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Steam Inhalation for Congestion (Sinus, Nasal & Chest)

There is no cure for the common cold and flu virus, but this simple at-home steam inhalation tutorial is the best natural nasal congestion remedy to ease sinus pressure, headache, and chest congestion. Using common ingredients found in most kitchens, relief can be yours!

A woman with a towel over her doing a steam inhalation treatment.

Why I Love This Remedy

Years ago, our family decided to go off-grid with our healthcare and learn how to use herb medicine safely at home.

Studying medicinal herbs and their uses takes time but is well worth the investment to improve our health and avoid the unwanted side effects of many OTC medications.

Some simple beginner remedies include herbal cold and flu tea, homemade mustard plaster for chest congestion, making this homemade antibiotic ointment, using this bone-healing comfrey compress for injuries, or immune-boosting homemade elderberry syrup

Among these beginner remedies for adults and older children is using a simple steam inhalation for a respiratory infection. The ingredients for this steam inhalation therapy are found in most household kitchens, and it’s quick to make and effective at clearing congestion when used consistently. (Source)

Please note that using hot steam with younger children is not recommended due to the potential for burns, but you could try these cough remedies for babies and young children or this homemade congestion remedy instead. 

What Is the Best Inhalation for Sinuses

It’s important to note that I am not a certified medical practitioner. This post is not intended to diagnose or treat but is for informational purposes only. Please contact your medical care professional before introducing new herbal remedies into your wellness routine.

The benefits of steam inhalation will not cure a sinus infection; our bodies need to build immunity to do that (learn how to boost your immune system naturally here). However, steam inhalation will relieve symptoms like a stuffy nose, calm a headache and break up phlegm to promote your body’s ability to heal itself. (Source)

Steam

Steam inhalation is an old-time remedy used to open up swollen nasal passages and clear out the respiratory tract irritated by the common cold. 

The moist, warm steam soothes an irritated and scratchy nose and throat while loosening mucus, helping the lungs break it up and clear it out so you can breathe easier. (Source)

Apple cider vinegar in a bowl with apples beside.

Apple Cider Vinegar

The antiseptic properties in apple cider vinegar (ACV) help clear the sinuses and open nasal passages. ACV may help prevent bacterial buildup and break up the mucus in your lungs if chest congestion is present. (Source)

Homesteading Hack: You’ll want to keep a box of tissues nearby because your nose will start running; it’s that effective! We like to use the steam inhalation 3-5 times daily for 10-15 minutes each time.

A woman preparing a steam inhalation in a bowl.

Cayenne

Cayenne pepper is an ingredient we add in very small measures, aiding circulation and opening up the blood vessels in the nose, sinuses and lungs. The runny nose and phlegm will start moving out of the body, easing symptoms and expediting healing. (Source)

Mint growing in the garden with a sign reading "Peppermint."

Peppermint

Peppermint is one of my top 15 medicinal herbs that I grow and use medicinally and in culinary dishes. This herb (and essential oil) is a powerhouse aiding in opening sinus passages, soothing headaches and cooling the body when feverish. (Source)

Jars of dried herbs on a counter.

Mullein

Mullein has impressive anti-inflammatory properties to aid conditions like asthma, spasmodic coughs, and sinus headaches. We add this to our remedy when the symptoms are more severe and we want to give it a harder kick in the pants. (Source)

A woman preparing a steam inhalation with apple cider vinegar in a bowl.

Supplies Needed

  • Vessel –  A deep bowl with a wide flat bottom for stability works well. You can use a small bowl or even a large mug, but be careful not to knock them over. Steamy hot water can cause a serious burn, so be wise about your chosen vessel. Homesteading Hack: I recommend keeping young children away from the steamy bowl of hot water.
  • Tea Kettle – Heating water in a tea kettle makes pouring easy with minimal splashing.
  • Measuring Cup – An exact measurement is not required but is helpful when adding several ingredients.
  • Measuring Spoons – I recommend measuring the cayenne pepper because of its potency. Start with a smaller quantity and work up once you know your body can handle the heat.
  • Towel – A towel large enough to drape across your shoulders, over your head and the hot water vessel keeps the steamy air trapped while you breathe it in. 
  • Tissues – Be prepared with plenty of tissues; this remedy will get that congestion moving!
A woman holding up a bottle of apple cider vinegar.

