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The truth is, the neti pot is probably the best relief for spring allergies and nasal congestion that you will ever find.
Several years ago two people in Louisiana did die after using a neti pot for nasal irrigation.
The rumor that the neti pot was responsible spread faster than the brain-eating amoeba in the water, Naegleria Fowleri, that was actually responsible for their deaths.
If you, like millions of people, have a love/hate relationship with spring because of the misery of allergies, you owe it to yourself to try using a neti pot.
On the off chance that your aren’t yet familiar with nasal irrigation, jala neti is an ancient practice that is part of a daily hygiene and cleansing ritual, as proscribed in Ayurveda—the ancient healing art from India.
In more recent times and in Western cultures, it has become the best non-drug way to allay the miseries of allergies and nasal congestion. More and more, doctors are recommending nasal irrigation with the neti pot as an alternative to shots and other drugs.
I’ve been using a neti pot for at least fifteen years—long before it was either popular or controversial. Over the years, it seems everyone from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to WebMD has written about the benefits of using a neti pot.
Dire warnings about the dangers of using a neti pot have been issued too. However, the venerable National Institutes of Health issued an analysis that found nasal irrigation to be a safe and inexpensive treatment for upper respiratory issues.
For years, I have been preaching to my Yoga students and to just about anyone who mentions allergies, nasal congestion, mucous in their throats, or post-nasal drip, that the solution is Jala Neti or nasal irrigation.
It’s basically an anti-microbial flushing system. The neti pot is filled with warm water and ¼ teaspoon of salt. I always use sea salt because iodized salt will sting. It’s best to use finely ground salt so that it will dissolve quickly and easily. The solution is then poured in one nostril with the head tilted so it flows out of the opposite nostril. Then the procedure is reversed.
Dr. Marilene Wang, the director of UCLA’s Nasal and Sinus Disease Center described why it works in a Today.com Health and Wellness interview.
“The fluid is similar to what is in tears and it’s actually very soothing and cleansing to the sinuses,” Wang adds. “When you breathe air in in Los Angeles, it comes with a lot of particles. They land in the nose and irritate the tissue. People who have allergies have an overreaction and develop symptoms like thick sticky mucus, sneezing, and runny eyes. If you rinse out the irritants, you remove the trigger that incites the symptoms.”
Years ago, I was teaching yoga at American University in Washington, DC. In class one day, I explained the use of the neti pot to my students. They were much aghast and thought the idea sounded both scary and disgusting. It was spring in Washington, which is notorious for awful allergies.
That Saturday, I got a distraught call from one of the students, a music and voice major. “Professor Fleming,” she said, desperation permeating in her voice. “I have to record tomorrow and my allergies are so bad. I don’t think I’ll be able to sing. Where can I get one of those things your were telling us about?” I told her to try Whole Foods and to call me back if she couldn’t find one there.
The following Tuesday in class, all she could talk about was how wonderful the neti pot was. Needless to say, peer reviews are powerful and all the students with allergies rushed to get their neti pots.
While perusing Internet articles about Jala Neti, I found a lot of conflicting, and what I consider overkill advice. For example, because of the brain eating amoeba scare, many sources such as the CDC, in an abundance of caution, tell neti pot users to always buy distilled water or boil their tap water.
In my opinion based on 15 years of experience, if you know your tap water to be safe to drink, there is no reason to buy distilled water or boil your water. I have always used only warm water from my bathroom tap.
You also don’t need to buy special salt solutions sold in unnecessary packaging. Plain old sea salt will do. You do need to keep the neti pot clean. But even still, I simply rinse it out each time with the hottest water coming from the tap. I’ve had the same ceramic neti pot for 15 years. Do not ever, under any circumstances, share the your neti pot with anyone.
The questions have been asked, should the neti pot be used every day and should you use a full pot for each nostril? Well that depends on how severe your symptoms are. When I am in maintenance mode, I use one pot for both nostrils.
After watching quite a view videos on using the neti pot, I found this one to be about the best. So here’s to allergy relief this season!
Author: Gayle Fleming
Editor: Caitlin Oriel
Photo: Dennis Yang/Flickr