Have you ever looked at the ingredients list on a store-bought chest rub? When you’re congested, bleary-eyed, and feeling like death warmed over, reading ingredients is not high on the priority list, but it’s also not comforting to find out that you just rubbed a semisolid soup of petroleum products onto your skin in order to give your respiratory passages some relief. The classic over-the-counter chest rubs are often less than 10% herbal ingredients, and approximately 90% petrolatum in the form of petroleum jelly, which is generally combined with turpentine. When petrolatum is not refined properly or entirely, as is sometimes the case in the U.S., it can be contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are known carcinogens particularly when used over a period of time. There are of course excellent petrolatum-free chest rubs on the market with all the herbal benefits and no carcinogenic ingredients. But why purchase something that you can easily make at home in 15 minutes and for less money?
Homemade Classic Mentholated Rub
Eucalyptus, menthol, and rosemary come together in this homemade mentholated rub to offer the perfect cooling, soothing trifecta.
Eucalyptus is indigenous to Australia, where the aborigines historically chewed the roots for water in the outback and used the leaves in a variety of health-supporting applications. In the early 19th century, practitioners of Eclectic medicine in the U.S. used a eucalyptus steam inhalation technique to soothe a variety of chest and sinus issues.
Similarly, menthol has a long history of use with respiratory symptoms. Menthol crystals are a 100% natural product that is steam distilled from corn mint (Mentha arvensis). They are the solid constituent, obtained by freezing the distilled oil to reach a temperature of -7.6° F, at which point the menthol crystallizes into satiny, beautifully formed crystals. Their minty aroma makes them popular in throat lozenges, toothpastes, mouthwashes, etc., but is also particularly wonderful for a congested nose and chest. Menthol crystals are so concentrated, it only takes a small amount to be effective.
Although known primarily as a culinary herb in the western world, rosemary was considered sacred by the ancient civilizations of the Mediterranean, where it was used extensively. The chemical composition of rosemary explains why it is such a good herbal ally for soothing the respiratory system. Rosemary's main constituents include α -Pinene, Camphor, 8-Cineol, Camphene, Limonene, and Linalool: a blend of expectorant and immune system supporting goodness.
Menthol Eucalyptus Balm Recipe
Makes approximately 8 oz.
- 8 oz. organic carrier oil (medium absorption oils like olive oil, almond oil, coconut or babassu oil are good choices)
- 3/4-1 oz. beeswax pastilles or grated beeswax
- 1/2-1 tsp. organic menthol crystals
- 20 drops organic eucalyptus essential oil
- 10 drops organic rosemary essential oil
- Measure carrier oil into the top of a double boiler.
- Depending on the texture you are aiming for, measure out beeswax. I use 1 oz. of beeswax pastilles because I find a slightly more solid balm-texture to be easiest to use. If you’d like more of an ointment texture, you’ll want closer to 3/4 oz.
- Heat oil and beeswax in double boiler until the beeswax melts. Remove from heat.
- Stir in menthol crystals and essential oils until dissolved. I prefer a stronger formula, so I use the full 1 tsp. of crystals. For a gentler formula, use half.
- Promptly pour into jars or tins.
- Allow to cool completely before putting lids on fully.
- Always work in a well-ventilated area when using menthol crystals or wear a mask if you find inhaling the aroma irritating.
- Do not heat or microwave balm before use.
- Menthol eucalyptus rub is for external use only—do not put in eyes, mouth, nostrils, under bandages, or on damaged skin.
- We always recommend applying a small patch test on your skin before using any product you have not used before.
- Consult with your child’s doctor before using a menthol or chest rub on children.
- Store essential oils and menthol crystals safely away from children and animals.
How to use Menthol Eucalyptus Rub
- Rub a layer of balm on chest and throat.
- Cover with a warm, dry cloth if you’d like. As well as being comforting, it protects clothing and sheets.
- Wear something loose, to allow the vapors to reach your nose.
- Relax and breathe.
Want more ideas to support your health this winter?
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