Catarrh is the excessive build-up of mucus in one of the airways, or cavities, of the body. Most people associate catarrh with a blockage of the nasal cavities, although it can occur in other parts of the body including:

  • Throat.
  • Ears.
  • Chest.

Catarrh is not a condition in itself – it is a symptom of another underlying condition, typically an infection, such as the common cold. Sometimes, it can also be a response to an allergic reaction.

Most cases of catarrh are acute, which means that they will pass within a few days once the body fights off the underlying infection. However, some people can experience chronic catarrh, either due to an allergic reaction, or because they have structural abnormalities in their nasal cavities.

The production of excessive mucus in the nose and other respiratory passages is a response to any inflammation of the mucous membrane that lines them. This can be caused by an infection, such as COLDS or INFLUENZA, or by irritants like pollen and dust.

For the immediate relief of congestion, a steam inhalation with essential oil is very effective. Lavender, Peppermint, Rosemary, Eucalyptus, Thyme or Tea tree will ease the congestion and also help to combat the infection which has caused it. For catarrh caused by pollen and other irritants, Lavender and Camomile are the best choice. (For method, see entry for INHALATIONS.)

Massage of the face, with special attention to the areas around the nose and over the sinuses, will help to drain away excessive mucus. With the exception of Lavender, most of the oils listed above are rather powerful so to use on the face they would need to be diluted to 2% or less in a carrier oil. Work around the nose and cheeks with circular movements: small on the nose itself and larger around the cheeks. Make some long, sweeping downward movements towards the neck.

Diet plays a part in many cases of catarrh. Dairy products and wheat are known to provoke catarrh in many people, and they should be excluded for a period by anybody who suffers catarrh frequently, to see whether any improvement is noticed. If so, they may have to be excluded permanently from the diet, or included in very small amounts only. Other people are sensitive to other foods, and may have to experiment to find out which these are.

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