Nasal Rinsing and Care

OK, how about if I call it “nasal rinsing” instead of snorting? But, now that I have your attention… In 1999, when I first learned of a study at the Mayo Clinic showing that 97% of sinus infections are associated with fungus, I became very interested in nasal rinsing. That study was supported by Dr. D.P. Dennis in 2003 who noted the effects of fungus in the environment.

The sinuses have very little blood supply; they are empty cavities in our face bones lined by mucous membranes. The hollowed out bones make your head less heavy. Your head already weighs as much as a bowling ball. Well, without sinus cavities, your head would be even heavier. Lining the sinus cavities is a thin mucus membrane that doesn’t have much blood circulation. So if your sinuses are infected, you are usually prescribed a strong dose of antibiotics. And it needs to be taken for more than just one week. What I want to tell you here,  is not how to treat conditions but to prevent problems from occurring in the first place . Here, I’m most interested in helping you stay healthy with detailed descriptions of all the tips and techniques that I’ve developed over the past four decades. And one of the most important is keeping your nose, sinuses and throat – where your tonsils reside –- healthy and balanced.

The Nose Knows

The average adult takes about 20,000 or so breaths a day!  What enters our lungs includes unnatural items like car exhaust and perfumes to natural offenders like pollen, animal dander, mold, mildew, fungus and dust. Winds blow and dirt, dust, pollen and mold spores fly through the air. They settle everywhere – including our nasal passages. Any foreign material can irritate the delicate nerve endings.

My job is to help you create a routine you can follow to help support the health of  your nose and throat. Why is this so important? Your nose and mouth are the entryway for infectious organisms. And nasal irritation may lead to head colds and sinus and lung conditions. Infectious organisms find it easier to get into your body through dry, irritated and cracked nasal passages. We do have nasal hairs that trap some of this debris and we do sneeze it out and blow it out, but nasal lubrication and nasal rinsing take you one step further. By sniffing oil and using the right techniques for cleaning your nasal passages and sinuses you help prevent these “nasties” from creating congestion in the first place. Nasal oil also works as a barrier between your nasal passage.

Nasal Lubrication

Especially in dry climates, which includes the heat of Arizona summers or the cold winters in the north. When the humidity drops with the furnace on, your nasal and sinus membranes dry up. Just monitor how dry your hands get in the winter. The same is happening to your sinuses. Even here in Maui, in spite of being surrounded by the ocean, it’s not that humid, so I a natural ointment in my nose every night. You can also use sesame oil. Put a small amount on the tip of your pinky finger and insert it into the nostril.

If you are doing your nasal lubrication every day, you may not need nasal rinsing at all. However if you do practice nasal rinsing remember that saline water can be a bit drying to your nasal membranes. Especially if you find you have to do it several times a day to get on top of your congestion. So, you can prevent that from happening by applying sesame oil regularly.

Other Oils: Olive oil and Vitamin E oil can also be used to lubricate the nostrils.

Nasal Rinsing

The benefits of nasal rinsing are age old. In fact, the earliest writings about this hygiene method are found in ancient Indian texts called the Vedas. Some people simply intake saline water from the palm of their hand. But the more common way is to use a neti pot. 

The Neti Pot

If you don’t want to use the palm of your hand to rinse your nasal passages then purchase a neti pot. It looks like an Aladdin’s Lamp. A small teapot with a long spout. Yes, the tip of the spout ends up in your nostril. First one nostril, then the other. The volume of most pots is 10 ounces. When you make your solution you can make a pint, which is 16 ounces in case you want to flush your sinuses twice. Ceramic is the most common neti pot sold in health food stores. You can also find ones that are glass, plastic or metal.

Nasal Rinsing Recipes

Isotonic saline (salt water that is about as salty as your body fluids)

1 level teaspoon salt-use fine sea salt so it dissolves completely

1 pint of water (filtered water, bottled, or distilled (to make sure there is no chlorine or fluoride in your rinse.) Warm the water and add salt. Use when warm, not hot.

Variation: Add 1 teaspoon baking soda (not baking powder). It’s sodium bicarbonate and it helps dissolve mucus.

Variation: Add 1 drop of tea tree oil or oregano oil for an antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial action.

Making Quantities: Boil 1 quart of water and use two teaspoons of salt and baking soda. Mix and store in a glass jar in the fridge. Use within one week. Discard if cloudy. Reheat when you’re ready to use it.

How to Use the Neti Pot

1. Make your favorite recipe. Lean forward and turn your head to one side over the sink. Keep your forehead about level with your chin.

2. Insert the tip of spout in the upper nostril so there is no leaking.

3. Using gravity, elevate the neti pot allowing the saline to flow through the upper nostril and then naturally come out the lower one. Don’t forget to breathe…through your mouth.

4. Use half the pot and switch sides. You can keep a finger in the pot to determine how much solution is left. Or you can use a full pot on each side, which uses up your pint of saline water.

5. Blow your nose gently to eliminate any remaining solution and clear mucus.

When to Use the Neti Pot

I don’t want people to become dependent on the neti pot. It can be drying to the nasal membranes if used too much. Daily oil in the nasal passages is allowed but not daily saline rinsing. However, you may be learning about the neti pot for the first time with this module.

