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DIY Vapor Rub for Colds (and Sore Muscles)

This recipe for homemade vapor rub will relieve chest congestion and coughing without the toxic petroleum products, parabens and other nasty additives.
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With cold and flu season upon us, many people reach for the trusty Vapor Rub to soothe their coughing and congestion. But have you looked at the ingredients in the average off-the-shelf mentholated salve?

After helpful essential oils like camphor and menthol, name brand chest rubs also contain things like petrolatum, turpentine oil, methylparaben…

Yikes!

Anything you put on your skin gets absorbed into your bloodstream, so it is smart to choose the least toxic skin products you can. Or better yet, make your skin care products from non-toxic or edible ingredients you can feel really good about, particularly when you use them on your children.

This recipe not only loosens chest congestion and eases cough, but it also works great on sore muscles, and can help relieve tension headaches and migraines! It also makes a great gift.

Related:

Here’s a special trick for getting maximum effectiveness from any vapor salve—especially for that nagging post-nasal drip cough: Apply your Homemade Vapor Rub thickly to the soles of your feet, then put on socks over the salve, and lie down.

Really. It works exceptionally well. I don’t know why.

This recipe for homemade vapor rub will relieve chest congestion and coughing without the toxic petroleum products, parabens and other nasty additives.

Homemade Herbal Vapor Rub

This recipe for homemade vapor rub will relieve chest congestion and coughing without toxic petroleum products, parabens and other nasty additives.
Print
CuisineHerbal Remedy
Total Time20 minutes
Servings4 oz.

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Melt the half cup of the cream base you have chosen (or the oil/beeswax base) by placing it in a bowl inside a larger bowl full of hot water. (If you have a very small double boiler, that would work too.) Do not heat the cream directly.
  • You want your base to be as liquid and easy to mix as it can get. Remove from heat once it reaches a melted-chocolate consistency.
  • Once your base cream is soft, add the oils one at a time, mixing each drop thoroughly into the cream. If you need to return the cream to the heat to keep it easy to mix, that's OK. Different bases melt and set at different temperatures.
  • Once you have thoroughly mixed the oils into the base, let cool a bit, just enough to test on your skin.
  • Smell and test the batch on the inside of your wrist. Everyone has different skin sensitivities. If the salve is too strong for your skin (or your baby's skin), melt the salve again and blend in 1-2 more ounces of base cream to dilute. If the salve doesn't smell strong enough, add 1 more drop of each essential oil until you reach the strength you desire.
  • Pour finished salve into a metal tin, small canning jar or a recycled glass container.
  • Apply to the feet, neck, chest and upper back for relief of chest and sinus congestion, or apply to sore muscles or headachy temples, as needed.
  • Lasts indefinitely.

Notes

You will need the following tools to make this recipe:
  • Pot and small ceramic bowl, or small double boiler
  • 4 ounce canning jar, recycled jar or metal tin (where to find tins online)
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About the author

Dawn Gifford

Dawn Gifford

Dawn is the creator of Small Footprint Family, and the author of the critically acclaimed Sustainability Starts at Home - How to Save Money While Saving the Planet. After a 20-year career in green building and environmental sustainability, chronic illness forced her to shift her expertise and passion from the public sphere to home and hearth. Get the whole story behind SFF here.

15 Comments

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    • With a very mild blend, I would use it on my own 2 year old’s feet. But use your own discretion. I am not a medical doctor.

  • This looks like a great blend for replacing that vapor rub. If you wanted to improve it’s muscle soreness healing, would adding Comfrey root be helpful or mess with the blend?

  • Fantastic recipe! And the fact that it last indefinitely is awesome—wish I had found this before christmas!

  • Just made this at 4X the EOs. I have pneumonia and just finished antibiotics. Chest still hurts and this feels good. I also made a nasal inhaler with Eucalyptus (kills germs) Peppermint and pine EO. Thank you for the great recipe

  • I have a little chocolate fondue pot, basically like a very very smal slow cooker, designed for melting chocolate nad keeping it melted, owuld I be able to use this to make something like this?

  • I just made a batch of this. Perfect timing with the season we are having here in NJ. I added more eucalyptus and lavender and couldn’t find camphor so hopefully that cooling effect wont’ be missed. Thanks for this post!

  • With cold weather and cold and flu season rapidly approaching, this DIY homemade vapor rub is just what I need to whip up in my home. I can’t wait to try it!

  • I’m going to make this for sure. We have a cold virus running through the house so I found this post at the perfect time. Thanks for the recipe!

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