorry.
I was just wondering about the volume your recipe yields. I want to ensure I have a big enough container once I have made a batch.
Thank you very much in advance.
Hayley, I haven’t made a batch in about 6 months (still have it :)), but from my memory, it makes one 4 ounce container.
Just Awesome Work Friend. Thanks For Such Nice Posts.
Thank you, Vaishali. Enjoy!
From what I have studied it is recommended that essential oils be diluted for children under six years at 1% for therapeutic use and 2% for local medicinal use. Your recipe calls for 71 drops of essential oils, By my calculations only 63.75 drops of essential oils should be used at the most in this recipe for safety. I just wanted to point that out in case there were and oversight when typing the recipe.
Note: This would not pose a problem for adults since 5% dilution is safe unless you are slathering it all over your body.
Thank you for sharing! You can definitely reduce the essential oils if you’d like. Eucalyptus, peppermint, and rosemary aren’t considered kid-friendly essential oils (here’s a handy post that I refer to: http://www.thehippyhomemaker.com/essential-oil-safety-babies-children/), so it’s best not to use this on young kids. I just added the website link to the post, too, since it really should be in the post!
I use the amounts called for in the recipe because the essential oils aren’t very strong at a weaker dilution (at least when we have a lot of congestion), and I’ve found the stronger concentration really helps us when we can’t smell anything. A little bit goes a long way, like Vicks, so we apply a small amount on our chests or our feet. One jar usually lasts about a year (or longer) in our home.
I am using vics vapor rub at this very moment for aching muscles and joints.When you see the salve it appears that it is made with petroleum jelly. I wonder if this can be replaced with the coconut oil that some are allergic to? I am not allergic but was just a thought for others that cannot use coconut.
Hey Becca, Yes, I believe Vicks is made with petroleum jelly, which isn’t a very natural product, but I believe you can make an alternative at home:http://www.onegoodthingbyjillee.com/2012/04/make-your-own-petroleum-free-jelly.html. In this recipe, you could probably use a different oil instead of the coconut oil.
Wow I am super sick right now and luckily had all of the ingreidents at home from other DIY projects. This is such a fantastic recipe, I am loving this ! Thanks for posting.
I’m so glad you were able to make the recipe, Lindsey! I hope you feel better soon!
I made this recipe this weekend and it’s completely solid. Is it supposed to be supposed to be solid as a rock?
Hey Gretchen, It shouldn’t be solid as a rock. Is the outside environment very cold right now? That may cause the coconut oil to harden. I would try running the container under some hot water, or even bringing the container in a hot shower and let the steam loosen the vapor rub.
Hello…I made this vapor rub today and it turned out great. My only question is…I thought it would have a more stronger scent like a store bought vapor rub but I think I smell more hints of the cocoa butter than anything. I bought all of my ingredients from Mountain Rose Herbs so I know they are good quality and organic. Any suggestions?
Hey Jennifer, The homemade version isn’t as strong as store-bought since the ingredients used are quite different. Essential oils aren’t as strong (when it comes to scent) as the ingredients companies use in store-bought vapor rub, but the homemade version should provide the same kind of relief. You could increase the essential oils just slightly for a stronger scent–mixing an extra few drops into the amount scooped out at the time of use.
I made the kid version (i.e. Lemon eucalyptus) and my kids love it. Great stuff! I live in a northern climate (Canada) and the rub was not creamy until rubbed between my hands for 5-10 seconds. Still works fine! I am in Florida right now and brought it with me – it is definitely very creamy now!! What a difference! So if your northern climate followers are wondering why their results isn’t creamy like yours, well, the ambiant temperature sure plays a big role. 😉
Very interesting, Julie! Thank you for sharing!