Best Herbs for the Common Cold: Essential Oil Steam for Congestion

Relieve congestion, aches, pains and other cold and flu symptoms with the easy at-home remedy Essential Oil Steam for congestion.

| September/October 1998

  • Peppermint contains compounds that relax the airways and open congested sinuses and nasal passages.
    Photo by dusk/Fotolia

Essential oil steams are a good way to relieve the congestion, aches and general discomfort of colds and flu. The moisture penetrates airways to help loosen and move mucus, and the warmth soothes aching muscles.

You can augment steam’s effectiveness by adding essential oils, such as peppermint and eucalyptus. When you inhale the steam, the herbs’ antiseptic, decongestant and airway-relaxing constituents go right where they’re needed.

Note: Some people, such as asthmatics, may be sensitive to the steam and vapors of some essential oils, so take a cautious approach at first. Also, use essential oils with care—don’t apply them directly on the mucus membranes of the nose, and especially keep them away from small children’s noses. Using essential oils for infants and toddlers may cause respiratory failure.

• 1 quart water
• 3 to 6 drops essential oil

1. To make a steam for congestion, boil water. Lower the heat, then add essential oil to the pot. Remove from heat and cover; let steep 5 minutes.

2. Take off the lid. Lean over and take an experimental breath. If the temperature feels comfortable, drape a towel over your head and breathe deeply through your nose if you have a cold or sinus infection, or through your mouth if you have a cough.

Gina DeBacker
9/27/2012 2:33:11 PM

This is a great recipe! I have made my own essential oil steam using lavender essential oil whenever I've been severely congested, and it always makes me feel so much better.

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