How to Make Homemade Vapor Rub the Natural Way

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It’s that time of year on the homestead, cold and flu season. As I reach for a box of tissues for various family members, I am also going to be reaching for my own favorite version of homemade vapor rub.

That’s right, homemade. While I could go out to the store and buy the store’s version, I much prefer knowing what each and every ingredient is in my own homemade version. I read the back of the jar that I found in the local pharmacy and it included such ingredients as petrolatum and turpentine. Turpentine! No thank you! We don’t want to rub that on our bodies!

Thus, I’m going to stick to my homemade version, It’s gentle on our skin and helps to open up the congestion that is holding us hostage on our homestead. I won’t be adding in any petroleum products nor will I be adding in any turpentine to my homemade version.

I’m choosing just good old fashioned ingredients that my grandmother used to help ease our congestion when we were sick. Grandma seemed to know exactly how to stay well and she seemed to have a recipe for just about everything. I’ve adjusted her recipe slightly for a more modern version. Grandma used lard but I prefer coconut oil.

As the virus is sweeping through our town, I am sure I’m going to need to make a double or triple batch of this homemade vapor rub. I’ll be stocking up on the ingredients and making several tins of it to help ease our symptoms.

An added advantage to making it myself is that I’m in control of the various ingredients so I can go heavier on some scents for those who prefer them and I can go milder on other scents so that those who prefer a lighter version or have an allergy can be happy as well.

Since we save nearly everything on the homestead, I have several options available for tins. I have some old mint tins that I’ve kept for that “project” that never seems to pop up. I also have some small half pint jars as well that will lend themselves well to this project.

Either way, I’m sure to have plenty to fill my various tins and jars so that everyone can have their own personalized version of vapor rub.

Before you begin, know your ingredients. Remember that when you rub a product on your skin, it is absorbed by the body and absorbed directly into your bloodstream.

So if you can’t pronounce a product, or if you aren’t sure what it is, be sure to investigate further and find out in detail what it is and what it does for you before you incorporate it into your homemade vapor rub (or any other product that you may be making on the homestead).

Step One

Start by sterilizing your tins or jars that you’re going to be putting your final product in. You can do this with some hot soapy water, by putting them through a dishwasher, or by pouring scalding hot water over them in a dish rack.

Many people don’t sterilize the tins or jars, but since it’s cold and flu season, I feel like this is a necessary step to help prevent further infection. Allow them to air dry once you’ve sterilized them. While your tins or jars are air drying, assemble the ingredients to make your vapor rub.

essential oils tea tree oil peppermint and more
essential oils tea tree oil peppermint and more

Step Two

Assemble the following ingredients together near a double boiler or your microwave. You’ll also need a glass measuring cup, a wooden spoon or scraper, a glass bowl (if using the microwave) or a stainless steel pan (if using the burner).

  • Organic coconut oil
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • (Optional: Shea Butter)
  • Eucalyptus Oil
  • Peppermint Oil
  • Lavender Oil
  • Tea Tree Oil
  • Lemon Oil
  • Thyme Oil
  • Oregano Oil

Step Three

coconut oil

If you’re using a double boiler, place a pan with boiling water on the burner and place your top pan over the pan with boiling water.

Add ½ cup of the organic coconut oil into the pan and allow it to gently melt. Incorporate ¼ to ½ cup of the extra virgin olive oil into the coconut oil (more olive oil will make a more liquidy blend which is nice for a vaporizer or for a diffuser if you’re going to be using those as well).

Feel free to adjust the amount of organic coconut oil as desired, I’ve used more or less depending on the availability of the other ingredients. Keep in mind that if you want a more solid vapor rub you’ll need less of the olive oil.

olive oil

If you’re going to use the Shea butter, add less of the olive oil and less of the coconut oil or add them all in at equal amounts (it’s up to you). For a more solid form of salve you can add in some beeswax as desired. Since we don’t have a bee business we rarely have a source for inexpensive bees wax on our homestead. Adding bees wax, however, will make a more solid form of the salve.

Allow your base (organic coconut oil, olive oil or Shea butter) to begin to cool before you add your essential oils.

Essential oils will lose a lot of their value at higher temperatures, so this step is vital to having a vapor rub that retains its aroma and therapeutic benefits.

After your oils have combined and begun to cool, gently stir in the following oils (I use a wooden spoon or a wooden chopstick to do this):

  • 10 drops Eucalyptus Oil
  • 7 drops Peppermint Oil
  • 7 drops Lavender Oil
  • 6 drops Tea Tree Oil
  • 6 drops Lemon Oil
  • 6 drops Thyme Oil
  • 6 drops Oregano Oil

Feel free to adjust the number of drops for each oil to your liking. Some people prefer a stronger scent while others prefer something far more subtle. For someone who is allergic to flowers, for example, you may wish to omit the lavender oil and add those extra six drops of oil as another oil or divide them up between a few oils.

