This year has started with me having to slow right down due to illness. Feels like such a juxtaposition, new year and I felt that thirst and hunger to dive into all my projects. It is so symbolic isn’t it, that a new cycle or season can make us feel like anything is possible. So the lunar new year is my new year in 2017, Happy Year of the Rooster!
When we get these minor every day illnesses, it can be such a powerful reminder – we must never ever take our health for granted. You got your health? Good enough.
Not that I am saying we shouldn’t go for our dreams and live the life of our passions, we absolutely should go for it. But illness can teach us not to sweat the small stuff. It can also remind us that things need to change, be that diet, routines, personal situations and so on. It’s a good time often to reassess what’s going on.
That’s a rather long-winded introduction, to say, amongst other things, I ended up with sinusitis for almost a month. I felt like I was living underwater and as much as I am a water baby, this was not good! I could barely hear anything, my head pounded, my ears ached and I had zero energy. Anyone who has truly had it, I am not talking about a stuffy nose, will know how debilitating it can feel.
So lets take a look at how aromatherapy and some alternative therapies that can help you if you have sinusitis.
What is it?
Medically it is classified as inflammation of the mucous membrane.
What causes it?
Allergies, pollution and more commonly viral or bacterial infection. Quite common to develop sinusitis after having a cold.
What are the symptoms?
Pressurized feeling around the face and head, tooth, head and earaches, nasal mucus, sore throat, cough, fever, middle ear infections, cough and finally olfactory dysfunction.
This final point is recognized as having a significant impact on the quality of one’s life. When we lose our sense of smell it can decrease our appetite, as we lose our sense of taste, it stops us evaluating when a food may not be safe to eat, spoiled or rotten. You cannot detect safety hazards such as gas leaks and smoke and decreased sense of personal hygiene. It affects our overall mood and can be detrimental to people whose jobs depend on using the olfactory system, chefs, chemists, aromatherapists, fire fighters and so on.
Nasal sprays with varying ingredients. Apart from the steroidal ones, doctors advise using them for a few days only, as they can result in dependency and complicate your issues. Antibiotics are often administered if the symptoms worsen after 10 days or so, it is thought that even if the preliminarily infection was viral, if prolonged, it leads to a bacterial infection. Finally, surgery can be performed for chronic and reoccurring bouts.
Steam inhalation with essential oils which are decongestants and antimicrobial – will briefly minimize discomfort, but in my experience it doesn’t penetrate deep enough into the sinuses as a standalone treatment.
Nasal Saline Irrigation – or Neti Pots
This is my preferred method of treatment. Neti pots have been around for a long time, used in ancient yogic practices in India and part of Ayurvedic medicine and of course can be used even when you don't have sinusitus.
More recently the medical profession has at times endorsed their use for conditions like Sinusitis with varying results. Various controlled medical trials show daily hypertonic saline nasal irrigation, improves sinus-related quality of life, decreases symptoms, and decreases medication use in patients with frequent sinusitis. It’s not conclusive and of course there are also studies out there showing not much advantage. As always with these things, I encourage you to experiment sensibly and see what works for you.
What do I need?
One neti pot, available from health food shops or yoga studios, online and some natural finely ground salt.
Some boiled water (cooled) and if possible filtered. This is very important, you MUST boil the water. Two people in the US died after using neti pots with tap water, a brain eating amoeba known as naegleria fowleri was found in their water tanks. It is pretty unlucky this happened, but you don’t want to take any chances, as it can be fatal.
How to prepare the pot?
Wash your hands, then wash the pot well, sterilse with boiling water. Repeat for each nostril. Please follow good hygiene, or else you might be causing more problems.
Add around ¼ tsp of salt to the boiled water in the pot, let it cool to lukewarm.
I suggest you look up some videos on youtube of how to use the pot, rather than me explaining. A few things to bear in mind, keep your whole face soft, mouth open and relaxed. At times some water may leak out through the mouth. Just let it run out and do not sniff. Keep some tissues beside you and when finished, gently blow your nose. Let it clear all the mucous and debris.
Should I add essential oils?
Ok, so essential oils do no mix with water, they need a dispersing agent. Meaning if you just add to the water, it will not mix properly and clump together in the water, resulting in you getting one big 'hit' of the oil, not fully dispersed in the water. This could burn or damage your nasal passages.
Adding salt is designed to imitate your own body fluids, causing less irritation and of course salt is antibacterial too.
Honestly, I have personally used essential oils in a neti pot in the past and it has been fine. However, this is not best practice and I would not recommend doing it now.
So can I use essential oils at all?
Yes, you can combine steam inhalation with the neti pot. Suggest using the neti pot first and then doing a simple hot water steam with selected essential oils . Put 3-5 drops in around 1 litre of very hot water, place a towel over your head and inhale for around 30 seconds or what is comfortable. Please be very careful not to burn yourself with the hot and always do away from children.
What exactly will it do?
Potentially it will reduce inflammation, pain and potentially target bacteria or viruses with the use of the salt and oils.
To be used only in adults with no other medical conditions. If needed please check with a medical practitioner or qualified Aromatherapist for your individual situation.
How to store your neti pot?
Please clean, sterilise and air dry after each use. Ideally wash in a dishwater, but also ensure all small crevices are clean and not harbouring bacteria!
Which oils to use?
My top three choices are:
Peppermint - Mentha Piperita
Some clinical trials have been conducted with this oil and sinusitis, showing good results with reduced nasal congestion and less allopathic medication used for chronic sufferers. Many over the counter nasal products contain menthol, one the main active components of peppermint oil.
Eucalyptus – Eucalyptus Globulus
Another strong choice as the oil contains the chemical component 1,8 cineole, which is a powerful decongestant, and again control groups showed promising results.
Lemon – Citrus Limonum
This oil came highly recommended by one of my trusted teachers with many years experience. It is known as a immune stimulant and general antimicrobial.
A famous French medical doctor, Dr Jean Valnet born in the 1920s, was an army physician and subsequently dedicated his life to the research of herbs and essential oils. He pioneered a lot of research into lemon oil, his studies show it can potentially kill diphtheria bacilli, meningococcus, typhoid bacilli, staphylococcus aureus and even diphtheria bacteria. Please note, I am in no way recommending you self-treat any of these potentially life threatening bacteria with some home remedy of essential oils! This is just to illustrate the potential power and depth of lemon essential oil, its no mistake lemon oil extracts are often used in conventional cleaning products.
Or you could use, good old faithful Tea Tree (Melaleuca Alternifolia) too – this is such a great antimicrobial and can target the infection efficiently too.
If symptoms worsen or do not improve, please visit a medical doctor for a check up. As for myself, I actually could not shift the infection as my system was so run down and sleep deprived. I finally resorted to antibiotics, which cleared it very quickly. There is no shame in doing this, please be responsible with your health and always get medical checks when necessary.
Please only use this treatment for Adults. It is NOT suitable for children.