Frequent sinus pain can reduce your quality of life. Thankfully, there are many effective ways to treat sinus inflammation and sinus infections.

Time proven, all natural treatments certainly work. This simple approach to sinus treatment is not something that requires drugs to cure. Nasal irrigation is a greatly underrated, natural treatment.

“Neti potting” (another term for “nasal irrigation”) is one of the most effective natural treatments for reducing sinus pain and inflammation. A neti pot looks similar to a small teapot and is used to rinse out your sinuses. When filled with the “proper solutions”, neti pots are safe and effective. Sinus irrigation has been around forever and is increasing in popularity today.

Ceramic neti pot

Neti pots and other natural treatments

Anything that reduces inflammation should help reduce or eliminate sinus pain. Enough sleep, the quality of sleep and even changing your diet, all have an impact on reducing sinus inflammation.

When removing potentially inflammatory foods from your diet and getting quality sleep isn't enough, neti pots are something to seriously look into. To use a neti pot, you first fill it with a “proper solution”. You will notice I stressed “proper solutions”. There are different thoughts on what those solutions might be; but bottom line is… the more natural and simple you keep it; the better it is for you.

A proper solution can be simply warm saltwater, which is usually very effective all on its own is. There are also pre-made products on the market that contain sodium chloride (salt) and sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) as their only or primary ingredients. These two products are common everyday items, but when commercially sold are typically pharmaceutical grade. Some products sold over the counter may contain other additives or ingredients, but typically salt,  or salt and baking soda are all you need to treat most sinus related issues.

NEVER use tap water! Only use distilled water, as tap water can potentially contain microbes that you do not want to introduce to your sinuses.  Preparing a “proper” solution and rinsing your sinuses is typically done this way:

Use about 8oz of warm, not hot water (again… only distilled water, it is inexpensive and available anywhere) add the salt or prepackaged mixture; stir it in until completely dissolved.

Once the solution is completely dissolved, then hang your head over the sink or tub and pour about half (4oz) of the liquid into one nostril. Let it sit a moment and gently blow your nose. Repeat using the balance of the solution in the other nostril. If it burns a bit, you may have a slight infection.

Don’t let this burning discomfort keep you from treating again. Repeated rinsing in this manner will help heal the inflamed sinus tissue and that burning sensation will usually disappear after a couple of treatments.

Using a neti pot sounds kind of gross and can be somewhat uncomfortable at first, but it does work well; give it a chance. When using a neti pot correctly, the fluid goes in one nostril and out the other. The saltwater solution can kill bacteria without the disadvantages of using antibiotics.

Rinsing out your sinuses with saltwater is proven to work and is not a controversial treatment. Most ENT (Ear Nose and Throat) doctors as well as General Practitioners recommend nasal irrigation as an effective way to treat most minor sinus conditions. It is commonly accepted by most doctors that saltwater is anti-bacterial and that nasal irrigation with salt water has healing powers.

Do you need a prescription to get a neti pot?

No… these devices are inexpensive and available without a prescription. They can be purchased at nearly any drug store or pharmacy. Neti pots are safe enough to be available over the counter. You can also order them without a prescription on-line.

Neti pots come in a variety of forms. The tea pot styles are the most well-known, and come in plastic and ceramic versions. There are plastic squeeze bottles as well. Many times these bottles are included in the larger packages of solution mix. These squeeze bottles are pretty effective, but can be a bit abrupt the first time if you squeeze to hard.

The squeeze bottle is my least favorite. I find the tea pot style to be comfortable and easy to use, but my personal favorite is the battery operated pump style that operates on the same principal as the squeeze bottle but at a low pulsating pressure. We will talk about that later.

Are neti pots new? 

No, nasal irrigation has been around for hundreds if not thousands of years. The term “neti pot” is a modern term to describe the devices used to perform nasal irrigation.  Ancient Indian physicians recognized the effectiveness of nasal irrigation centuries ago. At the beginning of the twentieth century, British physicians began concentrated studies of nasal irrigation and found it to be an extremely effective treatment. 

Neti pots in traditional Indian medicine

Sinus rinsing has been a part of Indian Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. The Indian yogic tradition recommended flushing the sinuses with water, milk, or other liquids to treat health problems or clear the mind and make meditation easier. Early nasal irrigation was not done with neti pots, but with differently shaped containers.

The most common liquid for cleaning the sinuses has always been saltwater, which modern doctors still recommend today. Saltwater is used to treat sinus problems resulting from allergies as well as treating inflammation caused by infections and may also be effective in treating sinus headaches.

Ancient Indian physicians also recommended sinus irrigation because it can facilitate clear breathing. The term "neti" means "to guide”, which refers to guiding energy out through the nasal passages.

Many yoga practitioners recommend neti pots today. Even if a person does not suffer from sinus problems, anyone learning yogic postures and breathing are often encouraged to use a neti pot as well. 

Many modern practitioners of ancient Indian spirituality and medicine link the health of the sinuses to the whole body's health. While most of these claims are not always widely accepted by mainstream medicine today, there may be benefits to a neti pot that go beyond treating sinus problems. 

According to some people, a neti pot can boost your circulation, help with weight loss, and make you feel youthful and energetic. These claims are not backed up by science, but who knows? They might still be true. 

