DIY Herbal Face Steam for Congestion

How to do an herbal face steam for cough and congestion

Ever had a cold or congestion and instinctively inhaled the steam from a mug of warm tea or taken a steamy shower for the benefits? Depending on what you were drinking, this could have had benefits other than just the temporary relief the steam provided, and this technique is a great one to keep in mind if cough or congestion strikes this year.

Benefits of an Herbal Face Steam

Besides the soothing warmth of steam on the face during illness, there are two additional benefits worth noting, especially when you add herbs to the mix:

Skin Benefits:

Steam is often used in spas as part of a facial treatment. Facial steams are touted for their ability to open pores, soften skin and improve circulation.

Combating Congestion:

I’ve used herbal steams for years for their ability to sooth coughing and congestion during illness. I often add dried herbs to the mix for additional benefits.

Inhaling steam can help loosen congestion and offer relief from coughing. If I catch a cold, I often do an herbal face steam before bed to help me sleep.

I found mentions of this type of facial steam in some of my old natural remedy and homesteading handbooks that I found at estate sales and thrift stores, and it turns out that this remedy may have been used as far back as Ancient Egypt in public bath houses and private residences.

How to Do an Herbal Face Steam

The best part about herbal face steams is that they take literally three minutes to prepare (unlike the longer process of making elderberry syrup) and are very simple to make with herbs you probably already have in your kitchen (unlike the ingredients for a more obscure remedy like dit da jow).

Herbal Face Steam Ingredients

How to prepare

Put about an inch of water in the bottom of a large pot and boil. Alternately, if using a bowl, boil water in a tea kettle or pot and pour into the bowl.

Fold a towel in half and place on a sturdy, heat-proof, flat surface like a counter or table. Place the pot or bowl on top of this towel.

Add any dried herbs, stir well and cover with a lid for 1-2 minutes.

Herbal Face Steam Instructions

Remove lid and check temperature of steam to make sure it isn’t too hot for your face. Lean over the pot and cover head with a towel to create a tent, letting as little air escape as possible.

Slowly breathe in the steam for up to 10 minutes. I find it helpful to try to breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth at first and then eventually try to breathe in and out through the nose to loosen congestion. If needed, let any mucus fall into the pot (yes, I know it is gross, but the pot can be washed!).

When finished, pour out the liquid and herbs in the pot (never reuse!) and thoroughly wash the pot. For skin benefits, I also like to wipe my face with a 50/50 mix of apple cider vinegar and water after a face steam to tone skin and remove anything that has loosened from the pores.

Important Notes

Some people use essential oils for face steams. I personally don’t as essential oils can be very potent and the steam can intensify their effects. I prefer to stick to using essential oils properly in a diffuser and using dried herbs in a face steam.

Face steams are not recommended for young children (due to the potential heat of the steam) or pregnant women (due to the potential effects of the herbs) without checking with a medical professional. Of course, steam is hot and caution should be used when handling and breathing it.

Garlic can also be added to the steam mixture for additional benefit.

How to do an herbal face steam for cough and congestion with things in your kitchen

Ever tried a face steam to help alleviate congestion? 

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Reader Comments

  1. Good timing on this one! Question – the instructions say 1 T each of desired herbs: thyme, rosemary, etc. Does that mean 1 T EACH of the herbs (amounting to several tablespoons), or 1 T of any combination? Thanks so much!

  2. Hi Katie,
    Now that fall is in full swing and winter is coming, this post is perfect! I’ve already started to notice a little bit of a sniffle and I can’t wait to try this. Do you suggest using all of those herbs or can I pick and choose which ones to use?

      • So just to clarify, 1 T total of whatever herb? Thank you.

        • It’s not an exact science. I’ve used up to a Tablespoon of each one. I recommend experimenting to see what works best for you…

          • I’d like to give a jar of mixed herbs as a gift to a friend who is experiencing cold symptoms. I’d like to include instructions on how to do this – even if they’re somewhat ballpark. Would you say 1-2 T would be sufficient? Thanks so much for the help!

  3. My family has done this since I don’t know how many generations, but I do remember it as a child. As a teenager, my mother taught me how to do a face steam for clearing pores and cleaning the skin. Although we used just water without the dried herbs and it was great. I can imagine the herbs improving my beloved face steam!

  4. Thanks for a great post — I’ve been learning about Mayan Abdominal Massage, and a similar technique is recommended for vaginal/uterus-type issues (cramping, heavy clotting, etc.). It is called a vaginal steam. Have you heard of it, or have any experience you could share?

  5. Thank you for this! I have horrible congestion that is impacting my sleep. Love that I can make this with existing herbs in my kitchen. Can I also use my oils or would there be an benefit to that?

  6. Can you use fresh herbs? Thanks for your reply. I am grateful for all of your post and the research/first hand experience that go into them.

    • You absolutely can, dried herbs are just more readily available for most people. 🙂

      • I have a question about dried lavender buds. I make soap with Shea butter soap base. After a couple days My buds start turning brown and around them turns yellow and brownish making my soap look bad. Am I doing something wrong? Can I prevent this ?

  7. Thank you!!! It worked like a charm. I was a little worried all the spices would smell terrible once my head unclogged, but they didn’t! I appreciate the time and research you put into all your posts. Thanks!

  8. I tried this recipe a couple times last year and discovered that it may take two times a few hours a part but then it lasted for weeks! Amazing! And to think I used to drug myself numb to cut congestion. I also shared a sample mix with my adult daughter who also enjoyed quick permanent relief. We’re sold! I really appreciate all the wonderful research and careful planning that goes into your work and I refer everyone to it!