A stuffy head, endless sneezing and sinus congestion are signs that pollen and pollution are getting the best of you. Many people resort to over-the-counter drugs to alleviate the anguish of allergies. Well, this season, fear not, because there are some simple, effective ways to eliminate or improve your allergy symptoms that are also cheap and natural.
The Great Neti Pot
The use of a neti pot has its roots in ancient yogic practices where clear breathing passages were essential to proper yoga practice. This little pot is used to pour warm water into one nostril at a time in order to clear the nasal passageways, wiping out the inflammatory garbage that gets stuck in your sinuses. The first time I used a neti pot I was shocked at how effective it was in such a short period of time.
Neti pots are abundantly available online from $8-$15 and neti salt typically runs $2-$3. Once you have a neti pot, the first step to allergy relief is readily within your grip.
Use as much filtered water as your neti pot will hold. Warm up the water until it is just warmer than room temperature. Warm water works better at dissolving mucus than cold water. Add a touch of the neti salt to the warm water. Once the salt dissolves you can pour the water into your neti pot. Turn your head sideways over a sink and place the neti pot into your nostril. The trick is to relax as the water is pouring through your nostril, otherwise it may be a bit of a rough ride the first time you do this. The water should flow out of the opposite nostril, but some may go down your throat if you have a lot of congestion initially. Just spit out any water that goes down your throat.
If the water isn’t flowing easily, it means you have a blockage in your nasal passage. This may be the case for people who have chronic allergies and it represents an accumulation of inflammatory material, which needs to be removed. Gently relax and inhale slightly through the nostril you are cleaning to help the water flow upward and eventually it will flow. For beginners, I recommend using half the pot for each nostril. Initially, you can go back and forth from nostril to nostril until the pot is finished; eventually, you will be able to do an entire pot for each nostril. After your first use of the neti pot, you may see a drastic reduction in your symptoms. I recommend repeating this process for 7 days initially and then once a week after that during allergy season.
It is important to keep your neti pot clean, sanitized and dry to avoid the growth of microorganisms in your pot.
Nasya is an ayurvedic practice that is used to treat stress-related problems, headaches, neck pain, anxiety and mental fogginess. It is also a year-round treatment to prevent and treat seasonal allergies. Nasya helps to remove toxins that accumulate from the upper part of your body by opening up the lymphatic channels and allowing the toxins to be removed through your nasal passages.
Typically, cured sesame oil is used for nasya. To cure any oil, you simply place it in a pot over medium heat and add a drop of water. When the drop of water pops, the oil is cured. The sesame oil can be used alone or herbs can be added to the oil to help treat specific conditions. Nasya is an all-natural cure for sinus inflammation, which is the main cause of chronic sinus congestion and allergies.
Nasya oil is typically applied in each nostril through a small dropper. I suggest using about 3 drops in one nostril and then inhaling while pinching the other nostril closed with your index finger. Inhale strongly and allow the oil to go up into your sinuses. If any of the oil spills down your throat, spit it out. Repeat the process on the other nostril. It may feel as though you need to blow your nose at first, but resist the urge because the effectiveness of the treatment is based on the oil’s ability to permeate the sinuses. Typically, nasya is done every morning, but in the beginning you may need to do it a couple of times a day until the inflammation lessens.
Most people suffering from allergy symptoms don’t realize that the foods they are eating may be contributing to their symptoms. In ayurveda, allergies are directly linked to digestion and changing the way you eat is an important part of controlling your allergies. People with allergies should avoid the following foods in particular:
- Oily foods, especially deep fried
- Cold beverages
- Cold foods, especially ice cream
- Canned foods
In ayurveda, these foods are believed to clog the digestive system and result in excessive mucus formation. Instead, you want to eat foods that are warming and disperse toxins from the body. This includes spices like black pepper, cinnamon, garlic and ginger. Also, load up on green, leafy vegetables and drink plenty of warm water through the day.
The neti pot alone may bring fast relief to your allergy symptoms, but using all three tools may help stop your allergies from returning next year.