Make Your Own Vapor Rubimage preview

Make Your Own Vapor Rub

Do you have childhood memories of Mom smearing a thick coat of a Vicks® VapoRub on your chest to ease a cough or cold? For generations moms relied on this remedy to clear stuffy noses and break up chest congestion so we could breathe better. She may have even applied a little of the ointment to the soles of our feet to stifle a cough. But commercially prepared vapor rubs typically contain unhealthy ingredients, and many are looking for healthier alternatives. So how can you reap the benefits of these therapeutic rubs with ingredients you trust? By making your own, and we have the easy recipe.

Vapor Rub Origins – Mint, Mustard, and Steam To The Rescue!
Before the advent of medicated rubs and ointments in the late 1800s and early 1900s, people turned to mint or mustard poultices and plasters to treat chest and head colds. While these early remedies were effective in producing a warm, tingling sensation when applied to the chest, blisters or rashes often resulted in the process.

After poultices, the next popular home remedy for croup and colds consisted of inhaling steaming vapors from a pot of boiling water. While this method did bring temporary relief, the required pot of water was heated over a difficult to stabilize coal or wood fire. The fluctuating intensity of heat sometimes resulted in scalding and facial burns.

Taking the effective results of poultices, plasters and steaming vapors, pharmacists sought to combine the benefits of these early cold and croup treatments into a safe and easy to apply ointment.

Menthol was first used in drug-store products for its heat-producing effects. Menthol is a waxy, crystalline alcohol extracted from oil of peppermint, which releases a pungent vapor. French pharmacist, Jules Bengué is credited with combining menthol with an analgesic pain reliever in a lanolin base in the late 1890s. His product, Ben-Gay™, was widely used in Europe and America as a remedy for neuralgia, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout. This balm was also reported by users to open congested sinus passages. If you compare the contents of a jar of vapor rub to a tube of sore-muscle ointment, you’ll notice they contain some of the same ingredients.

But Here’s The Rub . . .
Case in point, Vicks VapoRub™ was invented after a North Carolina druggist, Lunsford Richardson, listened to customers report the healing virtues of Ben-Gay. In his brother-in-law’s drugstore laboratory Richardson concocted the first popular vapor rub product using petroleum as its base. He named it after his brother-in-law, physician Joshua Vick, owner of Vick’s drugstore, where Richardson’s pharmacology career began and quickly grew into a huge success. But commercially prepared vapor rubs typically contain unhealthy by-products of the oil industry: petroleum and spirits of turpentine — not exactly things you want absorbed into your, or your family’s, skin.

Make Your Own!
Today, with access to a wide variety of highly effective essential oils and other natural plant products, we are able to make our own high-quality healing salves at home.

Camphor is an aromatic, versatile oil used in cold and flu remedies for its decongestant and expectorant properties. It also is useful in relieving sore muscles, back aches and painful arthritis.

Wintergreen has been used vastly to relieve joint pain and stiffness, but also has useful antihistamine properties.

Fir Needle clears the lungs, sinuses and nasal passages. The powerful aromatic oils in this blend work to clear breathing passages and soothe aching muscles.

Medicated Vapor Rub and Sore Muscle Salve

Ingredients:

1/4 cup coconut oil
1/8 cup beeswax
1/4 cup almond oil
15 drops camphor essential oil
15 drops wintergreen essential oil
15 drops eucalyptus essential oil
5 drops fir needle essential oil

Directions: Melt coconut oil and beeswax over very low heat or in a double boiler. Remove from heat and stir in almond oil and essential oils. Pour into a glass jar or desired container. Lay cap over the jar to stop the oils from escaping. Allow to cool at room temperature before tightening the lid. Store in medicine cabinet.

Menthol Rub
Menthol crystals will increase the aromatic vapors and further enhance the heating and cooling sensations. Use to ease cold symptoms and to relieve sore or achy muscles and joints.

Ingredients:

1/4 cup coconut oil
1/8 cup beeswax
1/4 cup almond oil
¼ to ½ teaspoon menthol crystals  (available at apothecary sites online)
15 drops camphor or eucalyptus essential oil

Directions:

Melting coconut oil and beeswax together over very low heat or in a double boiler. Remove from heat and stir in menthol crystals, almond oil, and eucalyptus or camphor essential oil. Pour into a glass jar. Lay cap over the jar to stop the oils from escaping. Allow to cool at room temperature before tightening the lid.

Try these other essential oil combinations:

Muscle Relief – clove, helichrysum, peppermint, and wintergreen Arthritis or stiff joints – wintergreen, cypress and lemongrass

Breathe Easier – eucalyptus, lemon, peppermint, and rosemary or tea tree.

9 Comments
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Carrie B
Carrie B
4 years ago

Keep all things including camphor out of the reach of children. If ingested or applied in large amounts, can cause seizures. (One source, of many: New York Dept of Health.)

Deborah Tukua, editor, Journey to Natural Living
Deborah Tukua, editor, Journey to Natural Living
4 years ago

We do suggest that parents apply a small amount of the rub to their children, and never leave the jar within reach of young ones that might accidentally ingest it. The small amount of camphor in this rub should not pose a threat to the well-being of anyone that uses it sensibly. If there are preexisting seizure or health issues check with your doctor and avoid using any products your healthcare provider advises.

Sylvia
Sylvia
4 years ago

Wonderful ideas

Patty Fick
Patty Fick
4 years ago

This article about making your own Vicks Vapor Rub is more dangerous than the actual product. Top experts in the essential oil community would advise against this recipe. Camphor and Wintergreen should not be used on children. Even small amounts of Wintergreen essential oil can and will build up in the liver and cause severe liver damage. Please research when considering using essential oils on or around children. Essential Oil Safety 2e by Tisserand and Young, is a great book to get if you are interested in safely using essential oils.

Susan Higgins
4 years ago
Reply to  Patty Fick

Hi Patty Fick: We consulted with the Poison Control Center and know that essential oils such as camphor should NEVER be ingested especially with children, but can be used safely in small amounts in a topical formula such as our recipe for natural vapor rub. The drops of each essential oil is for the entire batch and each dosage is small. Just as with Vick’s, you don’t want to cover the ointment. Here’s a helpful link: http://www.poison.org/articles/2014-jun/essential-oils

Karen Spurk
Karen Spurk
2 years ago

I remember my grandfather carrying a muslin bag of camphor in his pocket all winter long. He claimed it prevented influenza.

kinglouie7@yahoo.com
kinglouie7@yahoo.com
2 years ago

Do you have a recipe for a non nicotine chew for the rednecks who faithfully read the Almanac?

Shanti
Shanti
1 year ago

Thank you soooo much….and ignore the sheep who should be more concerned with their children’s digital use (which in 2015 Insurance quit insuring anything wireless for “injury to health”) and I wonder if all these sheep are aware that Vicks has been using SYNTHETIC OILS for years and years….keep this recipe up …..you were hard to find Thanks

Susan Higgins
1 year ago
Reply to  Shanti

Thank you, Shanti!