The 5 Best Essential Oils for Steam Inhalation

Essential oils

In this Article


Steam inhalation is a common home remedy for various respiratory conditions like seasonal allergies, sinusitis, common cold, bronchitis, and cough. Cold or dry air, especially in winter, can worsen the symptoms of these lung conditions. Steaming helps loosen the mucous, improves breathing, and soothes lungs and airways. 

What is steam inhalation?

Steam inhalation is a common home remedy for various respiratory conditions like seasonal allergies, sinusitis, common cold, bronchitis, and cough. Cold or dry air, especially in winter, can worsen the symptoms of these lung conditions. Steaming helps loosen the mucous, improves breathing, and soothes lungs and airways. 

Steam inhalation refers to the inhalation of steam – water vapor – that opens the nasal passages and soothes the symptoms of common respiratory ailments. Additionally, it can provide relief in cases of congestion in the mucous membranes or inflammation in the upper respiratory tract.

The warmth of the steam eases throat irritation and promotes the expulsion of mucous from the throat and lungs, which causes congestion. The moisture of the steam prevents excessive dryness. This dryness can result in a heavy feeling in the chest or stiffness in the neck.

How to inhale steam with essential oil?

Fill a large bowl with hot (steaming) water and add a BalancedBreath steaming oil capsule or the desired oil to infuse in the water. Drape a towel over the back of your head and lower your face over the steaming bowl of water to inhale the vapors. Keep your eyes closed and maintain a minimum distance of 10 to 12-inches from the water. 

Inhale the vapors slowly and deeply through the nose for a minimum of three to five minutes. If you feel uncomfortable due to the heat, you can do it in 2-3 small (3-minute) sessions. In case of severe congestion, you can repeat the process twice to three daily. Avoid sessions longer than 10 minutes.

Respiratory Benefits of Steam Inhalation:

  • Reduces throat inflammation to decrease soreness
  • Melts and dissolves mucous in the throat/lungs to relieve congestion
  • Moisturizes dry airways and irritated throat passage to provide relief
  • Relaxes the upper body muscles of the chest and throat and reduces coughing
  • Improves blood circulation as the heat from the water vapor dilates the blood vessels

5 Best Oils to Add to Steam Inhalation for Additional Benefits

Certain essential oils are potent, and inhaling excessive or large amounts of oils can have discomforting side effects. BalancedBreath gel capsule is a premeasured unit with the requisite essential oil. 

This makes them safe and easy to use without the hassle of measuring the oil or concerning yourself with the quantity. That being said, let’s look at the five best oils that you can add to steam inhalation: 

1. Steam Inhalation with Eucalyptus oil

While water vapor is excellent for inhalation, adding a eucalyptus oil capsule can significantly multiply the procedure’s benefits. Eucalyptus oil is used for centuries to relieve coughing and is found in many over-the-counter (OTC) products like Vicks VapoRub.

Inhaling steam with eucalyptus oil helps relieve the symptoms of cough, common cold, sore throat, asthma, and sinusitis. Eucalyptus oil is also known to block asthma symptoms. It can react with the mucous membranes to loosen the cough that expells from the body. 

It has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that fight germs, reduce swelling, and freshen the breath. If your congestion makes sleeping difficult, steam inhalation with eucalyptus will help open the nasal airways. It can also clear congested sinuses and reduce muscle spasms, making getting your desired (and much-needed) rest easier.

2. Steam inhalation with Menthol oil

We’re all familiar with menthol as a common ingredient in vapor rubs, lozenges, chewing gum, toothpaste, and mouth fresheners. It is a plant compound that influences the nose’s receptors and clears mucus to open the airways. 

Moreover, it has antibacterial properties that attack the bacteria that trigger sinus congestion and cause inflammation. Steam inhalation with menthol is a common home remedy to alleviate the grievances that result from blocked nasal passages and nose/chest congestion. 

You should prevent peppermint or menthol oil inhalation if you have sensitive or acne-prone skin. Some people may be allergic to menthol. Avoid using it if you feel nausea, burning, or skin irritation. Children and infants should not use menthol inhalation. 

3. Steam inhalation with Clove oil

Cloves are a well-known spice and condiment that have many culinary uses. Clove essential oil comes from the clove tree (Syzygium aromaticum) by distilling the dried flower buds of the tree. This oil has potent antifungal and antibacterial properties and has found many well-researched therapeutic uses. 

It is rich in chemicals and compounds (like eugenol) that can effectively prevent the growth of bacteria and fungi. Clove oil has beneficial antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties when introduced as a vapor. These properties help loosen respiratory passages to improve breathing and reduce congestion. 

It can be used as an adjunctive treatment to reduce the advancement of respiratory infections like the common cold, bronchitis, and pneumonia. Moreover, clove oil can kill staph bacteria cells and yeasts like Candida albicans. Clove oil also has analgesic properties (pain relief). Its use is very common in aromatherapy in conjunction with other essential oils. 

4. Steam inhalation with Cinnamon oil

Cinnamon oil is extracted from the bark of various types of cinnamon trees. The two main types include cassia cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia) and Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamomum Verum). Both varieties are rich in beneficial compounds and phytochemicals that have therapeutic uses.

Cinnamon oil is antibacterial, antifungal, and has antioxidant properties. It can help to control infections, enhance mood, and is a common disinfecting ingredient in air fresheners. In traditional medicine, it is a warming remedy to provide quick relief from the common cold, sore throat, and nasal congestion. 

Cinnamon oil is antimicrobial and rich in beneficial chemicals like eugenol and cinnamaldehyde. It has a sweet-spicy fragrance that is famous for its relaxing aromatherapy scent. You can also add a warming ginger-cinnamon tea after steam inhalation.

5. Steam inhalation with Camphor oil

From ChapSticks to balms to Bengay, camphor is prevalent in many OTC products like ointments, creams, and insect repellents. Camphor oil comes from the bark of camphor trees through a laborious process of steam distillation. It has been used for centuries to relieve chest congestion, skin irritation, and other inflammatory conditions.

In inhalation, camphor oil works as a decongestant that suppresses cough and provides relief to upper respiratory tract infections. Steam inhalation with camphor oil is also the best remedy to open nasal passages to reduce night cough and prevent difficulty in sleeping. Large quantities can cause a burning sensation and nausea. Additionally, avoid using camphor for children under the age of five.

Steam inhalation is an ancient practice from bathhouses of Egypt to the Nasya therapies in Ayurveda. It has a rich history as a therapeutic agent to treat and prevent respiratory infections and congested sinuses.

Final thoughts: Essential Oils & Steam Inhalation

Steaming can be an effective ‘go-to’ remedy to fight infections and promote general well-being.  

Since steaming involves hot water, please take the necessary precautions to ensure your safety.  Do not use steam inhalation with essential oils for kids (below the age of 5), as it can have serious side effects. Although allergies to these substances are rare, avoid or discontinue using any of these oils if you experience any discomfort.   

If you are using essential oils, research the right quantities to add to steam inhalation. Excessive use of one oil can lead to short-term discomfort. It is easier and safer to use Eucalyptus oil.