Sinuses Go to Pot

Until Nebraska joins the other forward-thinking states and legalizes marijuana, the only pot legal here for allergies, sinus problems, stuffy noses and colds is the venerable Vedic neti pot.

Our nose is a front line of defense. It warms and filters the air we breathe. It traps dirt and disease-carrying pathogens, building boogers as it does. It’s an early warning system with millions of sensors to identify malodorous molecules, an early indication that something is bad. A bad smell it can tell. The nose knows. And, a flu virus is often first detected in its mucous membranes.

Our nasal passages and sinuses protect our body. Like a furnace filter, those nasal passages must be clean and in good shape to do the job. During late summer and into autumn, the nose is besieged by mold spores, pollen, dry air and debris, challenging the healthy state of our natural filter system.

Tip the snot pot. One way to help the nasal passages stay healthy is to keep them clean. When there’s a gush of mucous, a Kleenex might do. But what about the subtler level; the microscopic particles that pollute our snoot?

Like other internal skin surfaces, the nasal cavity is comprised of mucous membrane. That mucous surface is moist, soft and warm. It does a remarkable job at trapping and containing intrusive dust particles, bacteria and other invaders. The membrane is kept moist by the normal secretions of our body. That secretion is slightly salty and the equivalent of what is called a “normal saline solution.” The fact that the fluid inside our body is slightly salty gives a clue to what is appropriate to cleanse our internal membranes. Combining the proper solution with the correct use of the neti pot is an age-old routine that has stood the test of time.

Thousands of years ago, Indian physicians realized that a regular nose douche with a saline solution would improve the health of the nasal membranes. It keeps the nose and sinuses clean, removes pollutants and allows the nasopharyngeal cavity to function at peak ability. As described in the ancient medical practice known as Ayurveda, the rishis, or Ayurvedic wise men, used a device known as a neti pot. The practice of using the pot is known as jala neti. Though a common part of daily hygiene in other parts of the world, jala neti is only recently catching on with Western culture.

Dr. Shawn Schmidt is founder and director of Natural Health Center in Omaha, combining alternative medicine with conventional chiropractic care. Schmidt says he has found that jala neti has been a valuable therapy helping many of his patients.

The Doc Knows “It’s absolutely a beneficial regimen,” he said. “Especially with the climate we have in the Midwest, there is a tremendous strain on the breathing cavity in general. And many times irrigating with a neti pot and a mild saline solution can get rid of an infection without the patient resorting to some nasty antibiotic.”

“If a patient is willing to try something different, using a neti is relatively easy,” Schmidt noted. “It’s gentle, has little or no side effects and is really easy once you get the hang of it. I have a formula that I recommend that uses simple sea salt and a couple of other things and is very mild but effective.”

Neti is easy. Most of us are initially uncomfortable with the idea of water going up our nose, usually because in the past it’s happened when we haven’t been in control of it (see waterboarding). With jala neti, one tilts the head to the side and gently pours the saline solution in one nostril. The head is tilted forward slightly so that the solution can flow through and out the other nostril. Taking less than three minutes, it’s easily incorporated into daily hygiene. I prefer the traditional, low, flat neti pot over the bulbous type. Mine is easier to use.

Jala neti is far different from what a Western medical doctor does when performing nasal lavage or sinus irrigation. Thankfully that practice has become somewhat uncommon, though unfortunately still used. It’s an example of taking a good idea (keeping the nasal passage clean) and enacting it in a misguided and ignorant fashion.

Using a kit from a drugstore is the last thing I would do. Those squeeze bottles force the liquid under pressure into the nasal passage and it can enter the sinus. Neti experts advise never to force the solution into the sinus. Let it gently flow past and draw mucous and debris from the cavities. Use only purified water (not tap). Learn the proper method from an experienced practitioner.

Keeping the nose, sinuses and associated mucous membranes clean and clear makes breathing easier and helps keep life stress-free. The first line of defense against disease deserves a little attention. Many who use neti find a lower incidence of colds, flu, allergies and sinus problems. Just keep your nose clean.

Be well.

Heartland Healing is a New Age polemic describing alternatives to conventional methods of healing the body, mind and planet. It is provided as information and entertainment, certainly not medical advice. It is not an endorsement of any particular therapy, either by the writer or The Reader. Visit for more information.

posted at 09:10 am
on Monday, September 09th, 2013


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