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Sinus complaints are incredibly common at all times of the year. Poor air quality, winter dryness and pollens in the spring and fall leave few unaffected. Anyone who deals with sinus issues knows that it is incredibly uncomfortable, and it is very difficult to function normally when experiencing symptoms of sinus congestion.
In Ayurveda, congested sinuses were linked to fatigue and mental and emotional imbalances, such as poor memory, foggy thinking and mood swings. The theory was that when the vessels in the sinuses become congested, toxins build up in the brain and cause a series of psychological concerns.
This has been recently confirmed in Western medicine with the discovery of the sagittal sinus. (1-4) The sagittal sinus is a large vein just under the skull on the top of the head in the pattern of a Mohawk haircut. The lymphatic vessels that make up the sagittal sinus literally drain the brain. New research suggests that the brain lymphatics are related to mood stability and, when congested, can cause a host of brain, mental and emotional concerns. (5,6,7)
Many people have experienced benefits from the nasal irrigation technique, neti. (8) It is difficult to name another sinus-relief technique that is as effective.
In Ayurveda, neti was complete only when followed by nasya, a time-tested nasal treatment that literally takes seconds and works wonders – but these days, few people know about it!
Nasya is the sniffing of an herbalized oil into the nostrils. After neti, nasya lubricates the sinuses so that the salt water from the neti doesn’t dry out the sinuses. On top of that, the oil feeds the healthy microbes that live in the sinus cavity – supporting a cleansing effect and natural immunity against foreign microbes.
According to Ayurveda, nasya is one of the 5 most powerful cleansing techniques and is linked to optimal brain focus and memory. Nasya is said to cleanse the sinuses, particularly the sagittal sinus, where many old emotions are stored.
The upper respiratory system is lined with mucus membranes and fingerlike cilia that sweep pollutants and pollens through the sinuses into the stomach or lymph vessels (immune responders) that line the respiratory mucosa. In a healthy system, these toxins are then safely and quietly processed by the digestive and lymphatic systems.
It doesn’t take much in our modern world to irritate the mucus membranes and dry out or congest the cilia and, therefore, compromise the immune response.
Follow this Two-Step process to Sinus Freedom!
Step One – Clean the Sinuses with Neti
Neti is a nasal irrigation technique that uses saline to decrease nasal secretions (8) and rinse and de-congest the sinuses. This technique may provide relief from nasal and sinus congestion:
Neti – Nasal Irrigation Procedure
- Nasal irrigation is commonly done using a small, sterile vessel called a neti pot. Prepare a comfortable saline solution: mix 1/4 teaspoon of non-iodized salt into one cup of sterile warm water. Mucus membranes are sensitive and the ideal solution for nasal irrigation should be similar to your body’s blood temperature, salinity and pH. If you experience a slight burning sensation in your nasal passage, decrease the amount of salt.
- Stand over the bathroom sink or while in the shower, tilt your head slightly to one side and let the saline solution flow from the neti pot into the upper nostril, creating a good seal. Do not swallow during the procedure, as this could cause infectious material to move from the nasal passage into the sinuses or the ear. Breathe through your mouth.
- Allow the solution to drain from your nose out the opposite lower nostril. As the solution runs out of your nostril, you can blow gently to help remove any mucus and waste materials that are in your nasal passageway.
- Repeat 2-3 times for each nostril.
- When finished, bend at the waist and forcefully exhale through both nostrils for a final cleanse.
- Repeat daily for 2 weeks until sinus congestion resolves. Then use as needed.
- Be sure to thoroughly clean your neti pot before using.
Step Two – Protect the Sinuses with Nasya
While neti offers support for sinuses, the remedy wasn’t considered complete until nasya was also performed. As described briefly above, nasya is the administration of herbalized oil into the nostrils to cleanse, lubricate and purify the sinuses. Nasya is considered one of the most powerful therapies in Ayurveda, as it is reported to also have beneficial effects on memory, mind and emotional health.
In one study, 53% of subjects experienced significant benefits from sinus and respiratory concerns with nasya. (9)
Please Note: Nasya is not indicated for children under age 13 and is best performed during the daytime on an empty stomach.
Traditionally, a saline or salt water solution was used during neti to flush the sinuses. Salt water is very drying to the skin and will dehydrate the delicate nasal mucosa if not followed with lubricating nasya. There is no doubt that neti flushes the sinuses, but it can also leave the sinuses parched. Dry sinuses are easily irritated by pollutants, pollens and dry air, resulting in excess reactive mucus production and an endless cycle of congestion and post-nasal drip.
Excessive mucus production can congest the cilia, causing more serious sinus issues. This reactive mucus is often thin and silent in the form of post-nasal drip, and can trickle into the bronchials resulting in further irritation and a cough.
Nasya is a simple procedure where 2-4 drops of an herbalized nasya oil is applied into the nostrils and sniffed into the sinuses. Herbalized oils are used because plain vegetable oil molecules are too large to penetrate the lipid layer of the skin and are not moisturizing enough. Properly herbalized oils carry herbs across the lipid layer of the sinuses and deeply moisturize the mucus membranes. This lubricates the nasal mucosa and sinuses leaving them cleansed by the neti and lubricated by the nasya oil.
Most sinus problems originate with dry and irritated sinuses. Administering nasya is aimed at lubricating the sinuses so they are less reactive to dryness and airborne irritants. The result is a more complete therapy for the sinuses that won’t create a dependency on either therapy. The two sinus relief techniques are a powerful one-two punch for most sinus concerns.
- Nasya is best done immediately after neti.
- Use a properly prepared nasya oil, which is made by slowly cooking lubricating and soothing herbs into the oil.
- Warm the nasya oil by putting oil in the dropper and holding it under hot water until it is just above body temperature (test temperature on forearm). You can also warm the whole bottle in a cup of hot water.
- Tip head back as far as possible and exhale fully. If you like, you can lay on the edge of a bed or sofa. Drop 2-4 four drops of oil in each nostril and sniff the oil into the sinuses. Start with 2 drops and increase if comfortable.
- Use daily for two weeks after neti for sinus congestion and as needed thereafter.
- Nasya is best done on an empty stomach.
- It is best not to do nasya before bed to prevent dripping into the larynx.
- It is normal to taste the oil in the back of the mouth or to have some oil drip out of your nose for a minute or two after wards.
- Nasya is not indicated for children under 13. Children do not have a fully developed glottis and a small amount of oil can drip into the larynx.