Steam is used to gently penetrate the mucosa of the body. Steam is warming and moistening and helps alleviate dryness in the body. Adding aromatic plants to hot, steamy water allows the plant’s volatile oils to combine with the steam. This creates a gentle way for aromatic constituents to enter the body in a more localized, and focused way.
Aromatic plants are my choice over essential oils. Whole plants with strong aromas contain a lot less volatile oils, unlike their concentrated essential oil counterparts often sold through multilevel marketing companies. Using whole plants means that you can choose whats growing around you so that you are more connected to the preparations, and can have potentially higher quality control. Using whole plants is most often the more sustainable choice, and safer for your mucous membranes.
Steams are often used for the respiratory tract to help alleviate congestion and allow for better expectoration, or other times they are used for the genitalia and surrounding area to help heal delicate tissues after surgery, or injuries to the generative organs or surrounding tissue. This post will cover using them for respiratory support.
Aromatic plants are used to help disinfect, affect the nervous system to some degree, promote circulation through their diffusive action, and irritate mucosa, causing better expectoration. Aromatics have a many different kinds of antimicrobial action due to multiple constituents. It is my belief that using different ones regularly when fighting a pathogen or infection, is better than just one. I like to switch it up. I may use rosemary and Eucalyptus, and then Thyme and Juniper. Or one at a time.
Plants often used to help decongest and expectorate in steams may include:
- Rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis
- Juniper Juniperus spp
- Cedar Thuja occidentalis
- Sage Salvia spp
- Mugwort/Sagebrush Artemisia spp
- Bee Balm Monarda spp
- Thyme Thymus vulgaris
- Oregano Oreganum vulgare
- Mint Mentha spp
- Chaparral Larrea tridentata
- Sagebrush Artemisia spp
- Tulsi Ocimum sanctum
Herbal Steams are easy and you can use fresh or dried plants!
Herbal Steam Recipe
also found on my personal site nicoletelkes.com
- 1 large pot
- 1 wooden spoon
- 2 handfuls of roughly chopped herbs of your choice from the above list(4 handfuls if fresh)
- 2 quarts of hot steamy water on kept on low 1 large pot
- 1 towel
- A tissue
Pour water into a pot and bring to a boil, reduce heat until the water is hot but not boiling, just steaming. Drop the handfuls of herbs into the water and stir until they are submerged. Allow the plants to steep for about 10 minutes in the steamy water. Turn off the stove. Put towel over your head, and close your eyes, putting your face over the steaming pot. Breathe in the steam for a minute. Take a break. Repeat 3 times. Be ready with a tissue! You may jostle some phegm loose.
Discontinue if this is not comfortable or if it does not feel safe for you.
The steamy herbs can be left on the counter steaming in your house. It leaves a pleasant aroma, and keeps killing microbes.
You may use the same batch multiple times to steam, but as you leave the plants steaming, the aromatics keep escaping and it becomes less and less effective. I recommend switching out the batch of herbs when the smell starts to fade, or after 1-2 days.