Ingredients Needed

  • Apple Cider Vinegar – The apple cider vinegar doesn’t need to be raw. Once the hot water is added, it will kill off the enzymes in raw ACV anyway. Save the good stuff for when it counts!
  • Cayenne Pepper – Cayenne will help open up the nasal passages; a small amount goes a long way, so I recommend you start out with the smallest amount and work your way up once you know how your body responds.
  • Fresh or Dried Peppermint Leaves – Peppermint leaves chopped or whole are soothing and open the airways, helping you breathe easier. You could alternatively use one drop of peppermint essential oil.
  • Fresh or Dried Mullein Leaf – Mullien’s anti-inflammatory benefits give this remedy an additional boost.
  • Boiling Hot Water – Heat the water in a tea kettle or saucepan and carefully transport and pour into the vessel of choice.

Sinus Inhalation Step-by-Step

  1. Heat the water in a tea kettle or saucepan on your stovetop until boiling.
  2. Place your flat-bottomed vessel on a sturdy, flat surface with plenty of room around it.
  3. Pour the apple cider vinegar into the vessel of choice.
  4. Add a pinch of cayenne pepper, peppermint and mullein leaves to the vinegar.
  5. Carefully pour the hot water into the vessel of choice about halfway full.
  6. Place the large towel around your shoulders and pull it up over your head as you carefully bring it over the vessel of the sinus remedy, creating a dome of trapped steam.
  7. Breathe deeply while keeping your face above the bowl at least 12 inches so you don’t get burned.
  8. Once you are situated and stable over the bowl, close your eyes and breathe in and out for 15 minutes. Enjoy the added facial while the effects of steam inhalation open up your sinus passages.
  9. Your nose will start to run, and if you feel the need to use tissue, be very careful maneuvering around the bowl of hot water. It’s okay to just let everything run out and, after the 15 minutes, blow your nose. Clean-up is easy!
  10. Repeat three to four times a day (with fresh new ingredients) for 15 minutes, and breathe!

Did you try this remedy? If so, please leave a star rating in the recipe card below. Then snap a photo and share it with your friends on social media (don’t forget to tag us @homesteadingfamily so we can see these home remedies working for you).

A woman holding an amber dropper bottle.

Herbal Medicine Cabinet

Are you ready to ditch over-the-counter medications and start making more of your own natural, plant-based medicine? 

Join me in my Herbal Medicine Cabinet: Colds and Flus class, where I will take you beyond basic sinus inhalation and teach you more ways to use simple herbs safely, naturally and effectively this cold and flu season.  

A woman holding an amber bottle with jars of dried herbs in front of her.
A woman with a towel over her doing a steam inhalation treatment.

Steam Inhalation for Congestion Remedy

This at-home steam inhalation tutorial is the best natural nasal congestion remedy to ease sinus pressure, headache, and chest congestion.
5 from 3 votes
Print Pin
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Steam Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 1 treatment
Author: Carolyn Thomas

Equipment

  • 1 Large Bowl
  • 1 large towel

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper can use up to 1/4 teaspoon
  • 1 teaspoon dried peppermint leaf or 1 Tablespoon fresh peppermint leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dried mullein leaf or 1 Tablespoon fresh mullein leaf
  • boiling water

Instructions

  • Heat the water in a tea kettle or saucepan on your stovetop until boiling.
  • Place your flat-bottomed vessel on a sturdy, flat surface with plenty of room around it.
  • Pour the ½ cup of apple cider vinegar into the vessel of choice.
  • Add a pinch of cayenne pepper, peppermint and mullein leaves to the vinegar.
  • Carefully pour the hot water into the vessel of choice about halfway full.
  • Place your large towel around your shoulders and pull it up over your head as you carefully bring it over the vessel of the sinus remedy, creating a tunnel of steam.
  • Breathe deeply while keeping your face above the bowl at least 12 inches so you don’t get burned.
  • Once you are situated and stable over the bowl, close your eyes and breathe in and out for 15 minutes. Enjoy the added facial while the effects of steam inhalation open up your sinus passages.
  • Your nose will start to run, and if you feel the need to use tissue, be very careful maneuvering around the bowl of hot water. It’s okay to just let everything run out and, after the 15 minutes, blow your nose. Clean-up is easy!

Notes

  • Repeat three to four times a day for 15 minutes, and breathe!
  • Can substitute 1 drop peppermint essential oil instead of the fresh or dried herb.
Tried this recipe?We want to see! Tag @homesteadingfamily on Instagram.
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