If you have ever swum in the water at the beach, then you’d understand the experience of having salty seawater forced through your nasal passages. Initially unpleasant, this forced irrigation can result in unexpected relief from clogged sinuses. This ancient practice had originated in India thousands of years ago, but does the neti pot work effectively for allergy symptoms?
The most irritating symptoms of sinus allergies, also called allergic rhinitis, are excess mucous production, clogged and runny nose, and irritated nasal passages. Some people with allergies to pollen and dust develop the chronic condition rhinosinusitus, which is a continually inflamed condition caused by irritated sinus cavities.
What is a Neti Pot?
Over the counter medicines, antihistamines and nasal sprays are the likely choice for people that suffer from allergies and congested sinuses. However, both can have side effects and some sprays can lead to addiction and sinus irritation. For a gentle and quick remedy, doctors will often recommend irrigating the sinus cavity with a mild saline solution.
One option would be to snort the salt water, but this can cause choking. A much more effective approach would be to use a neti pot. This device resembles a small teapot and is sold in most stores for about $12 with packets of saline solution included.
Many people around the world practice Neti on a daily basis to keep their sinuses clear and to improve their ability to breathe freely. If you are one of the many people who find their nasal passages are blocked as a result of pollution, dust, pollen or other irritants, you may benefit from this simple cleansing technique.
Use of a neti pot may help by:
- Clearing the nostrils
- Removing excess mucous
- Reducing pollen or allergens caught in nasal passages
- Relieve nasal dryness
- Deterring you from smoking tobacco
A randomized study at the University of Michigan in 2007 looked at over 100 adults with chronic sinus problems and found that those treated with a neti pot had greater improvements over a two-month period than those treated with an allergy spray.(1)
Another study in 2009 found that neti pot nasal irrigation lessened the need for steroid sprays in children with allergies.
An Ancient Ayurvedic Remedy
The neti pot is the oldest form of nasal irrigation and was developed as an ancient yoga tradition in India. The word “neti” means “nasal cleaning” in the historical Indian language Sanskritt.
Nasal irrigation was very important for yoga masters because it was one of the six cleansing practices, or “kriyas.” It was believed that clearing the airways would lead to clear thinking and a higher state of meditation. This is likely believed because oxygen is more easily brought to the brain.
The yogis believed that cleansing the nose helped overcome addictions, mood swings and complaints.
The neti pot began to rise in popularity once again after Dr. Oz featured it on the Oprah Winfrey show in 2007. Since, the object has been transformed in the markets to resemble a genie’s lamp.(2)
How to Use a Neti Pot
It’s important to understand before using nasal irrigation techniques that you cannot use tap water in your nasal cavity. This is because the chlorine, heavy metals and other substances will irritate the mucous membranes. You also cannot dissolve table salt in pure water because it typically contains anti-caking ingredients and other fillers that will harm your sinuses.
Instead, you could dissolve a teaspoon of pickling salt in purified water. Done properly, nasal irrigation with a neti pot will have no side effects.
It is not that difficult to do.
- You should fill the neti pot with the warm solution and then raise it to your slightly tilted head.
- Point the neti pot’s spout into the top nostril and pour into it slowly.
- Allow the solution to flow through your sinus cavity and out your bottom nostril.
- Make sure that you don’t make any significant facial movements and don’t inhale through your nose or else you will choke.
- Some water will drip down your throat and this will tell you to make an adjustment so that the solution will all flow out your nose.
- Relax and adjust your position until your nasal pathways are completely cleared.
After the process, your sinuses should feel clearer than they ever have. The solution does its job to dissolve and carry out all the excess mucous from your nasal cavity.
There are many kinds of neti pots with different designs and materials. They are mostly made of either ceramic or plastic. I find that the ceramic feels much better and is easier to clean. Perhaps heating plastic is not a good idea and should be avoided.
Making the Neti Pot Solution
- Use 1 cup or 8 ounces of warm(approximately 37 Celsius) distilled, or purified water
You cannot use tap water. Aside from chlorine irritating the nasal tissues, there have been a few cases of encephalitis caused by an amoeba found in tap water. This is rare, but it can be very dangerous if you are using nasal irrigation techniques.
If you don’t have access to purified or distilled water, you can boil tap water for five minutes and let it cool before using it. It would be best to use filtered water, but the boiling will kill anything harmful in the tap water.
Make sure you do not pour cold or hot water into your nose. You won’t get a good feeling from either and hot water can damage your sinus membranes.
- Add ¼ cup of ground neti pot salt, non-iodized kosher salt or the included neti pot solution to the warm water in the neti pot.
You don’t want to use iodized salt because it will irritate the nasal tissues. The goal is to make a salt solution that is isotonic and equivalent to our body’s natural salinity concentration of 0.9%. That’s why plain water will burn. Some might add baking soda to “buffer’ the solution. I personally wouldn’t bother doing that because I see no reason to.
- Mix the solution well
It’s important to make sure that the entire solution is dissolved so that you can get the salinity concentration correct. You can also pour the salt solution in the pot first and then add the warm water and mix. Note: You should make sure that the spoon that you mix with is clean as well as the neti pot.
Cleaning Your Neti Pot
It’s very important to keep your neti pot clean. You definitely do not want to introduce bacteria or viruses into your sinuses by using a dirty pot. Use hot water and soap to clean your neti pot, rinse and allow to dry.
How often you should use your neti pot to relieve your allergies should depend upon the severity of your symptoms. If they are severe, you can use the neti pot twice a day. However, it is advised that you use it at most 4 times a week.
You will want to clean the neti pot at least once per day.
Does the Neti Pot Work?
Humans have been suffering from allergy symptoms for thousands of years. The most practical approach to relieving them would be to physically remove the allergens that are caught in your sinuses. This is why our ancestors developed a neti pot to flush the nasal cavity and clear up any excess mucous.
This remedy involves no harsh or unnatural chemicals with no uncomfortable side effects if done correctly. Instead of irrigating your sinuses by blowing your nose, this technique can be much more effective and less irritating.
I personally use a porcelain neti pot by Himalayan Institute during the allergy seasons in the Fall and Spring because pollen is a huge issue for me. I also use it sparingly during the winter because dust is a bothersome allergen for me as well. There seems to be no drawbacks from using it 3-5 times a week and I love the feeling that I get after using it. It provides the relief that you could only dream of getting from blowing your nose. It’s a great investment especially if you need immediate relief and don’t want to rely on harmful drugs.