The season is upon us. Yes, the dreaded cold and flu season.
Staying healthy is always the ultimate goal, but if a sinus infection (also known as acute sinusitis) starts creeping up on you, there are a number of things you can do to help clear your sinuses naturally and boost your immune system to help fight the virus.
Contracting acute sinusitis is almost always the result of the common cold and, in most cases, home remedies are all you need to shake it within 10 days or less.
According to The Mayo Clinic, “acute sinusitis (acute rhinosinusitis) causes the cavities around your nasal passages (sinuses) to become inflamed and swollen. This interferes with drainage and causes mucus to build up.”
Other symptoms could include:
- loss of sense of smell
- increased mucus production
- green mucus in hue
- tenderness around the eyes or nose
- ear pressure
- mild headaches
- and even halitosis (1).
If you’re already congested or feel any of the above symptoms, there are a number of things you can do.
Below are 8 of the best natural remedies for clearing your sinuses, and we’ll begin with the loudest, and easily the most fun of all…singing your heart out!
Singing’s Role in Clearing Your Sinuses
Whether you’re a touring professional or a carpool karaoke legend, singing or humming on a daily basis has a ton of health benefits – and keeping your sinuses clear is one of them.
The whole idea revolves around keeping your air passageways clear. Sinus infections occur when the sinuses are inflamed, clogged, and trapping air, germs, bacteria, and pus inside the nasal cavity.
The New York Times suggests you clear your sinuses naturally by humming or singing to alleviate the pressure. Singing forces you to control your breathing and take deeper breaths which naturally improve ventilation in your nostrils (2).
A small but telling study published by The American Journal of Respiratory Critical Care Medicine found that humming, and by extension singing, “greatly increases nasal nitric oxide (nNo).” As one of the most important molecules for blood vessel health, every cell in our body produces nitric oxide. It relaxes the inner muscles of our blood vessels causing them to expand which increases blood flow and lowers blood pressure (4).
By extension, nNO is produced in the upper airways and directly aids natural defenses against germs, bacteria, and other pathogens by preventing buildup as well as helping regulate mucus production. Rightly so, the study suggested the therapeutic effects of humming and singing should be investigated further (3).
And that’s exactly what happened a year later when a second study was published by the European Respiratory Journal and concluded that humming on a daily basis increases nNO production and decreases the risk of having chronic sinus problems (5).
If that’s not a glowing endorsement of singing, we don’t know what is.
For those of us lacking a singing voice, you may still be asking yourself, “how can I unblock my sinuses?”
Lucky for you, there are a myriad of safe and natural home remedies to help answer that question!
- Diet – Limiting inflammatory and mucus-causing foods like dairy, sugar, and alcohol, while increasing consumption of anti-inflammatory foods, such as turmeric, will help relieve your sinuses. Natural Wellness’s Turmeric 95 is a supplement that gives you all of the anti-inflammatory benefits of turmeric. It is formulated to contain 95% curcuminoids, the ingredient in raw turmeric that is responsible for its anti-inflammatory actions. Additionally, adding a bit of lemon or lime juice to your water may also help break up the mucus, and upping your water intake in general will also help break down mucus.
- Your Tongue and Your Thumb – This may sound silly, but Reddit user Adam Dachis purports that applying the right pressure with your tongue and thumb may alleviate your sinus pressure. After exhaling all of the air from your lungs Adam advises you to, “push your tongue against the top of your mouth and place a finger between your eyebrows and apply pressure. Hold it for about 20 seconds (or as long as you can) and your sinuses will begin to drain.” While this may sound like a snake-oil remedy, the explanation for why it works is about as simple as it gets. Creating mechanical pressure on the sinuses will hopefully force the clogged mucous to drain (7). However, the technique’s success will be dependent on how thick the mucus in your nasal passageways is.
- Acupressure – Many pressure points on the body have been accessed to provide relief for a number of ailments. The V point between your thumb and forefinger is directly tied to your large intestine, but can also help with sinus congestion. However, don’t access this point if you’re pregnant. Directly below the center of the eye above the cheekbone is another point that can help drain the sinuses. A third helpful pressure point that can help clear the sinuses and alleviate pressure around the eyes, a symptom of acute sinusitis, is found on the inside corner of the eyebrows.
- Sinus Clear – While many of the homeopathic remedies are time consuming and a bit arduous, Natural Wellness’s Sinus Clear is a natural supplement tincture comprised of a potent combination of herbs that is easy to take and can provide you with the same, if not better, results than most homeopathic remedies. Just place 15 drops directly under your tongue or mix in water or juice. It’s fast acting, clears congestion, and also stimulates your immune system to fight off infection and promote overall health.
- Spicy Foods – Spicy foods will offer short-term relief causing your nose to run and your sinuses to drain. However, researchers David S. Cameron MD, and Raul M. Cruz MD, both from the Department of Head and Neck Surgery at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center on Oakland, CA explain that when they tested the effects of wasabi consumption on the sinuses the relief was temporary and that “while there is a trend towards a subjective increase in the sensation of nasal airflow, and certainly a widely held misconception by the general public that eating wasabi decongests the nose, it actually congests the nasal mucosa.” So wasabi can actually increase mucus production over time, making it less of a cure, and more a short-term reliever of acute sinusitis symptoms (6). If you need that short-term relief, or just want to taste something again, spicy food may be the ticket, but don’t count on it as a cure.
- Take A Shower – Another short-term solution to unblocking your sinuses may be taking a nice, hot shower. Steam from the shower will help loosen and drain the mucus trapped in your sinuses, offering temporary relief.
- Steam It Out – The neti pot is a time-honored way to help your body break up the mucus, but if you don’t have one you could “McGuyver” one out of a cotton ball, a humidifier, and any essential oils you may have lying around. Put a drop or two of the essential oil on the cotton ball and set the cotton ball over the humidifier. The humidifier and cotton will diffuse the essential oil, hopefully alleviating your congestion and generally making your space smell delightful.
- Beeswax Candles – While most candles are currently made of paraffin, a byproduct of crude oil production (and not surprisingly bad for sinus and respiratory health), 100% beeswax candles have the purported opposite effect. This is because beeswax produces negative ions in the air, which act as natural air purifiers, cleaning dust, mold, bacteria, viruses, and other pollutants (8).
Whenever you feel acute sinusitis symptoms and find yourself pondering “how do I unblock my sinuses naturally,” rest assured there are plenty of safe and natural options (such as singing, taking a shower, and acupressure) without having to consult your physician.
Acute sinusitis usually clears up naturally within 10 days. But if it doesn’t, that’s when your acute sinusitis may be making a turn towards being chronic and you should head to the doctor.