Posted by Jules Benefico, Certified Clinical Herbalist on Mar 22nd 2022
Most of us deal with congestion at some point during the year, either seasonally or as a symptom of occasional illness. And while stuffiness is often not a serious threat to our health (though you should consult a doctor to be sure), it can pretty well wreck our energy levels, ability to focus, and general mood. When sinus gunk makes it hard to get through the day (or night!), we turn to a time-tested tool for fast and effective relief: the neti pot.
What Is a Neti Pot?
A neti pot is a home remedy for allergies, mild upper respiratory ailments, and other causes of nasal and sinus congestion. It was developed as a tool to aid in the traditional Ayurvedic practice of washing out the nasal passages—”neti” means “nasal cleansing” in Sanskrit—a method sometimes used to facilitate more effective breathing during yoga (in addition to helping with illness). In recent years, neti pots have become increasingly popular throughout the world for their ease of use and effectiveness.
Neti pots look like small teapots with long spouts. They are easy to find in your local pharmacy or from small makers online, and they come in an array of colors, sizes, and materials. For health and safety reasons, we recommend a traditional version like this ceramic neti pot from Baraka, which is easy to keep clean, made in the US, and free of potentially harmful toxins like BPA that might be found in a plastic option (Baraka’s pots are beautiful, too!).
What Does a Neti Pot Do?
Neti pots provide a quick, easy, and natural way to help alleviate uncomfortable sinus buildup and allow you to breathe more easily. The spouted shape is designed to deliver a small amount of warm, clean saline solution into one nostril, where gravity carries the liquid through the sinuses and out through the other nostril. Along the way, the salt water helps open the nasal passages and loosen thick mucus so that it can be flushed out of the system. Saline solution also fights bacteria, so it may also help address sinus infections that are one possible cause of congestion. Nasal irrigation has also been found effective for improving allergy symptoms naturally.
While we also turn to supplements like Clear Passage Tincture, Bi Yan Pian extract, and encapsulated quercetin to promote upper respiratory and allergy health (taken orally, not through the nose!), using a neti pot can support the sinuses in multiple ways to help with stuffiness, sniffling, or sneezing.
NETI POT BENEFITS
Using a neti pot provide a host of benefits, including:
- Relieves nasal blockages for easier breathing, promoting a clearer head during the day and more comfortable sleep at night.
- Soothes irritated nasal passages.
- Provides moisture to protect vulnerable nasal tissues exposed to dry air.
- Flushes out mucus that may harbor harmful bacteria.
- Fights bacteria gently and naturally with salt solution.
Are Neti Pots Safe?
Using a neti pot is considered a safe practice as long as it is done correctly. Neglecting cleanliness can lead to infection, so it’s important to take proper sanitation precautions. Here are the practices required for safe neti use:
- Wash and dry your hands before use.
- Sanitize and dry your neti pot before every use, either in the dishwasher or with a soap-and-water scrub followed by a rinse with rubbing alcohol.
- For sterile water, you can either purchase distilled bottled water at the store or use tap water that has been boiled and then cooled. Do not use water straight from the tap, as it can contain trace amounts of potentially harmful bacteria (our stomachs are equipped to handle it, but our sinuses aren’t!).
- Use high-quality, pure sea salt without artificial additives or a salt-based blend designed specifically for neti pots. This will ensure that there is no burning sensation upon use.
- Consult your doctor before using a neti pot on a child.
- If using essential oils in your neti pot, make sure you trust their quality (see below for more details).
How to Use a Neti Pot
Whether you are experiencing seasonal allergies or the common cold, neti potting may be a great addition to your wellness toolkit. Here is what you need to get started:
- Sterile water (distilled, or boiled and cooled)
- ½ tsp. high-quality sea salt, or a salt-based neti solution blend
- Neti pot (we highly recommend these stylish, non-toxic, dishwasher-safe neti pots by Baraka)
- Optional: use nose oil (like this dry nose oil by Baraka)
NETI POT USE INSTRUCTIONS
- Pour lukewarm water into clean, dry neti pot.
- Add salt and stir with clean spoon until dissolved.
- Lean over sink, and turn your face sideways until your head is tilted at a 45 degree angle, with one nostril towards the ceiling and the other towards the ground.
- Breathe through your mouth and insert tip of neti pot spout into your upper nostril.
- Tilt neti pot up to pour small amount of saline solution through your upper nostril, keeping your head at an angle so liquid flows out bottom nostril into sink. Continue until half of solution is used.
- Tilt your head to the other side, switch nostrils, and repeat steps 4 through 5.
- If using, place 1 to 2 drops nose oil into each nostril after you've completed step 6. Inhale deeply.
You can do this practice twice a day when needed to support your sinuses.
Using Essential Oils in Your Neti Pot
Essential oils are the distilled volatile oils from plants that often have a strong and pleasant aroma. Many of these aromatic oils can support the sinuses by helping to open up the nasal cavities and by fighting germs. By adding a few drops of pure, organic essential oil to your neti pot solution, you can enjoy some extra support when tackling tricky congestion. You can also use these essential oils in a diffuser or steam between neti pot sessions, in addition to or instead of adding them to your saline solution.
Be sure to use organic and high-quality essential oils from brands like Floracopeia and Pranarom. Never use fragrance oils, which are highly processed and chemically made to smell similar to plants, but usually have no plant compounds in them!
Making your own saline solution is easy, affordable, and is a sure way to avoid the synthetic additives found in some store-bought solutions. We also love Baraka’s Infused Salt Rinse for neti pots, made with organic essential oils and pure French Atlantic sea salt.
HOMEMADE NETI POT SOLUTION WITH ESSENTIAL OILS
- 8 Tbsp. fine sea salt (pink Himalayan or Atlantic grey are great options)
- 10-15 drops pure essential oil(s) for sinus support of choice (like rosemary, palmarosa, or fir balsam)
- Gradually add essential oils to bowl of salt, stirring as you go to combine.
- Store infused salt in airtight container for up to 6 months, if kept clean and dry.
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Written by Jules Benefico: Jules is a Clinical Western Herbalist and the Retail Manager at Five Flavors Herbs. She studies medical astrology, western alchemy, and clinical nutrition and infuses this into her herbal practice.