Here, in Colorado, we deal with a high incidence of allergies, sinusitis, rhinitis, asthma, and an overall irritation of our nasal and respiratory passages. Most people who live in this climate suffer from any number of the aforementioned issues and are familiar with saline rinses. These are generally done with a store-bought saline bottle with a nozzle that is inserted and sprayed into your nostril. This can actually cause more irritation to the membranes you are trying to soothe! The force of the spray is not only going against gravity, but is a force rather than a passive flow.If you are currently practicing that type of rinse, listen up! This is so much better for you: mind and body.
Jala neti (nasal cleanse) is an Ayurvedic practice that goes back thousands of years and has multiple benefits for the body and mind. It is performed with a neti pot and warm, saline water. The necessity of saline water can be explained by the notion of tonicity of solutions. If a solution is isotonic, which means contains the same electrolytes/salts, it will not draw out the vital liquids inside of your cells nor will it swell them. An isotonic saline solution for the neti pot is made by adding approximately 1/4 tsp sea salt/real salt (“real salt” is what the type of salt is called) to 8 oz of water, or the equivalent of the inside of the neti pot. To test, taste it; it should taste like tears.
- Me using the neti pot. We all look stupid doing it. No big deal.
After adding warm water (close to body temperature) with the salt, you simply put the spout inside one nostril and tilt your head away to initiate the passive flow through your sinus cavities–sounds insane if you have never done it. At first it definitely takes some getting used to. You sit over the sink for a few minutes allowing it to flow into one nostril and out of the other and it does kind of feel like you are under water the first few times. Sometimes, especially when you first begin, the water barely trickles out the other nostril. If this is the case, you can take a warm washcloth/compress and lay it over your cheeks and/or forehead to loosen up the mucus. It will get better with time.
Yet another way to break up that mucus is to do a steam with eucalyptus essential oil (for children, make sure it is Eucalyptus radiata). Simply boil water, add 3-5 drops of EO, set on a heat-safe surface, cover your head with a towel and breath in the steam until you feel a loosening.
I have always had sinusitis and would generally get sinus infections every 1-2 months. I took multiple antibiotics, which we all know can lead to additional problems and I would still get another one the next month. When I began the practice of jala neti, I felt immediate results with my inflammation. I haven’t had a sinus infection in 2 years. If you can get over the strangeness of this practice it is well worth the two minutes it takes. The symptoms are gone, the root issue is dealt with.
In addition to the benefits of the physical sinuses, the practice of jala neti is said to increase prana to the brain. Prana, like qi/chi is the vital force which animates our bodies (not to be confused with soul). We are all made up of energy. The Ayurvedic notion that jala neti increases prana to the 3rd eye, which exists physically as the third ventricle in the brain–housing the pituitary gland–is yet another reason to do this practice. The subtle effects can be felt weeks and possibly days after beginning this practice.
Jala neti cleanses out bacteria, stimulates healthy mucus membranes, increases sensitivity of olfactory nerves (increasing sense of taste and smell), increases energy, decreases the need for mouth-breathing and opens the ajna chakra (3rd eye) thus assisting you in your meditation and yoga practices .
This is one practice that I believe everyone should be doing every morning! Once you begin and get acquainted with jala neti, you will definitely feel the positive results I have described above. So, even if Ayurveda does not interest you , and the “3rd eye” doesn’t ring a bell, I hope that “sinus relief” will be the impetus you need to try this nasal rinse.
A few additional things:
- When you start out using the neti pot, you can either use one entire pot per nostril, or 1/2. I have found that, in the beginning, it is better if you use 1 per side.
- Most are dishwasher safe, but can be sterilized in hot water with a mild soap after each use (thoroughly dry).
- If you have severe allergies, you might like to start out doing one in the am and one in the pm until symptoms subside. Then begin doing it daily in the am.
- Also, as with everything else, do not take this practice to the extreme. Do it with the saline solution only: not with an herbal mixture, not with a zinc concentration. The saline solution and your mucus membranes will do everything you need it to do.
- If the saline solution burns or feels like pool water inside of your nose, add a little more salt. If the tonicity is off, you feel this burning sensation (it should taste like a tear).
- It is safe for children and a great idea for those little ones with constant respiratory issues! Both of my daughters use the neti pot on occasion and do a great job (my 5 year old only lets the water pass through for a couple seconds at a time, but gets it through nonetheless).
- Afterwards, do a few standing forward bends (Uttanasana ) to allow any left over liquid to be released.
- Do not use iodized salt.
Any information contained in this website is not intended as medical advice nor to diagnose and/or treat any illness. If you have any concerns about this information, please contact your provider and/or certified Herbalist.
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