How to Make the Ultimate Herbal Steam

Feb 3, 2016 11:32:08 AM | herbal medicine How to Make the Ultimate Herbal Steam

One of my favorite winter season holistic skin supports is an herbal steam. This tool is easy to create and use, and it is beneficial not only for our skin, but also for our mind, spirit, and respiratory system.

How to Make the Ultimate Herbal Steam As an herbalist and aromatherapist, I get asked more questions about how to support the skin holistically than perhaps any other topic.

In the winter months, we can find ourselves putting our skin on the back burner of our wellness routine. Schedules are hectic, daylight hours are short, and the many holiday feasts can leave our skin (and the rest of us) feeling tired. Not to mention, oftentimes, the winter season holds the unwelcome guests of sinus and chest congestion.

But our skin is important! We meet and greet the world with it every day.

Oftentimes, our skin reflects our inner state, both physically and emotionally. When we support our skin, we are caring for our whole selves as well. Seeing clean, healthy, and bright skin is a boost of encouragement and confidence for your day.

One of my favorite winter season holistic skin supports is an herbal steam. This tool is easy to create and use, and it is beneficial not only for our skin, but also for our mind, spirit, and respiratory system.I recommend performing an herbal steam once a week. Pick a day and time where you don’t have to be anywhere immediately afterward. Use this as an opportunity to focus on your breath and relax.

You can visualize clearing out your skin, lungs, sinuses, and your mind of any unwanted clutter and debris. You can also carry the intention for revitalized moisture and qi (“life force” or “energy flow”) being carried in with the steam and aromatic herbs.

Here are the tools you will need for your herbal steam:

  • Large ceramic or stainless steel bowl or pot
  • 10 to 12 cups boiled clean, filtered water
  • ½ cup dried or 1 cup fresh herb material
  • Large towel
  • Comfortable place to sit at a table
  • 10 to 15 minutes

You can simmer the herbs with two cups of water in a pot for one to two minutes and then add them to the large bowl of boiled water. Or, you can add the herbs directly to the large bowl of boiled water.

Once you have assembled the herbal steam, sit directly in front of the bowl and place a large towel over your head and the bowl.

Close your eyes and inhale.

You may start out with small inhalations, and then gradually deepen your breath as the steam decreases in intensity. You can always lift the towel if you need a break. I recommend sitting with the steam for 10 to 15 minutes.

Here is one of my favorite herbal steam combinations:

How to Make the Ultimate Herbal SteamWinter Warming Herbal Steam:

Thyme Thymus vulgaris: 1/8 cup dried, ¼ cup fresh

Ginger Zingiber officinale: 1/8 cup dried, ¼ cup fresh

Lemongrass Cymbopogon citratus: 1/8 cup dried, ¼ cup fresh

Large grapefruit Citrus paradisi: one peel

I encourage the use of whole herbs in these types of steams. It is important to take time to interact with the complete herb with all of our senses.

But, if you do not have access to these herbs, you can replace them with one drop of their corresponding essential oil. This will produce a different aroma profile and steam experience than the whole herb but will carry many of the same benefits. Be sure to keep your eyes closed during the steam.

Thyme Thymus vulgaris (L.) in this steam is cleansing and clearing to the lungs and respiratory system. Thyme T. vulgaris is fortifying and carries yang and fire qualities we need in the cold winter months. But, thyme T. vulgaris also has soothing properties.

Ginger Zingiber officinale (Roscoe) is a well-known warming herb, which has an affinity for the digestive tract. Fresh ginger Z. officinale also promotes healthy circulation and movement. Ginger’s Z. officinale stimulating, pungent aroma awakens our senses.

Lemongrass Cymbopogon citratus (Stapf) is sweet, sharp, and citrusy. It is very uplifting to the mind, but simultaneously is relaxing. Lemongrass C. citratus also carries cleansing, purifying properties.

Lastly, I always include citrus wherever I can in my winter seasonal preparations. Their brightness and purifying qualities are very welcome in the dark months. And their cleansing actions help relieve congested, dull skin and emotions. Grapefruit’s Citrus paradisi (Macfad.) gentle note of optimism and hope is no exception.

If you enjoyed this recipe, I invite you to join me on campus (or via Internet live stream) for my next ACHS on campus class: Holistic Winter Skin Care on February 9 at 11:30 a.m., Pacific time.

Holistic Winter Skin Care Class

This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent disease. This article has not been reviewed by the FDA. Always consult with your primary care physician or naturopathic doctor before making any significant changes to your health and wellness routine.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I am a faculty member of American College of Healthcare Sciences (ACHS), the Institution that publishes this blog. However, all opinions are my own. This blog may contain affiliate links. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” 


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Orłowska, M., Kowalska, T., Sajewicz, M., Jesionek, W., Choma, I.M., (2015). A Comparison of Antibacterial Activity of Selected Thyme (Thymus) Species by Means of the Dot Blot Test with Direct Bioautographic Detection. J AOAC Int., 98(4):871-5. doi: 10.5740/jaoacint.SGE5-Orlowska.


Amanda Lattin

Written By: Amanda Lattin

Authored by Amanda Lattin, BA, MAT, Dip. Aroma., MH, RA, an experienced aromatherapist, herbalist, and teaches extensively at ACHS and throughout the Pacific Northwest. Amanda is a graduate of ACHS and also holds a BA in Chemistry from Huntingdon College and a Masters of Teaching with a concentration in Chemistry from Lewis and Clark College.