Using An Herbal Steam As An At-Home Cold Remedy

Winter is upon us which also means cold season is here. I have many tricks I like to use to get over a cold quickly, which includes drinking homemade elderberry tea, eating tons of cooked mushrooms, garlic and bone broth, and of course resting (if I have the luxury!).  These forms of nourishment help my body fight off infection, but they don't do much to ease the symptoms. For the stuffy nose, sore throat, and headaches that often accompany a cold or flu, I love to do a daily steam to clear my sinuses, help kill bad bacteria that could cause a sinus infection, and also rehydrate my skin which can get parched at this time of year.

Steaming can be simple or you can make it part of a more intricate ritual.  In its essence, a face steam can be quite simple and only requires is a large bowl, steaming hot water and a towel.  I will go over the basics and then offer up some suggestions on how you can customize your facial steam.


Herbal steam for cold relief



Basic facial steam directions


To do a steam at home, bring a kettle full of water to a boil. While the water is heating, prepare your space. I prefer to get in comfortable clothes, and put on calming music. The idea is to make the space comfortable and relaxing. Set your bowl on a table where you can sit with your face over the bowl comfortably for 10-15 minutes. Once the water is boiling, turn off the heat and let the water sit for 1 minute to let it cool off a little.  When you are ready, pour the water in the bowl, sit down and carefully (so as not to burn yourself) position your face over the bowl in a way so that your face is encompassed by the steam. Cover your head with a towel to seal in the steam. Close your eyes and breathe in deeply, exhale. Repeat until the water cools off and there is no more steam (about 10-15 minutes).  


Doing this will help clear out your sinuses, helping you breathe more easily. It will also hydrate your skin and clear out the pores.


steaming face as a cold remedy



Add essential oils to your facial steam for extra cold and flu fighting action


Essential oils are potent weapons when it comes to fighting off bacteria and viruses. Adding a drop of essential oil to your steam is a great way to harness that power.  I find steaming with essential oils to be most effective when dealing with sinus infections and stubborn colds.


So how do you steam with essential oils?  Add 1 drop of essential oil of choice to steaming water.  That's it. It may not seem like a lot, but essential oils are very potent.  Adding more would only make the steam unpleasant.   I recommend ravintsara, eucalyptus globulus, sibirian fir, tea tree, laurel leaf or sandalwood essential oil for combating a sinus infection and a sore throat.  If you aren't sure where to get essential oils, my favorite supplier is   You can also make a blend by putting 5 drops of each oil in a bottle and then adding 1 drop of the blend in the steaming water.  This is a great blend to target nose and throat issues, but also to help boost your immune system. 


Word of caution, if you use essential oils in your steam, make sure to only use 1 drop and to not open your eyes over the steam. The essential oil will irritate the eyes!  



Adding herbs to your steam


A gentler approach than using essential oil is adding herbs to the water. Depending in the herbs you chose, they can add antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and skin soothing properties to the steam.  I love using our Herbal Detoxifying Steam which we make with rosemary, tulsi, cornflowers, chamomile and calendula since this herb blend offers all of the above properties. But if you want to make a simple herbal steam at home for a cold, you can try adding thyme, rosemary, or if you live somewhere with evergreens, you can clip some fir or pine to use in the steam.


To make a herbal steam, put the dry herbs in the bowl prior to pouring hot water into the bowl.  When you are ready, slowly pour water into the bowl, and watch the herbs bloom and dance in the water. Follow by steaming. 


herbal steam



You can also add 1 drop of essential oil to an herbal steam for extra cold fighting power. My absolute favorite combo is our Herbal Detoxifying Steam with a drop of a blend of ravintsara and laurel leaf.


herbal steam
all photos by Naomi Huober

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