By Shari Jainuddin, ND, BCB
Feeling under the weather, congested, or just dried up? Steaming can be an excellent at home tool to help the situation. Your nasal and lung passages are healthiest when they have enough moisture and heat. Hydration is essential to maintaining their moisture and thinning out mucous when you are congested. So, stay well hydrated.
Steaming can be a game changer. You will need a cooking pot, stove, towel/cloth (at least 3 feet wide), cutting board (optional), essential oil (optional), tissues (optional).
1. Fill a pot of water 1/3-1/2 full of water and bring to a boil.
2. Shut off heat and remove pot from stove. I suggest placing it on a wooden cutting board on the counter. If you leave the pot on the stove, just be careful not to touch hot surfaces.
3. Place your face a few inches above the pot, leaning over it, and cover your head and shoulders with the towel. If you’ve moved the pot to the counter, you can safely and comfortably prop yourself up on your elbows so you can relax while you steam. Use your hands to tent the towel out further above your head to catch more of the steam while creating a little more space. The towel is a way to control how much steam accumulates around your face. Be careful not to touch the hot pan or if it feels too hot as you steam, you can lift your head away from the pot or lift the towel.
4. Breath through your nose slowly and deeply, pulling the air down into your lungs and slowly exhaling it out through your nose. If you are too congested to get air in through your nose, I suggest getting the steam in by breathing in through your mouth and then gently forcing it out through your nose. After a couple minutes the nasal congestion should start to loosen and you can blow your nose and eventually try to breath in through the nose as well. If you have lung congestion, you may expel mucous from the lungs when you cough. I find visualizing this process of the air moving in and out through the lungs helpful.
5. If you are feeling under the weather and have an antimicrobial essential oil on hand, such as rosemary, thyme, or oregano, steaming with it can help deliver medicine directly to your lungs. (I like to make sure my nasal passages are steamed for a couple minutes first to essential prime the airways and clear congestion that may be in the way.) The secret to using essential oils is that the medicinal components evaporate within the first few seconds of it hitting the water, so you want to be ready to breathe it in. Once you are ready, drop 2-3 drops of the essential oil into the water and continue to breathe slowly and deeply, pulling the steam into the lungs. Do this for another minute or two. This can be done a few times a day during an acute illness.
This is a general outline and should not be substituted for seeking professional medical advice specific to your healthcare needs.