Learn more


Aromatherapy and Asthma: Do They Work?

Asthma is an incurable disease that affects as many as 20% of children in Singapore. Some of them may "grow out" of their asthma as they age, dropping the figures to about 5% of adults having to live with asthma for the rest of their lives. Although there has been a decline in asthma deaths from the 90s due to the rising use of inhalers and steroids, the is still a significant number of asthmatics who are not receiving regular checkups or do not have proper measures such as a rescue inhaler in case of a sudden asthma attack.

Although most patients are able to work normally with asthma, a small proportion may find their symptoms worsen due to exposure to certain allergens at work (eg. paints, petrol, flour). Sadly, this limits them from being able to work in certain industries as day-to-day or even acute exposure to these allergens can be extremely dangerous for these asthma patients. There is also an exercise-induced form of asthma which is uncommon, but it happens when some asthmatics feel dangerously breathless during exercise. When this happens, it is wise to stop exercising immediately and seek treatment.

Asthma Triggers

Not all asthmatics share the same triggers. They can have only one trigger (good for them!) which they need to be mindful of, or they may have multiple triggers to a varying degree. For those who have multiple triggers or even allergies, it's important to keep a diary of your symptoms in relation to the triggers and have them evaluated by a doctor. There have been cases where skin or food allergies ended up bringing up asthma symptoms. This is also called allergy-induced asthma.

Some of the common triggers include:

  • dust mites
  • pet fur
  • pollen
  • mould
  • tobacco smoke
  • haze
  • perfume
  • cold air
  • medication
  • citrus fruits
  • exercise

It is not a comprehensive list since triggers can extend to almost any possible thing, even foods. There is one trigger that's hugely unaccustomed, and that is volatile organic compounds. Also known as essential oils.

Can Essential Oils trigger asthma?

The use of essential oils is mainly for calming the mind after a hard day's work or to open and release emotional blocks and pent up frustration. Essential oils can also be used as a sleep aid for those who have trouble sleeping, as an immunity booster during the haze period or a way to generate positivity in the environment. But, when you have asthma, can essential oils still work for you?

As mentioned, essential oils being a possible asthma trigger, there is still a risk of an asthma attack when exposed to them, although the risk is low, it also does not mean that there is no risk, so it is best to be cautious when using essential oils for the first time.

It is important to note, however, that essential oils should not be used as a replacement to medication for asthma, neither can essential oils treat or eradicate asthma symptoms. There should still be some medical measures in place in the event of an asthma attack. But on the bright side, essential oils can be used in homes or office settings to help improve the overall immunity of the area, that is only if you have already struck off essential oils as a possible asthma trigger, then it's okay to say that you can be exposed to essential oils without triggering your asthma attacks. But always bear in mind that using essential oils with asthma still carries a substantial amount of risk for different individuals.

Here are some essential oils that can offer some health benefits, even for people with asthma.

Peppermint: The methanol present in peppermint helps to relax and protect the airways.It may also help people with asthma to breathe easily.

Lavender:Its anti-inflammatory properties reduce inflammation in the bronchial airways.

Eucalyptus: An effective cold & flu remedy. Strengthens the respiratory system.

Tea Tree: Reduces skin inflammation which in turns reduces the inflammation that occurs as a result.