Nasal irrigation, also known as a sinus flush, is a home hygiene method used to gently rinse the nasal passages, removing any blockages, bacteria, or mucus. It has been used throughout India for centuries, and is believed to have originated in the Ayurvedic, or traditional Indian, medical tradition. In Ayurveda, it is known as jala neti, which means “nasal cleansing with water.” Today, nasal irrigation has become popular around the world for treating sinus infections, sinus pressure, allergies, nasal congestion of all kinds, and post nasal drip.
Several methods of nasal irrigation can be employed, from simply snorting water from the hands, to using various instruments. One popular method is to use a neti pot — a small, ceramic container that resembles a teapot, which is used to pour water into the sinus cavities. Syringes, nasal bulbs, and pipettes can also be used to direct the water into the nasal passages.
Salt water is typically used for nasal irrigation, although adding other ingredients such as baking soda, or grapeseed extract for its antibacterial properties, to the water is common. It’s possible to make a homemade solution by combining ½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) of non-iodized salt, eight ounces (237 ml) of room temperature water, and ½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) of baking soda. The solution is then placed into a neti pot or similar instrument, and flushed through both nostrils, one at a time. This procedure is repeated until there is no more mucus present in the water when it exits the nasal passages.
There have been several scientific studies conducted that prove the effectiveness of properly administered nasal irrigation. The University of Wisconsin’s Department of Family Medicine found that patients with histories of sinus disease who practiced nasal irrigation daily experienced a greater quality of life, and experienced less frequent symptoms. Several follow-up studies were also carried out. The results clearly show that flushing the sinuses is an effective treatment for chronic sinus problems, upper respiratory conditions, and allergic rhinitis.
Although no adverse side effects are known, a physician should always be consulted before trying nasal irrigation at home. It should not be performed by patients suffering from acute sinus infections, as it may spread bacteria to other parts of the body. The water should not be introduced to the nasal passages too vigorously, or gagging, coughing, or ear pain could result. As long as it is administered gently, and with the approval of a physician, nasal irrigation can be a helpful alternative remedy for sinus pain, pressure, and congestion.