Have you ever put an array of herbs or essential oils in a pot of boiling water, placed a towel over your head and breathed in the stream in an effort to find relief from a cough, sore throat or runny nose?
Sometimes chalked up to an old wives’ tale- this is known as a form of vapor therapy. Vapour therapy, in many forms has been utilized for thousands of years with some hard, scientific evidence to back up and support its effectiveness. The most effective, modern iteration of vapour therapy, that has been scientifically proven to help alleviate respiratory symptoms quickly and successfully is nebulization.
The nebulizer is a technology built on thousands of years of successful physicians' work. It takes the best of vapour and aerosol medicine throughout the eras and coalesces the knowledge from some of the best minds in medicine (historically speaking) into a home therapy that can be used by anyone for improved quality of life and reduction in acute as well as chronic symptoms.
What is Nebulization?
A nebulizer is a machine that takes a liquid therapeutic agent (such as hydrogen peroxide or a prescription medication), mixes it with water or saline and converts it into a mist that in then inhaled.
The purpose of this conversion is to create a substance that is able to penetrate tissues on a deeper level and cover more surface area than a liquid.
The mist produced from nebulization allows the substance of choice (ie-hydrogen peroxide) to come directly into contact with tissues of the respiratory tract and oral cavity such as the sinuses, the mouth, the throat and most importantly, the lungs. When it comes into contact with these tissues, it kills pathogens, especially viruses that have colonized.
Instead of taking a liquid that has to go through the whole digestive process, nebulizing allows for immediate access to the target tissues at a higher concentration.
This is because when we utilize a nebulizer, the medicine doesn’t enter systemic circulation via the blood, instead it is delivered directly to the respiratory system via droplets.
While some of the nebulized agent (ex- hydrogen peroxide) will get circulated systemically, the main goal is to saturate the infected area (respiratory system) as fast as possible!
In addition to fighting bacterial and viral pathogens, nebulizing increases moisture throughout the whole respiratory tract. This works to immediately reduce symptoms such as helping to expel excess mucous and ease persistent coughs.
We mostly recommend nebulization for upper respiratory tract infections such as colds and flus, but its implications extend far beyond that. It is used by integrative physicians in asthma, COPD, cystic fibrosis, bronchitis and pulmonary fibrosis as well.
What Can You Nebulize?
The world of nebulization is vast, and if you begin to look at the research and clinical uses, you’ll notice that there are many substances you can nebulize ranging from vitamins such as B2 to herbs such as cats claw.
It is important to note- that when utilizing substances such as these, they need to be obtained from a compounding pharmacy as the preparations are unique to be able to nebulize safely (ie- you can’t open a capsule and mix it with saline to nebulize).
Our favorite substance to nebulizes is hydrogen peroxide. This is because it is extremely safe and has amazing science to back up this safety profile as well as its potent antimicrobial properties.
As a bonus, you don’t need to purchase a special form as it is the correct particle size, making it a cost effective and readily available option for most of the world!
Why Nebulize Hydrogen Peroxide?
Hydrogen peroxide is a time-tested effective intervention for viral infections.
Hydrogen peroxide can be looked at as a storage form of oxygen, and oxygen is one of nature’s most profound anti pathogenic agents.
When it comes to using hydrogen peroxide, it can be used on it’s own or in combination with other interventions. To date, there is no evidence that hydrogen peroxide decreases or interacts with other respiratory interventions and likely potentiates them.
Hydrogen peroxide has been used and recommended by health professionals because it is antimicrobial and it enhances local innate immune response to viral infections. The body actually naturally produces hydrogen peroxide in response to infection and several viruses are sensitive to the effects of hydrogen peroxide.
When it comes to viral management there is not a lot that can be done through conventional means. However, in integrative medicine solutions for viral infections, especially those of the upper respiratory tract are plentiful with a widely used one being the nebulization of hydrogen peroxide. Nebulizers might come across as intimidating, but we promise- it is as easy as breathing! For more information, take a look at our nebulizers here and download our in-depth nebulizer cheat sheet!
Author: Lisa Kowalyk, CNP, B.Kin
Disclaimer: This blog is not medical advice and is intended for educational purposes only. Always consult your primary health care provider when making changes in relation to your health.