There are many benefits to trying therapeutic steam inhalation to overcome various health issues. Most commonly, warm, moist air is breathed into the congested mucous membranes of the upper respiratory tract to help loosen the dry cough or stuffiness which is commonly felt during the cycle of a cold. Adding essential oils can provide extra relief and benefits. This is a simple and effective home therapy.

Steam inhalation is particularly helpful in relieving:

  • Coughing
  • Congestion in the lungs
  • Inflammation and congestion of the upper respiratory mucous membrane
  • Throat irritation and dry throat
  • Spasmodic breathing
  • Dry or thick secretions
  • Excessively dry mucous membranes


  • Use extreme caution with hot water to avoid burning
  • Extremely young children or the very aged may have difficulties responding to the heat
  • Consult your Naturopathic Doctor if you are pregnant, or have high blood pressure and/or heart conditions

Essential Oils: Some may find that aromatherapy provides more direct relief than steaming alone. To alleviate symptoms, essential oils may be added to the steaming water. Use the oils sparingly, with only 2-3 drops being used at a time.

For upper respiratory and sinus congestion, peppermint and/or eucalyptus essential oils are most effective.

Method 1:

  1. Make sure there are no drafts in the room, and that it is warm.
  2. Bring a kettle of water to a boil. Pour the freshly boiled water into a bowl. Add medication, herbs, or essential oil to the water.
  3. Create a makeshift “tent” by placing a towel over the patient’s head while they lean over the bowl. This helps catch the steam for them to breathe in.
    *Note: Be very careful not to burn the face. Lean over the bowl at a distance that feels comfortable to your skin.
  4. Inhale through the nose, and exhale through the mouth for 5-10 minutes. Repeat several times per day when symptoms are acute.
  5. At the completion of the treatment, make sure the patient is warm and dry. Encourage them to rest for at least ½ hour after treatment.

Method 2:

  1. Bring a kettle of water to a boil. Add medication, herbs, or essential oil to the water.
  2. Cover the spout of the kettle with a cone made of rolled newspaper in order to carry the steam directly to the patient’s nose and mouth.

For more information about how to avoid/treat the cold or flu this season, or to make an appointment with Dr. Sjovold, please contact her at 604-888-8325.

Use Therapeutic Steam Inhalation to battle your cold.

Stuffy nose? Sinus pressure? Dry cough? Maybe it’s time you tried “steam cleaning” your way back to health.

Steam inhalation is an age-old treatment of introducing warm, moist air into clogged, dry air passages to relieve congestion and pressure.  Respiratory symptoms are lessened, circulation is improved, mucus is loosened and eliminated more easily… and you feel better.

This is easily something you can do at home.  All you need is a bowl, some freshly boiled water, essential oils (optional), and a bath towel.

Dr. Sarah Sjovold is a Naturopathic Doctor practising at Livstil Wellness Clinic. She regularly sees patients in the Langley and Surrey area looking for help with digestion, detoxing. and immune support.

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