Happy new year herbies! I hope that you’ve been having a better new year than me so far. Unfortunately, I have been enjoying the many luxuries that come with having the sniffles, such as watery eyes, a runny nose and the inability to breathe like a living human. It hasn’t been very much fun. (A consequence—I’m sure—of having way too much fun the night before.) Luckily, I work at an herb magazine where wondrous remedies are available at my fingertips every day. And we recently published an article by Jaclyn Chasse that tout effective natural remedies for runny noses: herbal steams. So I gave steam inhalation a whirl.
I am a convert.
Why haven’t I been doing this all my life, come cold and flu season? It’s relaxing, soothing and it quickly relieves the sinuses like magic. It’s a temporary relief—one I’d say that lasts about 10 minutes. But for someone who forgot what it was like to be able to breathe out of her nose, a relief is a relief. And it sure worked better than my tube of Vicks, which at that point had been slathered all over my nose doing nothing but making me feel slimy.
Now you may say that neti pots are the way to go, and I’m not denying that. Many Herb Companion staff members love themselves a good neti pot session. But after reading about a couple neti pot-related deaths, I’m little on edge about them at the moment. Even though logically I know that these deaths were likely the result of using untreated water, an herbal steam sounded much safer.
So here’s what you need for a good herbal steam. One runny nose (check!), one heat-resistant bowl (check!), one large bath towel (check!), 4 to 6 cups boiled water (check!) and 3 to 5 drops eucalyptus essential oil (…). When I started gathering these essentials I realized that I did not have eucalyptus, the sinus cure-all according to managing editor Allison Martin and author Chasse, but I did have lavender, and luckily for me lavender is a calming, soothing aromatic that also delivers antimicrobial action to irritated respiratory tracts. Whew! (I did not want to leave my house that night.) You can also try thyme, according to Chasse. It contains potent antiviral and antibacterial properties that are delivered right to the lungs and sinuses.
Pour your steaming water into your bowl, add your essential oil and hold your head above the bowl (not too close!) with a towel draped over your head making a miniature tent. Close your eyes, breathe deeply for 5 to 10 minutes and enjoy the wonders of aromatherapy. This will leave your face all sticky and sweaty, but you’re not doing anything that night anyways but kicking back with a Law & Order: SVU marathon, right? Maybe that’s just me.