How Steam Can Help You Have The Most Awesome Sick Day Ever

We're going to steam away your ickiness with tea and a bath. (Assuming you're actually sick.)
Publish date:
November 19, 2013
DIY, bath time, steam, sick, recipes, colds, tea

Years of being in close contact with other humans has taught me many ways of coping with the least fun part of the winter holiday season: OPG (other people’s germs). In times past, I used to just buy a huge combo box of Day/Nyquil at the first sign of a cold. But over-the-counter cold and sinus medicines tend to make a huge difference in my functionality and even my personality, so I avoid them these days.

Depending on the severity of symptoms, I have gone straight from bed to couch and back again, only leaving to walk the dog and getting up for a Seamless delivery. It usually doesn’t help to wallow in the same pajamas for more than one night’s sleep. The difference in what I feel when I am dirty and sick as opposed to when I force myself to bathe is like night and day.

Steam from a mini facial, a bath, and a hot cup of tea is super-reviving during times of sluggish lingering sickness. If I know I am going to have a day on the couch, this regimen prepares me to read subtitles on classic Italian and Hindi movies all day with as little misery as possible. Steam is your friend, and it just so happens to help your skin as well as your cold. I have been able to work 12-hour shifts in heels and a skimpy dress in December after this.

Get preemptive with your war on viruses this year--it will save you some miserable and poorly dressed trips to the store! Most of these things I always keep on hand and have even when pitifully broke, so nothing is too pricey. Best of all, most of these products double for many other uses for home and beauty needs, so they are mostly justifiable as essentials.


- tea tree oil

- ginger root

- turmeric

- dried mullein leaf

- honey

- tea of choice

First you will need to make your own "cough syrup" which sounds hard, but is mind numbingly easy.

Bring 1 ½ cups of water to boil in a small saucepan; add either 1 tea bag or 1 tbs dried tea leaves, a few slices of ginger and ½ cup dried Mullein leaf.

Mullein, also known as verbascum, is a velvety, flowering weed that is so prolific in North America that many thought it was a native plant. This herb has been used as a cough and cold remedy for centuries by many cultures, and does not need to be cultivated due to its weed-like spreading.

Boil this tea for about 5 minutes, and then strain. Rinse out the pot to make sure no leaves or little hairy pieces are still in there. Return the tea to the pot and add 1 cup of honey and 1 tbs of turmeric. Return to a boil and simmer for about 15 minutes.

Pour into a bottle or jar and store in the fridge after it cools. Use 2 tbs at a time either straight up or mixed into a hot cup of tea a few times a day.

Now it’s time to draw the bath!

A sick bath requires me to watch something extra-boring and long on Hulu so I can really let it do its job; my playlist for a luxurious bath might put you to sleep here.

Get the water super-hot, and while it is filling up, refill the saucepan with water and 1 tbs of turmeric and boil it. Set up to spend at least 45 minutes in the tub--books, kindle in a ziplock, whatever it takes; I prefer a laptop on a stepstool just out of splashing range.

If there isn’t space in your bathroom to rest a steaming pot and hang over it, do this in the kitchen; keep pets and children away because hot objects and clumsy little creatures don’t mix.

Take the pot off the burner, put on a folded towel or trivet, grab a towel for you to drape over your shoulders, and put a few drops of tea tree oil in the hot water. Make the towel tent over the pot and your entire head, and breathe in the steam for about 10 minutes, which is just enough time for the bath to cool to a hospitable temperature.

Pour the steam water and grate the rest of the ginger root into the bath water just before hopping in. You will most certainly need to use a drain guard to not create a yucky plug in your pipes when draining. Ginger will make you sweat it out, Louise can tell you. You can totally follow the whole bath recipe that Louise prescribes there, or just use the fresh ginger if you don’t have anything else on hand. (When I say sweat it out, I mean bikram yoga style, like intense amounts of sweat; make sure to leave at least 3 hours to keep sweating before going anywhere, because your skin will be red too. )

A lovely perk of this entire shebang is how amazing your skin will look and feel for days afterward. The antiseptic properties of all of the combined ingredients will zap any acne brewing under the surface before it comes out, so when you feel better, you just might look better too!