I always start out with just a few drops of each oil and gradually work my way up to the scent that we prefer on our homestead.

Since there are different brands of essential oils you’ll find that the droppers sometimes deliver a different sized drop of the essential oil so be sure to keep a close eye on this process and attempt to unify the size of your drops.

It’s really simple to customize this recipe for each individual in your family. As always, if you have a family member allergic to any of the oils, leave that particular oil out of the blend. For children, we use a half strength salve that we make using only half of the above listed oil amounts and I’ve omitted a few of the oils for the children’s version. I’ve listed this recipe below.

Remove the pan from the burner and continue stirring as it cools. Gently pour it into your jar or tin and allow to cool. You may wish to stir it off and on for a few more minutes as it cools and begins to turn into a gel or a salve.

Children’s Version Of Homemade Vapor Rub

Children should have a version of vapor rub that isn’t quite as strong as the adult version. Also, peppermint oil isn’t recommended for children under the age of 10. So we’ve come up with a more gentle version of the homemade vapor rub for younger children.

I usually make up a separate batch of vapor rub for our kids and of course, each of our kids has a different preference in scents so I adjust the scents slightly so that they are happier with the results. I also write their name on the label so that they know which one is theirs. Here is my version of the children’s homemade vapor rub:


  • ½ cup of coconut oil
  • 5 drops of Eucalyptus Oil
  • 5 drops of Lavender Oil
  • 3 drops of Tea Tree Oil

We melt the coconut oil in the double boiler and then as the coconut oil is cooling we gently stir in the eucalyptus and lavender oils. Depending on the child you can adjust the levels of the oils up or down but eliminate the peppermint oil until the children are over the age of 10. I’ve also tried this with Shea butter, but we prefer the coconut oil for this particular vapor rub and the kids love the subtle scent of coconut oil which makes it a double win on our homestead.

How To Use Vapor Rub in And Around The Homestead

There are so many great ways to use homemade vapor rub in and around the homestead that I wanted to list them out. A few of them aren’t as conventional but they really do work and it really does help. I’m sure there are far more uses for the vapor rub on the homestead that we’ve yet to stumble upon. We all have our favorite ways to use the homemade vapor rub. Here are some of the ways that we use it on our homestead.

Relieve Congestion

Gently massage the salve into the chest, in and around the nostrils and on the upper back to help ease and relieve congestion. Repeat as needed to help relieve the congestion. It helps to soothe the senses and relax the muscles as well as open up the sinuses for easier breathing.

Relieve Coughs

Gently massage the salve into the chest and on the upper back to help ease coughs from phlegm and bronchitis. Grandma also used it on the bottoms of our feet.

Room Diffuser

Add some of the salve to a room diffuser to help infuse the air in the sick room. It will help to add a nice subtle scent to the room and relieve the congestion.

Wax Melt Pots

Add some of the salve to the wax melt pot in lieu of a wax melt to help infuses the air in the sick room with the fresh scent of the eucalyptus and tea tree oil. The tea tree oil will help to purify the air and the aroma will help to ease congestion and open the sinuses.


Add some of the salve to the vaporizer to help add humidity to the air and to infuse the air with the scent and aroma to help ease chest congestion and soothe the sinuses.

Bottom Of Feet

Grandma swore by putting vapor rub on the bottom of our feet at night and then covering our feet with cotton socks while we slept. Believe it or not, it worked. We woke up feeling better. It helps to reduce the cough and soothe as well as ease the cough and sinus congestion.

Sore Muscles

Massage the salve into sore muscles to help ease the pain and soreness from the flu. It also works well if you have a strained muscles (when the men buck the hay they all swear by this for sore muscles) and have pulled a muscle while exerting it (the guys use it when chopping wood as well).


When I feel a headache coming on I will grab our homemade vapor rub and massage some into my temples. I also massage some behind my ears and the back of my neck. I even found relief from migraines with this method. If you catch the headache quickly this works wonders. Massage it in and lie down in a dark room for about 30 minutes and you should feel great relief without any other form of medication.


Sometimes some of us have a harder time during butchering than others. For those of us who can’t quite handle the stench of a cows stomach contents or the pigs blood, we rub some of the vapor rub underneath of our noses during the butchering process. It really helps and the butchering gets done without complaint.

