herbal steams for respiratory health

If you’ve watched my herbal origin story video, you know that thyme is one of my secret weapons for colds and flus — any kind of stuck or infected issue in the upper or lower respiratory tract. Steaming with thyme is one of my go-tos in the clinic, and one of the key practices described in my Immune Resilience Action Guide.

I almost invariably recommend that my patients with colds, flus or sinusitis symptom use thyme in an herbal steam. I give them a handout and describe the procedure using hand gestures.

This is the kind of thing that sounds confusing until you see it demonstrated or figure out how to do it yourself. So I made a quick video for you.



Why steam, and why thyme? First, the steam loosens up gunky mucous and helps relax constricted airways. The thyme itself is antimicrobial, helping your body fight against pathogens, and it also soothes and heals inflamed mucous membranes — the wet bits from your sinuses down to you lungs.

To do an herbal steam, you will need:

  1. a bowl
  2. boiling water
  3. a towel
  4. a good handful of dried thyme (more if you’re using fresh herb)
  5. optional for long-haired folks: something to tie your hair back.

When my patients are acutely ill, I recommend steaming often — even every hour or two. This is why I always grow thyme in my garden, and buy any dried thyme I need in bulk.

How to do an herbal steam:

  1. Put a handful of thyme in a bowl.
  2. Pour boiling water over the thyme.
  3. Make a tent over the bowl with a towel
  4. Stick your head under the tent and breathe in the steam
  5. Continue as long as you’d like.
  6. Repeat as necessary.

Steaming with thyme is simple, inexpensive, low tech and effective. (Of course you should always check with your doctor before doing something someone on the internet tell you to.)

Know someone who tends toward respiratory issues? Please pass this along.

Want to see more of my low-tech videos? I’ve got lots on my YouTube channel.

—Dr. Orna