Why you should try steam inhalations

March 2, 2012
Steam inhalations are a simple at-home technique to deal with upper respiratory tract conditions. Learn more about them and a few botanicals too!

The hydrotherapy unit has begun! I’m really excited for this unit because although massage is fun and relaxing, hydrotherapy is really useful. Most of the treatments that I’ve done at the clinic have used hydrotherapy in some way – the most recent being the infrared sauna (for my detox). In addition, my detox essentially consists of self-care hydrotherapy treatments (which I’ll discuss in future posts). 

Today we learned about steam inhalations – which are fantastic for those suffering from various ailments such as congestion, allergies, cold and flu, sore throats, etc. Keep in mind that although steam inhalations will not have curative effects, they will relieve symptoms.

Steam inhalations will increase expulsion of expectorations, as mucus within the lungs is liquified by the hot and wet air. The mucuosa in your respiratory system will heat up causing increased circulation, thereby decreasing congestion. Lastly the essential oils will have medicinal effects, which can be seen below.  

  • Kettle
  • Water
  • A large bowl (I used stainless steel, glass is also fine)
  • A large towel (big enough to cover your head)
  • Essential oils (optional, but recommended)
DIRECTIONS Add a few drops of essential oil to the bowl (3 is more than enough), and pour water into the bowl (it should be about 1/2 full). Place your head right over the steam and put the towel over your head bowl – making sure that no steam can escape. Close your eyes for about a minute (I find the water too sensitive at that point), and start breathing in and out deeply through your nose. The recommended time for this treatment is about 30 minutes – but effects can be seen in 5-10 minutes.  ESSENTIAL OIL GUIDE Depending on your condition, different oils can be used. Let’s take a look at three: 1. Eucalyptus Eucalyptus is an expectorant – meaning it helps get mucus out of your lungs. This makes it great for respiratory conditions like bronchitis, a wet cough, asthma, or colds. This oil contains antimicrobial (destroying microorganism growth) and antiseptic (inhibits the growth and development of microrganisms) properties.  2. Tea Tree This oil is fantastic for skin conditions, especially acne. In addition to reducing redness and inflammation, it has antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral properties – which help them kill acne-causing bacteria! Many natural skincare products contain tea tree oil – like Lush’s grease lightning and tea tree water. 3. Lavender  Lavender oil is antibacterial, deodorizing, and relaxing. It helps reduces stress headaches (which I have yet to experience, despite writing 9 exams in 7 days in December). It can also help decrease anxiety, promote restful sleep, and strengthens the nervous system.  I also like to drink it as a tea! In addition to these three essential oils, others can be used – but be sure to research their properties first to determine if they’re right for you. Or you can book an appointment with a ND to see if this treatment is right for you!

Why you should try alternating hot and cold showers

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March 16, 2012

Let’s be honest, who would willingly take a cold shower? It’s an incredibly tough sell! In my first year Naturopathic Philosophy class we learned about the benefits of cold water, and who water in general can heal us (are you surprised? The majority of our bodies is made up of water!) Cold water boosts our circulation and immune system, and also helps to detoxify the body!

HOT WATER | Has a stimulating effect on the body. It causes blood vessels to open, allowing better blood flow. It also increases oxygen absorption and carbon dioxide excretion – important for detoxification. Hot water also has an intrinsic effect – the heat from the water is directly transferred to your body.

COLD WATER | Also has a stimulating effect on the body. Because the body is protecting itself from the cold, blood vessels constrict and all the heat is brought inside to protect the organs. However, after some time the vessels with open (similar to the effects from the hot water). The cold water further increases oxygen absorption and carbon dioxide excretion, and it helps stimulate the body’s metabolism and red and white blood cell production.


  1. Begin the alternating shower protocol towards the end of your shower.
  2. Start with a 3 minute soak in hot water.
  3. Turn the dial to as cold as you can tolerate, for 30 seconds.
  4. Repeat 3-4 times, and end with cold.

In order to get the benefit of the alternating shower, you need to be conscious of the time! If you go over the times, and your short hot shower turns into a long hot shower – you’re depressing your circulation. Meaning that you won’t get a detoxifying effect. Same with a short cold shower turning into a long cold shower.

To determine if an alternating shower is right for you, talk to your healthcare professional like a Naturopathic Doctor!