And, if you have nasal congestion, you might want to use it daily for a week to see if it makes a difference in your symptoms. I haven’t used my neti pot at all since I moved to Maui but I did bring it with me. Then in the middle of writing this module a great wind began to blow down from Mount Haleakala and my nose started running. I guess it was all the dust and pollen. So I did a nasal rinse before a radio show this morning to clear my nostrils. It did the trick. 

Throat Gargle Recipes

What to Avoid

Avoid antiseptic throat gargles. The most popular antiseptic throat gargle, Listerine, is promoted as a safe antiplaque and antigingivitis remedy. With FDA approval. In a 16.7 oz bottle the total active ingredients are 4.3% (0.71) ounces and the inactive ingredients including 21.6% alcohol, make up the other 16 ounces!

Many think that the alcohol is really what’s killing the germs! At 21.6% in the flavored product and 26.9% in the original, that’s over 50 proof alcohol, which will kill most anything! Instead of a mouthful of chemicals and an alcoholic brew that you can’t drink, you can make your own gargle. You can make it salty and alkaline, acidic or spicy. You can also choose from some common herbs.

Saline Gargle

Hypertonic saline is salt water that is saltier than your body fluids. The second ingredient is baking soda. As I noted in the nasal rinse recipe, alkaline baking soda helps cut through mucus. Shifting the pH in the mouth and throat can kill off organisms that require a certain environment.

2 teaspoons of fine powdered sea salt

1 teaspoon of baking soda

1 pint of water

Directions: In the morning take a mouthful, gargle and spit. Do this 2-3 times. Keep a jar in your fridge. While making breakfast, you can pour out 2-3 ounces and let it come to room temperature. Then after breakfast and before you brush your teeth, your room temperature gargle will be ready.

Apple Cider Vinegar Gargle

This acidic gargle can help keep organisms at bay s that don’t like an acid pH. You can increase or decrease the amount of vinegar to suit your taste.

1 tablespoon organic apple cider vinegar

4 ounces of water

Directions: In the morning take a mouthful and gargle-spit it out. Do this 2-3 times. If you wish to use apple cider vinegar as a digestive aid, you can drink the remaining 2 ounces.

Lemon Juice Gargle

This is another acidic gargle that can be soothing and effective. You can increase or decrease the amount of lemon juice to suit your taste.

2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice

1⁄2 cup of water

Directions: In the morning take a mouthful and gargle-spit it out. Do this 2-3 times. If you wish to use lemon juice as support for your liver, you can drink the remaining 2 ounces.

Sage Gargle

Salvina officinalis, you may know this herb from your turkey stuffing days. But it’s more than just for the birds. It’s been around for centuries. Time-tested, inexpensive and it works. It has three oils that you may have used for respiratory conditions in the past – thujone, camphor, and eucalyptol.

Directions: Add 2 teaspoons dried or fresh sage to 1 cup boiling water, steep 15 min. Strain. In the morning take a mouthful and gargle-spit it out. Do this 2-3 times. If you wish to use sage tea as support for your lungs, you can drink the remaining tea.

Variation: Use 1 part sage tincture to 5 parts hot water.

Slippery Elm Bark Gargle

This herb contains its own form of gel that coats the throat in a way that can soothe and protect it. 

Directions: Add 1 teaspoon slippery elm bark powder to 1 cup boiling water and steep 10-15 minutes. Strain. In the morning take a mouthful and gargle-spit it out. Do this 2-3 times. If you wish to use slippery elm as support for your lungs, you can drink the remaining tea.

Marshmallow Root Gargle

This herb also creates a gel-like substance that coats the throat.

Directions: Add 1 teaspoon marshmallow root powder to 1 cup boiling water and steep 10-15min. Strain. In the morning take a mouthful and gargle-spit it out. Do this 2-3 times. You can drink the remaining tea to support your lungs.

Variation: Add 1 teaspoon of fresh ginger root or 1⁄2 teaspoon of ginger powder.

Calling on Cloves

Garlic Cloves

It may seem counterintuitive to suck on a clove of garlic when we’re talking about breath fresheners! But, I’m also speaking about gargles to prevent infection. Whenever I’ve gotten a scratchy throat or there are lots of colds going around, I’ve found that sucking on a clove of garlic prevents any germs from settling in my throat.


As a breath mint and antiseptic I’ve used cloves for decades. They helped me stay healthy and during the last 13 years, I haven’t missed a day..

Make It Happen

Nasal Care

1. Continue nasal lubrication with sesame oil.

2. Add neti pot treatments only if you have nasal congestion. Continue for 1 week, by which time you should have benefited. If not, then research dairy allergy, wheat allergy, yeast overgrowth, dust and mold allergies.

3. Use the neti pot for short periods of a week or so if you have a cold or hayfever.

Throat Care

4. Choose one of the throat gargles above and do it on a daily, or 5 times a week. You have several choices, which you can rotate. Use a different one every week or choose your favorite. People who have a history of smoking or lived in smoke-filled environments might favor slippery elm bark or marshmallow bark. People with digestive problems can use apple cider vinegar. And if you want to gently detox your liver, use the lemon juice gargle and drink.

5. Buy a bottle of organic whole cloves and use them as a breath freshener. Just gently suck on the clove. Don’t chew on it. Just let it sit in your mouth until it’s macerated, then you can either swallow it with water or spit it out. It’s a great anti-parasitic herb.

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