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Steam inhalation, how to prepare them, benefits and warnings


Steam inhalations with water alone, or with water and herbs and spices or with water and salt are of great help when it comes to relieving symptoms and speeding up recovery in the case of colds and sinusitis. Steam inhalations are also useful for opening a blocked nose due to allergic rhinitis…

Cold, stuffy or runny nose, cough, sinusitis and sore throat, are there any simple, effective and affordable home remedies that can help us feel better? We need to go back in time and recapture… the steam inhalations! Steam inhalations are inhalations of steam released from a basin full of hot water, to which other ingredients such as herbs, spices or salt can be added, to be performed with the head covered by a towel. Perhaps this grandmother’s remedy could make someone smile but in reality it should be reevaluated. As we will see below, in fact, steam inhalations are not only tradition but also have an interesting scientific basis, confirmed by numerous studies carried out. Let’s try to understand better.

Steam inhalation for the well-being of the respiratory tract, what science says
Studies have shown that, in people with colds who did steam inhalations twice a day for 20 minutes, the benefits were clear and tangible, already after one day of treatment. In particular, cold symptoms were alleviated and the nose was more open compared to those who had not performed steam inhalations (Ophir et al, Am J Otolaryngol, 1987). In fact, steam inhalations, as demonstrated, improve the level of hydration of the nasal mucosa and its ability to eliminate phlegm (Vathanophas et al, APJAI, 2021). Not just colds, steam inhalations have been found to be useful in opening the nose and reducing symptoms such as a runny nose even in the case of allergic rhinitis, with a reduction in histamine levels in the nose and a consequent reduction in nasal obstruction. Furthermore, in these cases, it has been observed that performing steam inhalations before using drugs in the form of sprays prescribed by the doctor, such as decongestants, increases the contact between the medicine and the mucosa, thus improving the effectiveness of the treatment (Vathanophas et al, APJAI, 2021). The reported benefits are attributable to the heat you breathe. In fact, studies have observed that breathing cold air for 20 minutes reduces nasal patency, namely the ability to let air pass, which instead increases in response to the heat breathed, as can happen, for example, during inhalations with hot vapors (Olsson et al, Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol, 1985).

Steam inhalations, how to do them
Bring the water to the boil, carefully pour the water into the basin and place the basin on a smooth, straight table. Cover your head with a towel and slowly breathe in the vapors for no more than 10 or 15 minutes. You can repeat the inhalations 2-3 times a day if necessary. Studies have observed benefits already from breathing the vapors of hot water alone. However, for a more beneficial action, it is possible to add balsamic herbs, spices and salt to our steam inhalations.

Steam inhalations with herbs and spices, preparation and properties
It is also possible to add herbs and spices to the steam inhalations basin to enhance their action. Here are some examples. Studies have observed that the addition of tulsi leaves and half a spoonful of turmeric to steam inhalation water helps to improve the symptoms of colds with a more effective action than steam inhalations prepared with water alone (Saleem et al, Int J Nurs Midwif Res , 2019). A handful of eucalyptus leaves is also an excellent remedy to add to the steam inhalation basin, helping to remove pathogens and to improve and accelerate healing times (Gowrishankar et al, Food Chem Toxicol., 2021). Against colds, it is also useful to inhale the vapors of water and chamomile, but also water and a few crumpled bay leaves, water and a cinnamon stick and finally water and pine needles (Srivastava et al, Mol Med Report, 2010 – Kumar et al, Bioinformation, 2022). Besides, a peasant habit is known, which consisted of opening the pine cones to extract the pine nuts using boiling water. In the evening, the water was not thrown away, but donated to the sanatoriums so that they could prepare steam inhalations for their guests with the water in which the precious pine resins were dissolved. To prepare steam inhalations with herbs and spices, pour water into a saucepan and the herb or spice you have chosen. Bring everything to the boil, then remove from the heat and inhale as before. You can also replace fresh herbs with essential oils. In this case, bring the water to the boil, remove from the heat, wait a minute and then pour in a couple of drops of the essential oils you have chosen.

Steam inhalations with salt, preparation and properties
Sometimes herbs are not available, so steam inhalations with salt come in handy. Steam inhalations with salt are a more powerful remedy than steam inhalations with water alone for improving the symptoms of colds. In particular, inhalations with water and salt are particularly powerful when it comes to stimulating ciliary movements, thus improving mucous clearance, namely the ability to get rid of mucus and phlegm, bacteria and irritants. Additionally, salt helps inhibit the growth of bacteria (Ohol et al, JETIR, 2022). Bring a saucepan with half a liter of water to the boil. Remove from the heat and add 7-8 grams of sea salt, mix and use for steam inhalations.

Steam inhalations, conclusions and warnings
Steam inhalations are a traditional remedy but, as we have seen, science has also verified their effectiveness.
Therefore, steam inhalations are helpful in improving the degree of hydration of the mucous membranes and in stimulating the mechanisms by which the mucous membranes free themselves from phlegm and pathogens, thus accelerating healing times in the case of colds and sinusitis and alleviating the symptoms even in cases of allergic rhinitis. However, some precautions must be taken. First of all, it is important to handle the saucepan with care to avoid burning yourself. In reality, this appears to be one of the major adverse effects regarding steam inhalations (Scarborough et al, Burns, 2020).
Then, when you carry out the steam inhalations, keep your face about 30 centimeters away, not closer, and close your eyes so as not to irritate them.

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Baba Voss

A Prolific Writer, Vast In Series of Publications Basically on Politics, Entertainment, Sport, Life Style, Fashion, Business, Technology, Health, History etc.

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