Sinus infection and nasal congestion are awful. Hard to breathe, hard to sleep. I’m learning that actually most people, unlike us, don’t actually have a dozen exotic, effective, natural herbal remedies floating around in their house. A friend said to me this morning that she was needing to go to a public Thai herbal steam to try to unclog her congested “burning season” infected sinuses.
My doctor had specifically advised me to me NOT to go to a public herbal steam room when I was unwell, as the chance for mold infection is usually far greater than the herbal healing on offer. So what to do?? I call it the “Asian Market $1 Steam Option”. Simple. Easy. Effective. & Cheap. Safe to do at home with no risk of molds or other people’s nasty bugs.
A step back. All of South East Asia suffers from air pollution in the peak of the dry season. The land is prepared for the new season crops by burning, and the forests are burned by indigenous people for exotic mushrooms. It’s compounded by mountains of corn waste – a by-product of western agricultural practice being ‘sold” to poor indigenous farmers. Without expensive machinery, local farmers literally have little choice but to burn. The price paid for the cheap rice and corn products in western supermarkets is literally the filthy air in much of South East Asia in March-April every year.
Burning worked well for a couple of thousand years and does return important nutrients to the soil. It DOESN’T work well when a tiny country like Thailand moves from sustainable tiny family plots to being one of the largest rice producers in the world. How many fires are we talking about? This is NASA’s photo from March 15, 2019:
Due to our mountainous surrounds and geography, the smoky 2.5 particulate matter in the air in Chiang Mai is AWFUL for several weeks (until rains and summer storms come) and the result is local sniffles, snuffles, sinus infections, coughs, colds and bronchitis.
As it happens, my friend’s Thai herbal steam suggestion came the same day as my daughter was flying to Korea, and yes, she also had a snuffly sinus thing. Not great for travelling or flying.
Simple solution? The Asian Market $1 Herbal Steam.
For literally 30 baht (just under USD $1) I was able to buy 2 bunches of Tom Yum herbs (lemongrass, kaffir lime, turmeric and galangal), several red onions, a ginger root, a bunch of peppermint leaves and a bunch of Thai Holy Basil – enough for several steams! – at my local Thai market today. Most South East Asian markets have these same herbs (or most of them) available cheaply.
Lemongrass: naturally anti-inflammatory
Turmeric Root: naturally decongestant and anti-inflammatory
Kaffir Lime leaves: antibacterial, immune support, detoxifying
Galangal: antibacterial, anti-inflammatory
Ginger: circulatory stimulant which helps to detoxify and remove waste
Red Onion: contain natural antihistamines to decongest and reduce inflammation
Peppermint leaves: antiviral, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory
Thai Holy Basil leaves: anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, immune boosting
How to do?
Chop them, to ensure maximum surface area exposure to the hot water.
Pop them into a pot with a lot of water and bring to the boil. As soon as it boils, turn the heat off, cover and leave for 10 minutes.
Transfer to a metal or ceramic bowl, being careful not to burn yourself.
Using a towel or cloth to concentrate the steam, breathe deeply through your nose and mouth for as long as possible, keeping your eyes closed. Pro-tip: have some tissues handy.
Yes, your house will smell like Tom Yum Soup. The upside is you WILL be able to smell it, as your nose and sinuses will be surprisingly clear.
Be sure to DRINK after the hot herbal steam – your body needs clear, clean liquids to help flush out the waste, and you also need the fresh vitamin C. My suggestion? Cool clear natural & refreshing soda water with the juice of 2 whole fresh limes.
Your $1 investment will give you enough herbs to do 2-3 steam sessions and probably also make a few nice Thai dishes in the kitchen. Enjoy the abundance and be sure to take special care of yourself during the hot, dry, smoky season. My daughter? clear head after 10 minutes of steam and half a box of tissues. And happily on her way to Korea tonight.