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Steam inhalations have been seen to be of great help to people with problems that are affecting their breathing in one way or another. This page describes two ways to get medicated steam into the respiratory system; simple & comprehensive.

The simple method is particularly useful when you need to do the treatment frequently to get a fast result, e.g. when fighting a cold or dealing with allergies. The comprehensive method is more time-consuming, but can be especially helpful when a problem has gone deeper into the lungs or bronchial tubes and the respiratory congestion has become more chronic.

Simple Method

Boil the kettle then pour about 50-60mls of freshly boiled water into any kind of cup, then sprinkle in around 5-6 drops of Olbas oil, or Eucalyptus oil if you cannot get Olbas.

The oils will quickly evaporate in water this hot so you need to bring the cup up fairly close to your nose right away to inhale the steam, be careful to shut your eyes tight!

Inhale a deep full breath of the medicated steam into your nose as well as you can and then release the air back through your nose. If you can get at least four or five deep breaths in and out then you will have received a strong 'dose' of the cleansing steam. It may not be necessary but you should know that it is ok to add a few more drops to re-charge the steam for another few breaths.

If your nose is very blocked then you may have to use your mouth to breathe as well but try to get the steam through your nasal passageways as much as possible. This treatment can safely be repeated as often as required.

Olbas oil or Eucalyptus are widely available around the world


Comprehensive Method

~ Stainless steel, glass or ceramic bowl (not plastic)
~ 3 cups boiled water, up to 1 cup of cold water
~ 10-12 drops of Olbas oil
~ Bath towel

1) Fill the bowl with the freshly boiled hot water. Add 1 cup or less of cold water, this can be varied depending on your tolerance to the intensity of the steam. Add the Olbas drops, shut your eyes tight, position your head over the bowl and drape the towel over your head and bowl.
2) Deeply breathe in and out until the Olbas has evaporated and your lungs, bronchial tubes, nose, sinuses etc. have been given a good steam- clean. Repeat as often as needed.

Comprehensive Method + Chamomile

For some people, especially children, or those who have a particularly inflamed and sore respiratory tract, the addition of a handful of Chamomile flowers along with the Olbas oil into the bowl of hot water will give much soothing support.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why do I sometimes feel a little pain when I do this?

A: It is normal to feel a little pain in the places that you have congestion and infection. This should not be to the level of a 'bad pain' that you are forcing yourself to endure. Good pain in a steam inhalation is like doing a strong stretch; it hurts in a way that you know is doing you good. You have to do it so it gets right in there but not so strongly it damages the delicate linings of your sinuses, nose, chest etc.

Start with just allowing a very moderate level of discomfort and make sure that you feel good from the treatment and that it is not making you feel sorer afterwards. You can build up the intensity as you go, always listen to how your body responds and back off if it feels too strong.

Q: When should I breathe through my nose and when should I breathe through my mouth?

A: Breathe in and out through your nose as much as you can without crossing into the point of strong discomfort.. If, especially at first, you are unable to comfortably breathe in and out your nose, then there is an effective middle-ground technique of taking short 'sips' of air up your nose and then breathing with your mouth.
Mouth breathing will still clean and disinfect your bronchial tubes and your lungs but it won't get up into your sinus cavities where many chronic respiratory infections remain lodged.

Q: How close should I keep my head to the bowl or the cup?

A: Use your own sense of comfort to determine this. Steam rises so you don't have to get too close for this to work. Likewise, you can let more air in to dilute the steam by holding the towel back if it gets too strong. Don't forget to keep your eyes shut tight through the whole process.

Eucalyptus leaves


Q: Should I add more Olbas when the first drops have evaporated?

A: If you have a chronic sinus or chest infection then you should probably do at least two rounds of Olbas oil each time you do a steam. The oil evaporates quite quickly so when you can't smell it you can add another 6 drops or so, the water should still be hot enough to disperse it up.

Q: How often should I do the steam and how long should I keep the treatments going for?

A: For a person who has an acute infection, e.g. a cold, bronchitis or even pneumonia, the treatment should be repeated frequently, at least twice a day or more. This is not a treatment that you can overdo so long as you are careful with it.

For people who have chronic conditions it will be best to do this treatment at least once a day and, so long as it is helping, to keep it going for as long as it takes to get better.

Q: Are there any side effects from this treatment?

A: As you start clearing out chronic infections and debris there may be a rebound increase in mucus but it should be a lot runnier and easier to blow out than before.

Juniper berry (one of the ingredients in Olbas)

Please understand that I cannot personally advise you without seeing you in my clinic.
This living 'book' is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!



© 2011 R.J.Whelan Ltd