What is sinusitis?
Chronic sinusitis and allergic rhinitis affect a significant number of people. If you are one of the estimated 15% of individuals with this condition you’ll know all about the facial pain from swollen and blocked sinuses, breathing difficulties, trouble sleeping and concentrating. It can have a significant impact on your quality of life 1.
How can nasal irrigation help?
Nasal irrigation has been shown in various clinical studies to thin the mucus making it more quickly cleared from your nasal passages 2–4. This reduces pressure and inflammation and improves breathing, focus and concentration. People using regular nasal irrigation are less reliant on medication.
Your “how to” guide for nasal irrigation
First, you’ll need either a neti pot or a nasal irrigator. They come in many shapes and sizes and are available from most chemists.
Using a neti pot requires a little practice to get the angle of the head just right. You’ll know if your technique is correct because the liquid will run out the other nostril, not down your throat! I liken the sensation of nasal irrigation as similar to when water gets up your nose when you get knocked over in the surf – just not quite as intense and you won’t lose your swim wear!
Always use sterile water; either distilled or boiled. This is to avoid the risk of infection from water borne parasites.
Ensure the water is a comfortable temperature. If you’re using boiled water wait until it cools to approximately body temperature, so you don’t burn your nasal passages.
Basic mix for nasal irrigation
- 1 cup (250mL) of sterile water
- ¼ teaspoon of salt (not iodized and without any additives or anti-caking agents)
Performing nasal irrigation
- Mix the water and salt until the salt dissolves.
- Fill you nasal irrigator or neti pot
- Use according to the instructions on your irrigator, alternating between nostrils.
- Perform the irrigation over a sink or in the shower
- Blow your nose to clear mucus and any excess water.
Supercharge your nasal irrigation
You can also add some herbs to target your particular sinus issue. These can be infusions or in tincture form. If using herbs in tincture form add them to the boiling water to evaporate the alcohol before rinsing.
Herbal infusions are a simple and effective way to get the benefits of the herbs directly on your mucous membranes.
To make up a herbal infusion, add 2 teaspoons of your chosen herb (see recommendations below) to 1 cup of boiled water and let steep for 10-15 minutes. Strain well and mix in a ¼ teaspoon of salt. When cooled to body temperature add to your irrigator.
These will have hardened, “rubber cement” like mucus and there may also be dry sneezing.
- Use marshmallow root or plantain to add moisture
- To moisten dry sinuses add ½ teaspoon of organic sesame oil to the basic mix. Sesame oil can also be applied topically to the inside of your nostrils.
This is the classic hay fever sinus presentation. Symptoms include copious runny mucus, sniffling and lots of wet sneezing.
- Yarrow or sage
This is where you blow your nose, and thick mucus comes out. Then you blow again, and still, more comes out.
- Sage, thyme, calendula as an infusion
- Golden Seal tincture (Add 5 drops to the basic mix)
In acute cases, twice a day morning and night until the condition clears.
Chronic – once a day until the condition has improved. This could take 3 or more months, but persistence brings rewards! Then twice weekly maintenance rinses ongoing.
Nasal irrigation (especially when combined with other immune supporting therapies) is an effective way to get your sinuses back in good condition and improve your immunity. Make sure you also address the underlying cause of your sinusitis. Things to check include: food, dust mite, pollen and mould allergies.
Norelle Hentschel is a degree qualified Naturopath and operates a clinic in Crows Nest, North Sydney. She enjoys helping people feel better and can assist with a broad range of health conditions or general health maintenance.
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If you enjoyed this, you might also like:
- Tomooka LT, Murphy C, Davidson TM. Clinical Study and Literature Review of Nasal Irrigation. Laryngoscope. 2000;110(July):1189-1193.
- Pham V, Sykes K, Wei J, City K, Surgery N, City K. Long-term outcome of once daily nasal. Laryngoscope. 2015;124(4):1000-1007. doi:10.1002/lary.24224.Long-term.
- Little P, Stuart B, Mullee M, et al. Effectiveness of steam inhalation and nasal irrigation for chronic or recurrent sinus symptoms in primary care: a pragmatic randomized controlled trial. C Can Med Assoc J. 2016;188(13):940-949.
- Rabago D, Zgierska A, Mundt M, Barrett B. Efficacy of daily hypertonic saline nasal irrigation among patients with sinusitis : A randomized controlled trial. J Fam Pract. 2002;51(12):1049-1055.