Essential Oils Blog

The Art of a Steam (Part 1)

By: Christina Smith, Certified Aromatherapist

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Sinus trouble? Chest tightness? Runny nose? These are just a few of the irritating things about season discomforts. Want a quick, effective and easy way to reduce some of these symptoms? Look no further than hot water and essential oils.

A steam is great for so many reasons. It’s relaxing, it’s easy, it’s fast and it’s drug-free. Depending on your symptoms there are a variety of oils that are great for using in a steam blend. Which oils should we choose? Typically you want something that can reduce any uncomfortable feeling and with properties to help improve airflow through the nasal passages. Another property we’re probably looking for is something to help break up mucus.  Learning how and why oils work for you is so empowering. Having great reference material and trusted sources is so important. Check here for books that we recommend: Books or check out Aromaheads free Intro course on essential oils.

SinusSteam

Let’s take a closer look at the oils that will be used in the stock blends.

  • Tea Tree and Lemon are two of my favorite for any kind of concern involving airways. These two oils work well together.
  • Lemon is also helpful to improve comfort.
  • German Chamomile,  is my favorite for common uncomfortable situations and mild soreness.
  • Palmarosa is another favorite of mine. is also a wonderful oil to consider pulling out of the oil box when seasonal illness strikes The other really nice thing about Palmarosa, it is has  moisturizing properties, which make it very nice for a dry, tight chest.
  • Cedarwood has excellent properties in supporting and maintaining a healthy respiratory system, especially during those (seemingly) never-ending winter months!
  • Pine is particularly known for its ability to help support a healthy respiratory tract.
  • Spearmint is very helpful to break up chest congestion and improve any queasiness that may accompany times of seasonal illness.

Choosing from any of the above oils for colds and coughs is a great start to feeling better faster! Below are some recipes to get you started. Before we look at those, let’s look at how to effectively do a steam.

1. Grab a medium glass bowl, bath towel and your chosen essential oils.
2. In a pot or kettle, bring water to just before the boiling point. If you reach the boiling point, remove from heat and allow to cool a few minutes before proceeding.
3. Place your bowl on a sturdy table or countertop. Pour your hot water into the bowl then drop 1-2 drops of essential oil onto the water.
4. Keeping your eyes closed, move your head over the bowl and cover with towel. Don’t open your eyes during the steam process, you don’t want the vapors in them!
5. Breathe deeply for a minute or two, it doesn’t take long.

Once you’re finished with your steam, simply pour out your water and put away your towel. Now take a deep breath – isn’t that better?

Now onto the good stuff: recipe ideas! I like to keep “stock” bottles of these blends so I have them on hand when I need. If you don’t have extra bottles, get them here: Empty 5mL Bottles

 Sinus blend
20 drops each Tea Tree and Lemon, 5 drops German Chamomile
Use 2 drops of blend per bowl of hot water. Repeat 2-3 times per day as needed.

Chest Tightness
30 drops palmarosa, 15 drops cedarwood.
Use 2 drops per bowl of hot water. Repeat 2-3 times per day as needed.

Congested breathing
35 drops Pine, 10 Spearmint
Use 2 drops per bowl of hot water. Repeat 2-3 times per day as needed.

Keep these blends on hand for when you are not feeling you’re best and let us know if they work for you! Look for Part 2 of this series next Wednesday when we look at how you can use a steam as a facial! In the meantime, please reach out to us via email i f you have any other questions or concerns. We can be reached at Aromatherapist@planttherapy.com

32 thoughts on “The Art of a Steam (Part 1)”

  1. Love it! And just in time for my son’s summer cold that suddenly showed up yesterday (right on the heels of eating a slice of totally junky birthday cake, of course!).

    If the kids are old enough to remember to keep their eyes shut, are these formulas safe for kids? Particularly the first one. Also, could Roman Cham be used in a pinch instead of German? Thanks, Aimee

  2. I try very hard to formulate blends that are family friendly. These steams are fine to be used on children old enough to understand not to open their eyes or touch the hot water. Of course, you must use your own judgement in that situation! Feel free to use Roman Chamomile, it is not as anti-inflammatory as German Chamomile, but will work in a pinch! 🙂

    1. Thanks so much Christina. I’ll have to add German to my kits soon. And I signed up for the free intro course, thanks for the heads up on that.

  3. I’m wondering…my 4-year-old isn’t capable of following these instructions, but I feel he could greatly benefit from this technique. Do you think it would be effective to set a large pot on the stove to simmer with a few drops of each for 15 minutes or so?

    1. The steam itself is part of the effectiveness. I’d take a personal inhaler into the steamy bathroom & close the door. Allow him to sniff the inhaler while sitting in the bathroom for 10 minutes or so (take books or a game, etc for entertainment)!

    1. Heather, yes I think you could sub Spruce (Tsuga Canadensis) for Pine (Pinus pinaster) Or Fir Needle (Abies siberica) could also be used.

    1. Hi Kay, since the common names of the “firs” tend to get sticky – let me know which botanical (or latin) name is on your fir and we’ll take it from there…

  4. Hi Kay, I’m sorry I guess I didn’t see that in your first comment. Yes – you can use your Abies Alba in place of pine. 🙂

  5. I have URI and cough, which comes from a tickle in my throat that will not go away, thinking allergies. What about combining Tea Tree, Lemon and Cedarwood for steaming? any other suggestions for this issue, thanks in advance.

    1. You hover your head over the bowl, and cover the bowl & your head! This keep the steam “in” so you can breathe it! 😉

  6. I don’t have either type of Chamomile yet but I see that both palmarosa and spearmint are also listed as anti-inflammatory I should be able to sub those for the chamomile in the sinus recipe right?

  7. I have reactive airway disease. This is treated like asthma as far as meds go. It comes on with a virus or infection and can get worse with smells. I love caring for my pain with oils, but am really leary of doing some for the asthma. I do rub a “breath” synergy I mixed with coconut oil and don’t see much change. Amy suggestions

  8. Hi. My husband has a congested chest. Can i substitute Abies Alba for the Pinus sylvestris in the steam blend for congested breathing? Or, I have Cedarwood. thx.

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