Monday Health & Wellness: Homemade “Vapo-Rub” Recipe

**This post has been linked to Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist!**

When your family gets a cold, especially kids, something something like Vapo-Rub can be just what you need to help everyone get much-needed rest at night.  Except that store-bought Vapo-Rub is full of junk!  It’s petroleum-based, first of all, and why do we want to be rubbing that on our skin?  Second, the adult version contains menthol, which has been shown to cause lung problems in some babies and children (and, I wouldn’t be surprised, adults too).  Not really a good option.  There has to be a better way!

When my kids came down with minor colds recently, I decided to mix some up and see if it helped.  It did.  My daughter, who had coughed quite a bit the night before, slept soundly.  My son…didn’t, but if you’ve read my posts on sleeping babies, then you know he never sleeps through the night anyway.  But every time I went in his room he was breathing freely, so there’s that!  (And the following night he did give me a good 7-hour stretch, so…that’s something too!)

Best of all, this is completely natural and safe for people of all ages.  Here’s what you need:

  • 5 tbsp. extra virgin coconut oil (a natural anti-viral)
  • 1 tbsp. evening primrose oil (could use sweet almond, olive, etc. if you want)
  • 2 tbsp. beeswax
  • 8 – 10 drops tea tree essential oil (also a natural anti-viral)
  • 15 – 20 drops rosemary essential oil (aids breathing)

In a small pan over low heat, melt the coconut oil and evening primrose oil.  Add the beeswax, chopped up or in granules (mine was in a large chunk, so I chopped) and stir until melted.  Add the essential oils and stir to combine.  Pour into a 4-oz. glass jar and allow to cool.  This mix is not completely solid even when cool, so be careful of that when you open the jar.  

Before bed, put this mixture on the feet and then put socks over it.  When it’s put on the feet, it’s absorbed quickly into the body and it goes through the whole system.  That’s why it works.  You could follow this up with a spoonful of raw honey, and the same essential oils in a humidifier (which I did).  Worked great, and we all got sleep!

Don’t forget all the other tricks for recovering from colds and flu, and ways to prevent future colds!  Got a sinus headache?  Try natural methods to help!  And of course, your first aid kit should be well stocked, just in case!

Still struggling?  Check out Michele of Frugal Granola’s Herbal Nurturing!


  1. says

    I wish I had read this two weeks ago. My daughter just got over a cold and I wanted to use vapo-rub but refused to but the stuff from the store. This is going straight in my recipe folder.

  2. Michelle says

    Just made this last night and used on my son who has a cold. He slept great and I had no worries of chemicals. Thanks for posting….LOVE your blog!

          • says

            Please remember that when you switch out the essential oils for something like peppermint, eucalyptus, or camphor you are also making this not safe for infants. Part of the post talks about this being safe for all ages, remember if you change the oil that changes too.

  3. says

    Thank you SO much for sharing this recipe! I made some up for my sick 10 month old yesterday. I put it on his feet before laying him down for the night and he slept through the night (from 8:30-4:30, nursed, then slept again until 7:30!) for the first time EVER! Now I think I will have to put this on his feet every night, sick or not ;)

  4. Be says

    I have a cold at the moment but I’m pregnant and read not to use rosemary oil during pregnancy. I have two babies under two though and was interested in using this with them. I don’t have the evening primrose oil or beeswax and was wondering if you thought it would still be effective without them.

  5. Julie says

    Hi, my daughter has a cold right now and I was considering putting crushed garlic on her feet overnight with some coconut oil as a barrier. I am worried it may burn her feet. Do you know if that would work and if I could combine it w/coconut tea tree oil or would it be too much? Thanks.

    • Kate Tietje says

      You could basically take this mix (there’s not a ton of tea tree oil in it, and it never bothered my babies) and add some crushed garlic, let it sit for a few minutes, then apply to her feet. Watch her for a few minutes and see how she does. You could always wash her feet if it seemed to be bothering her. Start with just a little garlic though so hopefully it won’t be too strong.

  6. Heather says

    Just wondering a good place to purchase the ingredients, except the oils- I have those… I’m new to this natural stuff ;)

    • Kate Tietje says

      Coconut oil, evening primrose oil and beeswax can be purchased at Mountain Rose Herbs. I assume you mean you have the essential oils?

  7. Melissa Strong says

    Have you done any research on the safety of tea tree oil, especially when pregnant? When I was looking around about different tooth pastes (one being Earthpaste), I kept reading how tea tree oil should not be used while pregnant. The reason being that it can be estrogen mimicking. Since I know you’re expecting and this is the second time tea tree oil has come up lately, I figured I’d ask. I stopped using Earthpaste bc I was nervous about it. What are your thoughts?

    • says

      The evening primrose, almond, and olive oils purpose is to moisturize and keep the coconut oil from being too drying. Any oil that would help to moisturize would work. So yes avocado oil would work.

  8. says

    Hi Kate!

    Just wanted to say, I tried this recipe tonight. Went in rubbed some on my 6 year old daughters feet, who’d been coughing the whole time I was making it and hasn’t coughed since. Same with my husband. People this stuff WORKS! The Vicks brand caused my daughter to break out in a slight rash which is why I went looking for an alternative. Thanks for sharing an honest, real and working recipe! :D

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