By Yvonne Akinyi 

Despite being branded as scientifically unproven, various steam inhalation therapies are widely used as home remedies to treat or prevent respiratory tract infections. The therapies are also said to soothe and open nasal and lung air passages giving relief from cold or infections.

Among these therapies is vaporized strungi (strong tea) which contains theophylline.

“When the vaporized tea is heated, a smooth muscle relaxant exerts a broncho-dilation effect on the airway. Allergic reaction resulting from histamine release from bronchiolar mast cells is neutralized, averting swelling and asthmatics getting relief,” explained Dr.Charles Nyakinda, Senior lecturer, Maseno Medical School while giving a presentation on COVID-19 coping mechanisms by learning institutions during a media workshop on solution journalism in Nairobi.

Dr. Nyakinda giving a presentation at the workshop

He notes that currently, coughing and sneezing that was common among some of their medical students has been dramatically reduced or suppressed during lengthy lectures or laboratory sessions.

“We must be bold and objective enough to observe and scientifically revisit various steam therapies that are also used by some frontline health workers in an environment that at times lacks effective protection,” Dr. Nyakinda said.

For the steam therapy, one needs a large bowl, water, a pot or kettle or microwave for heating water and a towel.

‘’Heating the water to boiling, one should pour the hot water into a bowl, drape the towel over the back of your head and eyes closed, slowly lower your head toward the hot water until it is appropriately away from the hot water and inhale slowly and deeply. Do not steam longer than ten to fifteen minutes for each session. However, you can repeat the process two or three times a day,” he said.

A student steaming themselves at Maseno University

Theophylline in tea treats and prevents wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness caused by asthma, chronic bronchitis emphysema and other lung diseases.

Dr Nyakinda makes it clear that when people have no other immediate choices they tend to use what seems to generate positive impact and this must not be taken for granted and there should be no fear or shame in revisiting and transparently conducting necessary scientific protocols.

He noted that a number of existing drugs or compounds have been re-tested and are now used to curb COVID-19 deaths or extreme illeness.

With COVID-19, the virus transmitted through the air invades the respiratory tract thus, there is need to clearly demonstrate or practically prove that the vaporized tea actually helps prevent and treat coughs and cold while curbing spread of Covid-19.