Here’s a term you don’t hear every day: Nasal irrigation. If you are familiar with it, you have probably heard of neti pots, and you may be one of the many people who have found relief from sinus and allergy distress with this simple tool. It can seem a little strange at first, but for people around the world, the neti pot is the most effective thing that stands between them and seasonal & environmental suffering. Recently the Yinova Center team was filming for the “Best of Alternative Medicine” episode on the Dr. Oz Show, and for treating sinus conditions naturally, the neti pot was what the doctor recommended.
The neti pot is a small, roughly fist-sized container with a spout that is used to gently rinse the nasal cavity. You can buy one at any health food store and most pharmacies. To use it, a person leans their head over a sink and a solution of dilute salt water is poured through the spout into one nostril. After passing through the sinuses, the water drains out the other nostril, flushing out irritants and excess mucous that can cause inflammation and congestion.
Why would a person do this? Water up the nose is usually painful and irritating isn’t it? And salt!?!
First, a quick recap of sinus anatomy
The nasal passages are incredibly effective at filtering the air we breathe. They are lined with hairs that help regulate the temperature of the air we breathe and they filter large particles out before they get into our lungs. Cilia (which give us our sense of smell) also line the beds of our sinuses. Finally, these passages are kept moist by a thin layer of mucus that acts as one of our body’s first lines of defense against disease. When a person is exposed to irritants, allergens or infectious junk in the air, particles accumulate, mucous production increases and histamine levels can spike. When a person is exposed to infectious junk in the air, particles accumulate, mucous production increases and histamine levels can spike.
The neti pot’s origin is rooted in the Ayurvedic medical tradition of India, and it is a gentle nasal wash that has been used for thousands of years to keep the sinuses clean and functioning optimally. As for the salt, the small amount that is mixed in actually helps bring the solution to the body’s natural ph level like the saltiness of tears, so that the water doesn’t sting. For many people who do irrigate their sinuses, regular use of a neti pot can help to:
- Remove excess mucus due to congestion.
- Rid nostrils of pollen and other allergens.
- Cleanse the nasal membranes of dust, smoke, or other airborne contaminants.
- Relieve nasal dryness due to air conditioning.
- Improve the flow of breath when used before doing relaxation or meditation techniques
- Neti pot users also report that the improved airflow and circulation helps with mental clarity.
A word of caution, however. There have been reports of neti pot users getting infections, and in 2011 there were even 2 deaths associated with neti pot use in Louisiana. In both of these cases though, the cause of death was nothing to do with the neti pot itself, but specifically linked to the use of contaminated tap water. By avoiding tap water altogether and instead using distilled or pre-boiled (and cooled) water and by following the manufacturer’s instructions, using the neti pot is safe. It’s a simple way to help keep the sinuses moist, clean and healthy, and reduce allergic reactions without the groggy side effects of many medications.
So the neti pot may seem like an odd concept at first, but, used properly, it’s actually an effective option for the self-management of sinus symptoms and with a little bit of practice, any mild discomfort disappears and it can become as normal a part of your daily routine as brushing your teeth.