Aromatherapy Steam Inhalation: Photo Credit, Fotolia
Aromatherapy Steam Inhalation: Photo Credit, Fotolia

It seems like the flu virus has been more prevalent this past spring than it has for years. For starters, I have not suffered with a cold or flu for many, many years but fell victim to a savage strain in early spring. Symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, fatigue, and blocked sinuses are common for colds, flu, and sinus problems. Therefore, you might be able to address similar symptoms with a similar remedy of essential oils. Here is a quick look at the use of aromatherapy steam inhalation for coughs, colds, flu, and sinus problems.

The Benefits of Aromatherapy Steam Inhalation

Steam inhalation for colds and flu is a long used method for “opening up the pores and passageways.” Add in beneficial essential oils, and inhalation is the quickest route to get aroma molecules into the body’s systems and relaying messages to the brain. The associated parts of the nose, in conjunction with the brain, can assess, process, and read essential oil molecules at lightening speed.

If used correctly, you can feel the benefits of aromatherapy steam inhalation almost immediately.

Essential Oils for Aromatherapy Steam Inhalation

Essential oils that are high in oxides (such as some of the Eucalyptus spp.), monoterpenes (such as the citrus spp.), alcohols (Melaleuca spp.), and even esters (Picea spp.) are great for respiratory system problems. Anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, expectorant, and decongestant properties are all useful to combat respiratory ailments. Some of my favorite essential oils for steam inhalation for these problems include:

  • eucalyptus, blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus)

  • eucalyptus, smithii (Eucalyptus smithii)

  • tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia)

  • rosalina (Melaleuca ericifolia)*

  • black spruce (Picea mariana)

  • cypress, blue (Callitris columellaris)

  • cypress (Cupressus sempervirens)

  • lemon (Citrus limon)*

* denotes those essential oils suitable for use with children, under the guidance of a certified aromatherapist and at a 1% dilution rate.

Most of the above essential oils are quite potent and you need to take into account any contra-indications before using them.

How to Use Essential Oils for a Steam Inhalation

I prefer to use the good, old-fashioned method of filling a bowl with boiling/steaming water and adding in my chosen essential oils for a traditional steam inhalation. Cover your head with a towel for one to two deep inhalations. Repeat as necessary but do not over do it. These essential oils are powerful!

The recommended dilution rate is 2% or less for a normal adult. Adjustments have to be made for children, in pregnancy, with seniors, and for those with certain medical conditions. For an acute problem, you can use 3% dilution, but I strongly recommend you take the guidance of a certified aromatherapist at this dilution rate, unless you are experienced with using essential oils.

Learn More About Essential Oils with Sedona Aromatics

If you would like to learn more about using aromatherapy and essential oils for common problems, take a look at the Sedona Aromatics Certificate in Holistic Aromatherapy.


  • Author is a UK-certified aromatherapist, published author in aromatherapy, an approved education provider for the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA), an aromatherapy business owner, and Chief Editor for the NAHA Aromatherapy Journal.

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