What is a Steam Inhalation with Essential Oils?

A steam inhalation is a classic home remedy in which you combine essential oils with hot water to create therapeutic steam.  You then lean over the bowl and breathe in the warm goodness to heal and support the respiratory system.

What are the Benefits of a Steam Inhalation with Essential Oils?

Doing a steam treatment is one of the best all-natural first lines of defense that I’ve found for addressing colds, coughs, sinus problems, sore throats and a build up of mucus in the sinuses.  Breathing in the steam quickly introduces the essential oil molecules directly into the sinuses and lungs which are lined with mucus membranes, the fastest absorbing tissue in our body. 

Further, inhalations are inexpensive and easy to do and can be done anywhere that you’ve got access to hot water and a container. I’ve even done steam inhalations next to a campfire using a coffee mug! Of course they are made more effective when you uses essential oils that support the issue you’re addressing.  I tend to grab those oils that have decongestant, mucolytic, antibacterial and antiviral properties. Below is a list of recommended essential oils. 

Suggested Essential Oils for a Steam Inhalation

Steam Inhalation Safety

  • Avoid doing a steam inhalation with children under the age of five.
  • Avoid doing using essential oil high in 1,8 cineole or menthol with children under the age of 10.
  • Be very careful about spilling the hot water, especially if it’s boiling. I know someone who had severe burns on his legs after knocking over a bowl of boiling hot water.

Steps to a Steam Inhalation with Essential Oils

Step 1: Gather Your Supplies.  You’ll need a clean bath towel, a clean bowl large enough to hold a minimum of 1-2 cups of water. a bowl made of glass, ceramic or stainless (avoid plastic as the essential oils will damage the plastic and may leach into the water), essential oils, tissue

Step 2:  Find a comfortable spot where you can relax during your steam inhalation and won’t be disturbed.

Step 3: Fill your bowl with water or hydrosol that is hot enough to create steam, but not so hot you will burn your sinus passages or your skin if you spill the water. 

Step 2:  Add 1 drop of essential oil to the steaming water. If you accidentally get too many drops, simply add more water.

Step 3:  Create a tent over your head, shoulders, and bowl with your towel.  Lean over the steaming bowl of water keeping your face at a comfortable distance. Pull back if it’s too hot. Remember to keep your eyes closed so that you don’t irritate your eyes with the oils. This should be a comforting and nourishing experience not overpowering. I, personally, play soft relaxing music during a steam inhalation or use it as a time of meditation. 

Step 5. Breathe in through your nose, relax and enjoy for approximately 10 minutes; longer if you’d like.

Listen to this Podcast Episode:  Essential Oils for Sinus Headaches 

Further Your Education

Online Class:  Essential Oils for Respiratory Health Masterclass 

Updated March 4, 2024

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