Possible further studies could prove that neti pots have far more benefits than those which are already well accepted. By treating infections and inflammation, neti pots might boost overall health, which very well might include things like weight loss. For now, all that is proven is that nasal irrigation treats sinus problems effectively and is healthy if done correctly.

Neti pots in more recent in current medicine

The British medical journal, The Lancet, published the first known review of nasal irrigation devices' effectiveness back in 1902. Although Western doctors studied neti pots relatively early, they were not commercially available until much more recently.

The first mass-produced neti pot widely available in the west appeared in 1972. Yoga international made the ceramic pots available to order. Even in 1972, they were not called neti pots, as that name is recent even though the practice is very old.

In the 1970s, neti pots were mostly for those who practiced yoga. This is no longer true, as they are becoming a common thing for anyone with certain health problems to use.

In the late 2000’s neti pots became well known and commonplace. Their promotion on television shows, such as the Oprah Winfrey show in 2007 and 2009, made them mainstream. It was then that they became recognized and accepted by western doctors, further helping them become commonly used.

Are neti pots safe?

With a clean, saltwater solution, neti pots have nearly no side effects. As mentioned previously, using tap water is not a good idea. In rare cases, tap water can contain bacteria and even brain eating amebas you do not want to introduce to your system. As long as you use a solution that doesn't contain bacteria, neti pots are perfectly safe.

Why are neti pots effective?

Neti pots work because they clear mucus and other debris out of your sinuses. If you thin the mucus, you can prevent irritation. Saltwater is also anti-bacterial, so it will work to help prevent infections.

Neti pots can also prevent complications after sinus surgery. Many doctors recommend neti pots after surgery to prevent crusting in the nasal passages. Salt also possesses healing characteristics

The sinuses also have small hairs, called cilia, which push mucus up into the throat or out the nose. Rinsing out the nose with saltwater helps the cilia work more effectively and keep the nose healthy.

Are neti pots expensive?

Not at all, you can get one over the counter for $5 to $30.

How should you use a neti pot?

First, make sure that the neti pot is clean. Then, add saltwater to the neti pot. Lean your head to the side and pour the solution into each nostril. Empty the pot completely; you will want to run as much fluid through your sinuses as possible.

Person tilting their head and using a neti pot

After you are finished, breathe through your nose deeply and quickly to clear the fluid out. Do this over the sink so that you don't get water everywhere, and have tissues with you. Clean your neti pot or put it in the dishwasher after you are finished.

Is a neti pot the only way to do nasal irrigation?

No, many people prefer other devices, neti pots are just one of the more popular choices. As previously mentioned, some companies produce devices in the form of bulbs, syringes, squeeze bottles and battery-powered devices.

How do battery-powered devices work?

Battery powered neti pot

Battery-powered devices do not pump water continuously. Instead, they pump water in soft pulses. When you use a battery-powered device, you typically do not have to tilt your head.

What are the advantages of squeeze bottles?

Squeeze bottles combine the non-battery powered simplicity of neti pots with the advantage of not having to tilt your head. Many people prefer them to either neti pots or battery-powered devices for this reason.

Are neti pots ok for children?

Typically young children can use them. According to the food and drug administration, they are safe for children over the age of 2.


Baby having sinus irrigation

Talk to a doctor or pediatrician first before you treat your child's sinus congestion in this way. A bulb device (resembling a small turkey baster) may be better than a neti pot, because it uses less water and may give the person performing the treatment, better control.

Do neti pots work for allergies?

Yes, many doctors are in favor of using neti pots to treat sinus problems caused by allergies. Allergic reactions are usually separate from bacteria and infections, but saltwater is still helpful with allergies.

According to a 2010 study published by the American Journal of Rhinology, nasal irrigation with saltwater is effective for rhinitis caused by allergies, not only rhinitis caused by infection. People with allergies that use nasal irrigation report an improved quality of life and less need for allergy medication.

Do neti pots work for pregnancy-related nasal congestion?

Neti pots have the power to treat sinus problems originating from different causes, and many women experience nasal congestion during pregnancy.

The American pregnancy association recommends nasal irrigation for treating nasal congestion during pregnancy. Nasal irrigation can also treat hypersensitivity.

How frequently should you use a neti pot?

You can use a neti pot daily without it causing any problems. Twice daily is common, upon awakening and again before bed, but you can use it as often necessary to treat your symptoms.

Are certain types of salt better than others?

Opinions differ on whether or not sea salt is better than ordinary table salt. Since pink Himalayan salt has anti-inflammatory properties, some people believe it works better for nasal irrigation. 

Other people recommend ordinary salt. According to Dr. Kathleen Dass of the Michigan Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology Center, ordinary salt is a better idea than sea salt.

One last thought… your sinuses are very close to your eyes and your brain. It only makes sense to consider the affects even a low grade sinus infection might have on both of these crucial and complex organs. Unobstructed breathing is also crucial to good health and good sleep. At the first sign of nasal congestion, would it be a good idea to try using a neti pot before taking over-the-counter or prescription medications?

Should you believe as I do that a natural approach should be the first line of defense… the choice is clear.