As spring arrives, bringing with it green grass and beautiful flowers, irritating allergies start to make their comeback. Frequent sufferers are all too familiar with the congestion and uncomfortable sinus pressure that this season brings. If you’ve exhausted the decongestant shelves and you’re tired of trying sprays and pills, reach for something a little different—a neti pot.
What Is a Neti Pot?
The neti pot comes from an ancient technique used in Eastern cultures known as Jala neti. Originally used in yoga traditions, people in India and Southeast Asia have been using nasal irrigation for centuries. This practice has become popularized in Western culture recently, as the neti pot has been featured and demonstrated on television talk shows.
This small teapot-shaped object serves as a gentle, natural way to clear nasal passages. Many people suffering from nasal congestion use neti pots to pour a saline solution through the nostrils. Users report that this nasal irrigation system helps to keep the nose’s mucus linings clean and refreshed, clearing them of dust and bacteria that collects as you breathe (1).
Anecdotal evidence suggests that the neti pot may help combat a number of health issues. Repeated use is said to lessen allergy symptoms and uncomfortable nasal congestion. Some surgeons have recommended the use of a neti pot for patients who have undergone sinus surgery to clear away the crusting of nasal passages and speed healing. People with sinus problems caused by bacteria or environmental irritants also use it to reduce facial pressure and pain (2). Even if you do not have a specific health issue, the neti pot may help you consistently breathe more freely by keeping your nose clear of contaminants.
How Do You Use It?
The neti pot may first strike you as an unusual method, but it is very simple to use. Fill the pot with lukewarm water and add about a quarter teaspoon of non-iodized salt, like sea salt. Some neti pot makers offer specially formulated salt mixtures to add to the water for added benefits. One manufacturer, for example, offers a neti pot blend of peppermint extract, eucalyptus extract and menthol to help soothe passages as the water flows. Xylitol is also part of some proprietary blends, which is said to help flush out foreign material from mucus membranes and lessen bacteria’s ability to adhere to surfaces inside the nose (1). Shoppers should be careful about making their own blends at home, though, and should purchase prepackaged neti pot solutions for added benefits if they don’t have expertise in blending their own.
Once the solution has been added to the pot, position yourself over a sink, put the spout in one nostril and pour the solution through. While pouring the water, tilt your head slightly away from the pot and breathe through your mouth. The water should run through the opposite nostril within a few seconds, depending on how clogged the nasal passages are. Then, refill the pot and pour the water through the second nostril. Blow your nose after use to remove any leftover mucus (3). Most neti pots come with step-by-step instructions and there are numerous demonstrative videos on neti pot Web sites. Don’t hesitate to talk to your local natural products retailer for tips, too.
How often to use a neti pot depends on your needs. Some people use it every morning after waking up to refresh nasal passages. After exposure to dust or smoke, the neti pot can be used to wash these out. Also, if spending time in a dry environment or during allergy season, the neti pot can be used multiple times a day to keep your nose clean and remove any extra mucus (1). When having specific nasal problems, daily use is recommended, but when no symptoms are occurring, using it three times a week is generally sufficient to keep passages clear (2).
Since this nasal irrigation system uses a mild saline solution, some users with dry, cracked nasal membranes experience stinging or irritation. Occasionally, nosebleeds occur, though these are very rare. To prevent these effects, make sure the neti pot is always cleaned before use to prevent bacteria buildup (2). Remember, using a neti pot shouldn’t be painful or uncomfortable; if it is, stop and seek the advice of a professional.
Where Can I Get One?
Neti pots come in a variety of colors and styles, including those made of ceramic, metal or plastic. Some companies are designing specialized versions of the neti pot, such as those made with eco-friendly materials (3), smaller spouts for children and even a squeeze bottle shape (4). Most neti pots cost between $10 and $20 and can be purchased at your local health food store (2). WF
1. The Himalayan Institute, www.himalayaninstitute.org, accessed February 22, 2010.
2. WebMD, “Nasal Saline Irrigation and Neti Pots,” www.webmd.com/allergies/sinus-pain-pressure-9/neti-pots, accessed February 22, 2010.
3. Betti Pot, www.bettipot.com, accessed February 22, 2010.
4. Dr. Hana’s Nasopure, www.nasopure.com/t-HistoryOfNasalWashing.aspx, accessed February 22, 2010.
Published in WholeFoods Magazine, April 2010