Essential Oils for Steam Inhalation to Unblock Your Nose and Clear Infection

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Steam inhalation is a quick, easy and natural way to ease sinus congestion, reduce inflammation and combat infection. Certain essential oils can also be incredibly effective at clearing blockages and dealing with infections. Sinuses can be congested through having a cold, sinusitis, through allergies and affected by dry air. Air conditioning, central heating and air travel are also three common causes of the drying out of the mucous membranes. When the sinuses are dried out, it can be difficult for mucous to move through naturally. Steam inhalation is one way that you can help clear sinuses, and reduce inflammation and infection, without side effects. It’s also easy to do.

What You'll Need

  • A bowl to hold the water
  • Boiling water
  • A towel
  • Essential Oil of Oregano: If you’re going to go with only one essential oil for steam inhalation then this would be the one. It acts as an expectorant, un-bunging your sinuses and clearing mucous from the lungs, but also simultaneously soothes the mucous membranes. It’s anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anti-fungal, antiviral and a potent anti-oxidant. If your sinus congestion is due to an allergic response then oregano oil is also anti-allergenic, helping reduce the effects of an allergic reaction.
  • Essential Oil of Tea Tree: There have been over three hundred scientific studies into the anti-microbial effectiveness of tea tree oil, and a study in the British Medical Journal found that tea tree oil was a ‘powerful disinfectant and non-poisonous and gentle to the body.’ Tea Tree oil is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-microbial, and boosts immunity. If you’re suffering from a sinus infection then this is definitely an essential oil you want to be using.
  • Essential Oil of Rosemary: One of the benefits of using Rosemary essential oil is its powerful anti-inflammatory action. If you’re using steam inhalation to help control an allergenic exposure, then rosemary can help reduce any inflammation that has been created. Essential oil of rosemary is also a diuretic, helping flush out toxins that have accumulated in the body. Important if you’ve been feeling under the weather. And rosemary is also anti-bacterial, specifically for preventing the growth of H.pylori
  • Essential Oil of Peppermint: Peppermint oil is a common flavouring in breath mints, chewing gum, toothpaste and mouthwash, traditionally used for digestion as well as the relief of headaches. However, peppermint is full of the active ingredient menthol, which is an expectorant, helping to clear the sinuses and chest of gunk. It’s also anti-inflammatory and has been shown to be powerfully antiviral, antibacterial and anti-fungal, resistant to some bacterial strains such as salmonella and E. coli. Peppermint oil also increases blood circulation and is an oil that most people like the smell of
  • Essential Oil of Thyme: Thyme is an essential oil I turn to whenever I feel I’m coming down with a cold. It’s antibacterial, antiseptic, and boosts immunity. It’s also a potent expectorant, so used in steam inhalation, can help shift stubborn, trapped mucous.
  • Essential Oil of Eucalyptus: A double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trial in 2004 showed that Eucalyptus oil was effective in treating rhino-sinusitis and should be considered before the use of antibiotics. Eucalyptus oil is antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antimicrobial and a natural decongestant. It’s amazing for steam inhalation and also has the added benefit of increasing blood flow around the body and stimulating brain function
  • Olbas Oil: Olbas oil is a regular feature in most homes and is a blend of Cajuput, Clove, Eucalyptus, Juniper berry, Menthol, Peppermint and Wintergreen oils. It’s a fantastic decongestant, as well as having all the specific anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, and anti-fungal properties of the individual oils. It can be used in a steam inhalation for freediving, as well as drops on a tissue that can be placed under the pillowcase to help breathing at night

What You'll Do

  • Boil a kettle
  • Fill a large bowl with a small amount of cold water (approx 200-400ml) and place it on a table
  • If you are using essential oils, have them to hand, next to the bowl with the lids off
  • Pour enough boiling water into the bowl to create vapour, but not so much heat that it burns your skin
  • Sit on a chair at the table and place a towel over your head and the bowl so the water vapour is trapped inside
  • If you are using essential oils, carefully drop 1-4 drops into the bowl (under the towel so the volatile oils don’t escape)
  • Keep your eyes closed and take long, slow breaths in and out of your nose for at least ten minutes to open up your sinuses easily

Tips & Warnings

  • You may need to top the water up with more boiling water or add some more essential oils. You can still get many benefits from steam inhalation without the use of essential oils, as the steam will still help to shift mucous, but essential oils have many other beneficial properties. When you have finished, clean the bowl throughly and make sure that you keep warm. If you live in a cold climate, try and avoid going outside for a few hours. Essential oils are powerful things and most cannot be used neat on the skin. Do not use any product other than a pure essential oil. There are many contraindications for essential oils, especially when pregnant, so when choosing the right essential oil to use, research to see if there are any contraindications for you.
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