When you’re feeling congested, all you really want is to not feel congested anymore so you can function throughout the day and then sleep well at night. Sounding like a train whistle or a goose when you’re just trying to breathe probably doesn’t make it to the top of anyone’s favorites list. Luckily, there are many simple things we can do to help keep our airways clear and support our immune systems so we can get back to feeling normal.
If I’m at home, herbal steams are my favorite thing to do when I’m feeling congested. I’ll fill a large cereal bowl halfway with eucalyptus leaves, rosemary leaves, thyme leaves, lavender buds and a chunk of ginger, and pour freshly boiled water over them. I’ll then sit down at the table, lean over the bowl (keep your eyes closed) and let the aromatic steam work its magic.
If you want to try this, you can drape a towel over your head and the bowl to amplify the effects of the steam application. Take breaks as needed if you need to blow your nose. The first time I tried a steam, I thought that it was making my congestion worse because leaning over that bowl isn’t exactly pleasant when you feel like your insides are trying to come out through your nose, but 10 minutes after finishing the steam, I suddenly realized I was breathing normally and my airways were clear! Because it’s so effective, it’s my go-to remedy when I’m feeling stuffy and need some relief. It also smells great and gives your skin a nice facial at the same time! I like to do steams sans-makeup and follow up with a face mask.
If I’m not at home, I’ll usually do an aromatherapy steam instead of an herbal steam because it’s more convenient. I can even make do with a coffee mug full of hot water and a single drop of essential oil. To do an aromatherapy steam, you would just swap out the herbs above for one drop of essential oil – either ginger, lavender, rosemary, thyme or peppermint would work well – and breathe the steam from the mug for a minute or two. Make sure to keep your eyes shut throughout the application.
Aromatherapy steams are nice because you can leave them out on the desk for an hour or two after you’ve finished and let the aroma of the essential oil continue to escape into the air as the water cools.
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If you’ve ever had fire cider, you know that feeling it gives you as soon as it hits your palate – your eyes widen and your ears turn red as steam starts coming out your ears and you start coughing…
That might be a slight exaggeration, but it really is powerful stuff and it definitely helps to clear those sinuses pretty quickly. I’ve found that taking a spoonful or so of it every time I walk through the kitchen when I’m noticing the very first signs of a cold really helps to ward off congestion and it has sometimes even helped me to not get sick after all. Fire cider is full of immune stimulating, circulatory herbs. It’s a great option when you’re feeling congested.
I’ve written a recipe for fire cider – you can find the ingredients and a how-to video here.
Immune Supportive Formulas
One homemade remedy that works well for supporting the immune system, either as a tonic or when we’re just not feeling great, is elderberry syrup. It can be taken regularly throughout the day until symptoms fade and it’s yummy enough that kids actually like taking it too. In fact, it’s hard to keep it around for long once you make a batch! I’ve got a recipe for it here, along with some extra info about elderberry’s prowess for immune health. I also like to use Rosehip syrup; it’s tasty and very effective.
You could use elecampane, mullein, violet, or other herbs in your syrups to help soothe the respiratory system whilst you’re recovering too.
Lots of Self Care
Things to Look for in Your Apothecary
When you’re looking for herbs or essential oils (or other herbal products) in your apothecary that might be able to help you with congestion, look for things with the following therapeutic properties:
– calming / anxiolytic / sedative
– diaphoretic (if there’s also a fever present)
Plants that have these characteristics will generally help your body deal with excess mucous whilst also calming coughs, soothing the throat and mucous membranes, and helping you to relax so you can rest more easily.
Do you have a go-to remedy when you’re feeling stuffy and a bit yucky? Tell me about it in the comments section.