A steam inhalation is one of the best home remedies for cold and for coughs and an effective sinus infection home remedy. Steam inhalations can also to relieve sore throats and catarrh.
Inhalations are easy to do and can be made more effective by adding essential oils, especially oils with decongestant, antibacterial and antiviral properties. Some of the most useful oils are Eucalyptus, Pine, Lavender, Rosemary, Peppermint and Tea Tree.
How to Make a Steam Inhalation
Simply heat up water up to boiling point on a stove or in an electric kettle. Remove from heat and pour the water into a large bowl. Add 3-4 drops of essential oil, cover your head and the bowl with a large bath towel, place your face above the bowl but not so close that the steam will burn your face, and inhale the hot steam for several minutes. I do up to ten minutes or until the water cools down.
Make sure you don’t burn yourself, and keep the kids and pets away from the steaming bowl. If you have a cold, a persistent cough or a sinus infection, steam inhalations can be done several times a day.
Essential Oils for Steam Inhalations
- Colds: Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus or radiata) is one of the best oils for colds; it is antiviral, antibacterial and decongestant. Other useful oils are Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) –antibacterial, antiviral, decongestant and relaxing, Pine (Pinus sylvestris) – a good decongestant, Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) – one of the best antiviral oils but not as good for clearing up the nasal passages as Eucalyptus. Peppermint (Mentha piperita) is an effective decongestant but it is quite strong and not everyone can take it.
- Coughs: Eucalyptus steam inhalation is one of the easiest home remedies for coughs. The oil relieves congestion and if there is an infection, it also fights the bacteria. For dry and irritating coughs, try Benzoin (Styrax benzoin) or Frankincense (Boswellia carterii).
- Sinus infection: a steam inhalation several times a day can relieve the pain, the congestion and the infection. Try Eucalyptus, Lavender, Peppermint, Pine, Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) or Tea Tree.
- Sore throat: steam inhalations can ease irritation and soreness in the throat, whether it is caused by an infection or if you’ve just been talking too much. Benzoin, Lavender and Thyme are all good choices.
Safety Precautions for Steam Inhalations
Steam inhalations are usually not recommended for asthma sufferers. The same goes for hayfever and other similar allergies. If you are worried about an adverse reaction, start with a very small amount of time, just half a minute.
The oils mentioned above are meant for adults. Always check possible contra-indications if you’re using essential oils and have a health condition or are pregnant. The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Essential Oils by Julia Lawless is a good guide to using essential oils at home.
Photo: Stephanie (Wikimedia Commons)