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Musings

What is an herbal steam? How can it help?

What is an herbal steam? How can it help?

What is an herbal steam?  Not just a beauty treatment, herbal steams have been used for centuries by many cultures to promote healing in times of illness. From the Mongols to the Mayans, the steam baths of ancient Rome, the sweat lodges of Native Americans and the saunas of the Finn’s, steaming has a rich history of use. Steam can moisten the sinuses and respiratory tract, help loosen stuck congestion and help relax the body and mind.  It is a gentle, easy way to extract the volatile aromatics of plants (essential oils).

If you are working on illness prevention or if you’ve caught a bug and want to keep it from settling deeper, then try a steam!  It is super easy to do, doesn’t require any special herbs (though there are some really marvelous supportive plants you can throw in if you desire).  The steam will carry all the antimicrobial goodness from the plants straight to your lung tissue where it needs it. The steam alone will hydrate the lungs and help them resist infection.

How to inhale steam

You’ll need the following materials:

  • a large bowl
  • water
  • a pot or kettle and a stove or microwave for heating up water
  • towel

Here’s the process:

  1. Heat up the water to boiling.
  2. Carefully pour the hot water into the bowl.
  3. Drape the towel over the back of your head.
  4. Turn on a timer.
  5. Shut your eyes and slowly lower your head toward the hot water until you’re about 8 to 12 inches away from the water. Be extremely careful to avoid making direct contact with the water.
  6. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose for at least two to five minutes.

Don’t steam longer than 10 to 15 minutes for each session. However, you can repeat steam inhalation two or three times per day if you’re still having symptoms.

I have created an herbal steam blend that is full of antimicrobial plants that will support the respiratory system.  You can find it here, but really most kitchen herbs are perfect to use for this type of steam. Fresh aromatic culinary herbs are great, but you can use dried as well.  And of course if no herbs are available steaming alone is wonderful therapy!

Herbs to use (this list is not comprehensive, use any culinary herbs that are strongly aromatic)

  • Mints (spearmint, peppermint, etc)
  • Sage
  • Oregano
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Tarragon
  • Eucalyptus (easily found in Southern California)

Use common sense and care when steaming!  You’re working with boiling hot water, place the bowl somewhere stable so you don’t spill on yourself and make sure the steam isn’t too hot before you place your face over it! 

Listen to your body and use your own wisdom and judgement. 

Be safe, be well!

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