The Dog Got Skunked

It doesn’t matter where your homestead is at, you’re going to have a few skunks slinking through now and again. Whether it’s to dine on the garden or they are simply passing through enroute to another food source, our dogs have a bad habit of trying to “escort” the skunks off of the property. They just don’t seem to learn.

So, when we have to use our “de-skunk” the dog recipe to get rid of the stench, we frequently rub some of our homemade vapor rub underneath of our noses to help avoid the stench while we’re bathing the dogs. It really does help us to tolerate the process of “de-skunking” the dogs.

Shower Bombs

To make a “shower bomb” form of the homemade vapor rub we have two different methods that we use.

Method One:

Simply put about two Tablespoons of the homemade vapor rub on a soap dish in the shower and allow it to dissolve in the water running over it. Just make sure to not get any of it into the eyes as this will sting.

Method Two:

Mix just enough cornstarch into the homemade vapor rub to make it a “bath bomb” and drop it into the bottom of the shower when taking a steamy hot shower.

As the homemade vapor rub dissolves in the hot shower it will infuse the air with the aroma and ease the symptoms of congestion and cough. It can also help to ease a headache in this fashion.

Benefits Of Different Oils

Various oils have various benefits. By understanding the different benefits, you can literally design the ideal vapor rub for your specific needs. Keep in mind that what works well for one person may not work nearly as well for another. This way you can tailor your vapor rub to specific uses on your homestead.

Eucalyptus oil will open up the air way passages and help to improve breathing and reduce congestion.

Peppermint oil can help to relieve sore muscles as can lavender, frankincense and juniper. Peppermint oil also works to reduce inflammation and pain.

Lavender oil is soothing and calming so it works to help ease coughs and relax the sore muscles and calm an anxious patient.

Lemon is invigorating and energizing. If you’re feeling lethargic or simply have no energy due to your cold or flu and have a busy day coming up, you may want to consider a blend of vapor rub that has a bit more of the lemon oil in it.

Oregano oil works well to help ease sinus congestion and pain. It also helps by combating the germs and inflammation that can go along with a virus that attacks the sinuses.

Thyme oil also works well to help eases sinus congestion and pain.

Tea Tree oil works as an antibiotic and an anti-inflammatory. If you’re fighting off germs and viruses on the homestead, tea tree oil is a must have and putting it in your vapor rub will help you to feel better faster.

Special Notes:

Eucalyptus oil may slow respiratory rates in younger children, use a diluted version and if need be, eliminate it completely until children are older.

Peppermint oil isn’t recommended for children under the age of 10 so avoid it altogether in children’s versions of homemade vapor rub.

Some people are very sensitive to certain oils, when in doubt, leave it out. The beauty of making your own personalized version of vapor rub is that if you have a particular sensitivity you can leave that particular oil out.

If you’re allergic to coconut be sure to use the Shea butter and olive oil and leave the coconut oil out of the recipe.

Avoid getting any of the vapor rub into the eyes as it will burn and sting. Oils are strong and can cause burns to the skin as well. Allowing your base oil to cool will help you to smoothly blend the essential oil in more completely to avoid burns to the skin.

We have also used a bit of the vapor rub on the dog when he sprained a hip or leg during a lunge after another animal. We just use a small amount and massage it in. He didn’t lick at it and he was up and walking much easier shortly thereafter.

There are many great companies out there that sell essential oils. Choose a company that has a solid reputation for a pure essential oil. Don’t just go to the nearest store and purchase whatever brand they have on the shelf.

You have no idea how long that particular oil has been sitting there on that shelf nor do you know the quality or strength of the oil.

Look for a company that sells only essential oils and similar products and make sure that you’re dealing with certified essential oils.

Oils that are from “fly by night” companies often have fillers in them and won’t retain their scent or give you the benefits of the homemade vapor rub that you’re seeking.

Once I learned how to make my own vapor rub, my family began to ask for it in lieu of the store bought versions. It’s a great gift to have on hand on the homestead and it helps my family to stay well. Making my own vapor rub makes me feel like I’m giving my family the best possible chance to get well.

As soon as we begin to feel a cold or the flu virus coming on, we reach for our homemade vapor rub and begin to massage it into the chest area, upper back, and under our noses. It helps us to weather the virus season on the homestead and stay well.

Once you’ve invested in your essential oils, it’s only a few pennies per jar or tin of homemade vapor rub. It’s a great affordable way to stay well on the homestead and to use only healthy things on our bodies.

homemade vapor rub pin

2 thoughts on “How to Make Homemade Vapor Rub the Natural Way”

  1. Hi Linda,
    I’m excited to make this for family Christmas gifts this year. Thank you for posting this! Just wondering how long this should last? I would like to put an expiration date on it.
    Cheers to good health and homemade vapor rub! 🙂


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