If you ever got water in your nose while swimming, you know how uncomfortable it is. So, purposely pouring water in a nostril may make you want to shy away from the idea. Nasal irrigation with a neti pot, though, is not the same as accidentally inhaling water. As a matter of fact, you can benefit greatly by using nasal irrigation with a neti pot when you use with cautions and in a correct way.
Nasal Cleansing Beginnings in the Yoga Tradition
Nasal washes are part of the yogic tradition that goes back 5,000 years ago. The term “neti pot” has become synonymous with irrigating the sinuses using a specially designed pot or container. However, in yoga’s early history, yogi masters employed other methods to clean the nasal passages with different types of materials and ingredients, such as string and milk.
Jala neti (water or sinus cleansing) was one of six purification techniques used in yoga. Cleansing the sinuses was a preparatory practice used before meditation and performing breath exercises (pranayama). If the sinuses and nostrils were stuffed with mucus or infected, it made it hard to breathe or focus on breath during meditation. Also, it prevented or cleared infections and helped to control sinusitis. These same reasons are why many people today regularly irrigate their sinuses.
Benefits of Using a Neti Pot
Nasal irrigation began its rise in the West in the early 1970s when the Himalayan Institute produced the first mass-market neti pot. As yoga became mainstream, so did sinus cleansing with a neti pot. In the last decade or so, the neti pot has grown in popularity outside of yoga circles as many allelopathic doctors recommend it for their patients. Here are some benefits of using a neti pot:
- Moisten nasal passages
- Removes pollen, dust, and other microorganisms
- Relieves congestion due to cold, flu, sinus infections, and allergies
- Reduces the symptoms of snoring
- Helps with pregnancy-related sinus problems
“‘It’s [nasal irrigation] as effective as drugs for preventing sinus infections…[and] hugely beneficial for people with nasal allergies and headaches.’Mehmet Oz, M.D. “Dr. Oz.”[i]
How to Use a Neti Pot
Neti pots resemble a small teapot with a long spout. While using a neti pot, is relatively simple if not handled properly it can cause some issues like gagging. So, it’s important to read the specific instructions that accompany neti pots and follow them. The basics of using one are:
Fill with lukewarm water (see caution below on using tap water).
Add ¼ teaspoon of either sea salt or USP salt. Do not use iodized (table) salt.
Tilt your head sideways while leaning over a sink.
The forehead and chin should be close to level with one another to prevent the solution from flowing in the mouth or down the throat.
Open the mouth to breathe through.
Insert the pot’s spout in the top nostril, so the saline solution flows out the other side.
Gently blow out remaining saline and mucus.
Repeat on the other side.
Clean and rinse the neti pot.
Do not lie down for at least 30 minutes so sinuses can drain completely.
Safety of Nasal Irrigation
Eric A. Mann, MD, Ph.D. a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doctor says nasal rinse devices are mostly safe provided they are used and clean correctly. Here are a few of the FDA safety guidelines for what type of water to use.
Using warm water out of the tap is potentially dangerous. Some tap water contains small amounts of bacteria and protozoa including amoebas. These organisms do not usually cause harm when ingested because stomach acids destroy them. However, in the nose, they can thrive and cause infection. While very rare in the U.S, infections with the ameba Naegleria can become fatal. All but one case reported from 1962 – 2017 occurred after people swam in warm lakes or rivers.
Types of water the FDA recommends are:
- Distilled or sterile water. Commercially-produced distilled or pure water is labeled at available at most grocery stores.
- Boiled tap water. Boil the water from three to five minutes then cool it to lukewarm. In a clean and closed container, it can be stored up to 24 hours without refrigeration.
- Water processed through specific filtration devises. These filtration systems can trap infectious organism. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends filters labeled “NSF 53” or “NSF 58.”
Irrigating the sinuses and nostrils regularly with a neti pot is no longer just for yoga practitioners, the benefits it provides are for anyone who needs to or wants to clear their sinus cavities. It may not be for everyone so check with your physician to see if it’s right for you.
Is Rinsing Your Sinuses With Neti Pots Safe? (January 24, 2017). Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm316375.htm.
Ritual Nasal Rinsing & Ablution. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/naegleria/ritual-ablution.html.
Sexton, Shannon. The History & Science of the Nasal Wash. Retrieved from https://yogainternational.com/article/view/the-history-science-of-the-nasal-wash.
[i] Sexton, Shannon, The History & Science of the Nasal Wash. Web.