What Do You Know About Neti Pots?
Given its recent entrance into Western culture, I’m sure you’ve heard about the neti pot. Maybe you have been guided towards it as a sinus-clearing method by a natural-remedy-kind-of-friend; perhaps you’ve read an article about a neti pot’s magical effects. I know that when I was first introduced to it, I was totally mystified: I’m supposed to pour salt water into one nostril and it’ll just come out of the other? Won’t the liquid get lost in my head? Won’t it hurt?
I’m happy to report that no, the water will not get lost in your head, and if done correctly, it won’t hurt a bit. I’m here to shed some light on theneti’s background and amazingness, and give you some pointers on how to use it effectively.
Yogis in India and parts of South East Asia have used the neti pot for centuries. “Jala Neti” is a Sanskrit term for “nasal cleansing,” and was – and continues to be – part of their ritual cleansing practices. These guys were onto something – irrigating your nasal passages removes dust, dirt, pollen, and other debris from the top of your respiratory tract. Your nasal passages are the first line of defense in keeping intruders out, so cleaning them can minimize the effects of seasonal allergies, and take the pressure off of cold symptoms. Flushing will reduce inflammation and provide pretty immediate relief.
Intrigued? First, get your hands on the vessel. There are so many varieties of neti pots out there but I prefer ceramic over plastic (here’s a nice one). Next, figure out what kind of water to use. You can boil tap water water and let it cool, or use semi-warmed, filtered water. If you choose to boil, be sure you let it bubble for about 10 minutes to get any intruders outta there. Regardless, lukewarm temperature is ideal.
Let’s Get Neti Pot-ing!
Lastly, the salt: It’s the salt that really makes the solution detoxifying, so this is an important component. I recommend this pure, non-iodized salt from the Himalayan Institute.I like buying from them because the salt is certified pharmaceutical grade and guaranteed to have no anti-caking agents or other questionable additives.
Once you have the proper accouterments, you can get going:
- Add ¼ tsp of non-iodized salt to 8 oz of warm sterile water in your neti pot.
- Open your mouthslightly, and tilt your head to one side and put the spout in the opposite nostril (i.e if you’re tilting left, spout in right).
- Relax your face and let the liquid stream through one nostril and pour out of the other. Some water may come out of your mouth, but most should exit through your opposite nostril. This is not an intellectual process; just let it happen.
- Continue on one side for about 10-20 seconds – you’ll know what’s right. Once you finish one side go ahead and spit, cry, laugh, whatever you need to do, then proceed to the other nostril.
- Take a few strong exhales to clearthe water out of your nose, then grab a tissue and give a good blow.
- Most importantly; stay calmduring the process. You’re doing something a little weird, yes, but you’re cleaning out and giving yourself some profound self-care.
I prefer irrigating alone, but if you find yourself in a group situation, go for it. (Brief aside: I was at a wacky wellness retreat in Nepal where a very hodgepodge group of ten would start the day with an outdoor neti session. There’s nothing like communal nasal clearing to greet the day.)
Living in a polluted environment like New York, I like to neti once or twice a week year round. Some people simply do it daily when they feel a cold or sinus infection coming on. Here’s to your next (or first) neti pot adventure! P.S. A quick note about water: The FDA warns against using non-boiled tap water as the rinse, and notes to watch for any unsavory symptoms like nosebleeds or headaches when using. Although I’ve never experienced symptoms like this, always be sure you are using filtered, clean water.