Several clinical studies have found sinus lavage with hypertonic saline solution quite effective for the treatment of chronic and acute sinusitis. In one study, patients with severe chronic sinusitis and significant pathologic changes to their sinuses were treated with hypertonic or normal saline. These patients had long histories of antibiotic, decongestant, and steroid medication use. No medications were used during the study. Complete relief of the majority of symptoms and a reversal of abnormal sinus changes were found only in the hypertonic saline group.
People with chronic sinusitis have been shown to have abnormally functioning and damaged cilia lining their nasal and sinus passages. Cilia are microscopic hairs, beating 16 times per second they move secretions, dirt and bacteria along and out of the respiratory system. This is essential for proper drainage, hygiene, and maintenance of healthy tissues.
Hypertonic sinus lavage works by increasing the activity of the normally sluggish or inactive cilia found in chronic sinusitis sufferers. In addition, hypertonic saline reduces swelling and edema as fluids are drawn out of tissues via an osmotic gradient. The solution has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It also aids in dissolving and mechanically breaking up crusts and tenacious secretions.
How to Do Hypertonic Sinus Lavage
- Add 1 and ½ teaspoons of salt to 8 ounces of warm water. Use a measuring spoon, not a teaspoon from your silverware. This will make enough solution for several days. Pickling or kosher salt is best because it is pure salt, but table salt is fine. Do not use sea salt.
- Fill the glass dropper between ¼ and ½ the way full. You don’t have to be precise here. The dropper will enter your nose. To prevent bacterial contamination of prepared solution, pour off a small amount of into a separate container for each single use. Cover and store in the refrigerator. You may warm the solution before using. Do not place hot solution into nose.
- Standing next to a sink, tilt your head backward so that you are looking at the ceiling. Place the dropper just inside one nostril and squeeze the solution into your nose. You don’t need to place the dropper deep into the nose. A quarter of an inch inside is fine.
- The solution will run toward the back of your throat very quickly. Just before it drips into your throat, tilt your head forward over the sink and let the solution drain out of your nose. Perhaps only a drop or two will come out. Don’t worry if salt drips into your throat. It’s safe, but may be unpleasant. If your nasal and sinus passages are dry, irritated or bleeding, you may feel some burning. This sensation will pass in a day or two as the salt solution helps heal your tissues.
- Repeat the procedure for the other side of your nose. You may feel the need to blow your nose. It is important to blow your nose very gently. Or simply dab your nose with tissue if solution continues to drain. After a half-hour you may blow your nose with more force if necessary.
- Wash dropper with water after use. Store in tincture bottle filled with rubbing alcohol. Rinse dropper with water to remove alcohol before next use.
- Do the above procedure 3 times daily for ______ weeks.
Reflexology for Sinusitis
One study found the daily stimulation of reflexology points to be as effective as daily hypertonic sinus lavage in treating chronic sinusitis. If you would like to enhance your treatment, try adding reflexology to your sinus lavage regime.
On the side opposite the nail on the tips of all 10 toes and all the fingers - except the thumbs - are reflexology points. These points correspond to tissues of the sinuses.
Apply pressure using the thumb and index finger for 20-30 seconds 1 to 3 times daily to each of the 18 points indicated on the diagram, use enough force to cause some discomfort. Tender areas will guide you to the right spot.
What Should You Do Next?
The doctors at The Connecticut Center for Health are quite experienced in how to treat acute or chronic sinusitis.
If you would like to learn more about natural medicine approaches to sinusitis, contact one of our clinics for a free consultation or an appointment.
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- Clinical study and literature review of nasal irrigation. Laryngoscope. 2000 Jul;110(7):1189-93.
- Hypertonic saline for chronic sinusitis. J Fam Pract. 1998 Aug;47(2):94.
- Treatment with hypertonic saline versus normal saline nasal wash of pediatric chronic sinusitis. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1998 May;101(5):602-5.
- Mucociliary clearance and buffered hypertonic saline solution. Laryngoscope. 1997 Apr;107(4):500-3.