I just finished up my first weekend of Jim McDonald’s fabulous Four Season Herbal Intensive. We learned about the foundations of western herbalism and energetics (for a good introduction to this, Matthew Wood’s The Practice of Western Herbalism: Basic Doctrine, Energetics, and Classification). I have much learning to do in this area–I’m overwhelmed with how much I still don’t know!
During the weekend of the class, I came down with some kind of nasal bug; it was exasperated by the presence of a dog which I turned out to have a pretty bad allergic reaction to. One of the things that Jim mentioned in the course for a good home remedy for lung and nasal congestion was doing a simple herbal steam inhalation. He said that most aromatic herbs will work well for this, and cited his favorites as thyme and sage.
I decided to try out the steam inhalation this week to help get some of the crud out of the lungs and clear up the sinuses. I can’t believe how effective it was. I chose two herbs–garden sage (Salvia officinalis), as Jim recommended, dried and saved from my garden and mullein (also known as lamb’s ear, Verbascum thapsus) which is a herb that I use a lot for healing of the lungs. Mullen grows wild in many places–I’ll do a post devoted to it later in the year when I can take some good photos. You want to make sure that these are herbs you have used before and that you know well.
The steam inhalation is very simple. You get a pot and put some water onto boil. I use my filtered well water….if I had city water with chlorine, I’d probably buy distilled instead, because there is no way I want that in my lungs.
Get a lid for your pot, and bring your herbs and water to a boil. The lid is important–most of the healing action of the herbs is in the volatile oils, which can escape through steam. The volatile oils in the steam are exactly what we want, but not till we are ready for them!
As soon as the pot boils, remove it from the heat and get a towel ready. Be very careful because the steam is hot. I have found that waiting a few minutes before breathing it in is much more comfortable or you can stay a little further away from the pot. You put the towel over your head, drape the towel down around the pot, lift the lid, and breathe in. I think pictures illustrate this well.
And finally, when the steam is comfortable enough….
This worked AWESOMELY well. My nasal passages are much improved, the sinus pressure has lessened, and the mullein did wonders on the nasty gunk in my lungs. I’ll do this several times each day until my lungs are clearer. I’ll follow this up with regular doses of New England Aster (which I have been using to control my asthma) and will hopefully be much on the mend soon.