Steam Inhalation in Asian Medicinal Practices

Main Piece:

Informant: Essentially, it’s where you take a pot of water, and you put some herbs… Herbs mainly found in a lot of Asian stores or Asian medicinal stores, and you would boil it… And then you would take the pot, you set it on the ground, and then you either sit on the floor or take a stool…

Me: And, I think I know where you’re going with this: You take a blanket or some type of sheet, you put it over the pot and your own head, and you kinda lean your face down over the pot, right?

Informant: Mhm, yeah. And you just sit there for as long as you want. Usually like ten minutes. And just like steam with the herbs… I personally never used it before… but whenever I see our parents use it, they usually do this when they feel sick. So, it’s like an at home remedy.

Me: I would assume for sinuses, congestion… I have engaged in this type of facial steaming.


This was performed over FaceTime call with my older sister, a junior majoring in Kinesiology at the University of Southern Mississippi. Her and I are both in our respective bedrooms, and it is late at night. I asked her to speak about this steaming practice we had in our family.


This is very similar to other folk medicine practices, especially sauna rooms. Perhaps, this evolved from other steaming practices in America, Europe, and/or Japan. As opposed to a full body steaming, this is really just for the face. This concept may seem “foreign” to others outside of Asian countries, but this was actually a practice I was very familiar with. Therefore, I didn’t recognize it as folklore because I thought everybody did it. I started asking my roommates and my friends and was absolutely dumbfounded! This at home remedy for sinuses and congestion has become cross-generational amongst me and my family, and I can’t wait to share it with others.