The sinuses are these tiny cavities in our head. Most of us never think about our sinuses until they give us grief and get blocked. Then we might experience problems such as hayfever or blocked sinuses that give us painful headaches. Every spring and summer pollen can irritate them and in winter sometimes a cold can develop into a sinusitis.
Let’s see why chronic sinus problems develop, and how to help them through Ayurveda.
Sinus problems are actually caused by an underlying imbalance in Prana Vata (the sub-dosha of Vata that governs the brain, head, and the mind) and Shleshaka Kapha (a sub-dosha of Kapha, which governs lubrication and moisture balance). The problem starts when these two sub-doshas are simultaneously imbalanced. Then another complication arises, that is Ama (toxins), the sticky waste-product. When Ama forms more sticky mucus, it can block the channels of the sinuses. Due to the restriction and blocking, Pitta dosha also becomes imbalanced, and inflammation occurs. Because all three doshas are out of balance, immunity is severely compromised. The body becomes a fertile ground for microbes, allergens, or viruses. Air pollution, stress, fluctuations of hot and cold weather, and lifestyle patterns such as eating cold, sweet, heavy foods, staying up too late, or not getting enough exercise can aggravate the imbalance.
How do I get relief?
Diet: Eat a Vata-Kapha pacifying diet. Eat foods that are not too hot, and also not too cold. Avoid extreme temperatures in food such as too spicy food or ice-cold foods and beverages. Favour cooked warm meals that are light, nurturing, and easy to digest. For example, for breakfast, you could eat a stewed apple with cinnamon, and for the evening meal try Kitchari or a light meal of stir-fried vegetables or a vegetable soup.
It is beneficial to use the following spice mixture for Kitchari or vegetables; 2 parts turmeric, 4 parts cumin, 4 parts coriander, 4 parts fennel, 1 part ginger and 1 part black pepper. Another spice mixture recipe is to roast whole cumin, coriander, fennel seeds and black pepper and then grind the mixture into a powder. Sauté the spices in Ghee and sprinkle on vegetables or grains. Or cook it with vegetables, for example in a vegetable soup. Or dry-fry them, put them in a small jar, and sprinkle it on your food if you eat your noon meal out. Garlic, horseradish, and cayenne pepper can also help to clear the sinuses.
Watch out for food intolerances: One of the most common dietary causes of nasal congestion is milk. Eliminating milk and dairy products for two weeks from your diet will tell the tale. Often the results can be dramatic. Eliminating milk and dairy products may cure sinusitis and fatigue in approximately 10% of cases.
Wheat, although less often than milk, can cause sinus symptoms. A wheat elimination diet is difficult but can be fruitful. You will find more info on wheat and gluten here. Likewise, other foods and food additives such as preservatives and even artificial sweeteners can cause problems. Try eliminating different groups either by yourself or with the help of a practitioner. As you might guess, it’s often the foods we like best that cause the trouble.
Watch your alcohol intake. Few people with sinus trouble can drink wine or beer free of trouble. Spirits, however, are generally better tolerated.
Drink: Plenty of hot water, Ginger Tea or/and sinus tea to loosen the nasal mucous and to allow the toxic waste that has built up to flow out. Homemade sinus tea; boil one liter of water, pour the water into a thermos, and add two leaves of basil, few thin slices of ginger, four leaves of mint, two pieces of cloves and 1/4 teaspoon of marshmallow root (or four peppercorns). Keep sipping this throughout the day, but make it fresh each morning.
Keep regular: Make sure your bowel movements are regular, to help detoxify the body. You can clean your body from the inside with an easy detox. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Avoid eating eggplant, banana, tomato and bell pepper, because according to Ayurveda these can clog the channels. Don’t skip or delay meals, because that will upset the digestive balance and cause more ama to be created. You can also try to take the herbal supplement Triphala to help stay regular.
Sesame oil: Lubricate and clean your nose with sesame oil. In Ayurveda, sesame oil is used for a variety of treatments and ailments, including sinus problems. It is antifungal, antiviral and possesses anti-inflammatory properties making it a great medicinal oil. Here is a link on Use Of Sesame Seed Oil For Sinus Relief.
Using a Neti pot: this is the yogic method of cleaning the nostrils and sinus pockets with a saline solution. It is especially beneficial if pollution, pollen or dust seems to be the problem. The sinuses have to be free in order to filter out the bad air particles and dirty mucus. The headaches are often the result of blockage as mucus does not seem to pass through the nose. Pollution and dust cannot be avoided and hence fighting the allergy through natural methods is always the best way. Here is more on how to use a neti pot. You can also buy a saline nasal spray in every pharmacy to keep your nostril moist and therefore be minimizing the effects of irritants.
Exercise: Exercise can be highly effective. There are two main benefits of exercise that will help your sinuses; improved breathing and increased circulation. It can open the nose, improve sinus drainage and help the body to heal. Regular exercise will also boost your immune system. Yoga can also be very beneficial. Best to ask your Yoga teacher for advice.
Steam: The best cure is steam which is easily done with the electric steam machine that serves as a perfect home remedy. One could also use some eucalyptus oil in the steam in controlled doses. Or if you don’t have an electric steam machine try a steam inhalation with some peppermint oil, eucalyptus oil or even better Easy Air oil by doTERRA or Olbas Oil (a combination of oils from Switzerland, also available in New Zealand). These provide quick relief for sinus headaches. The oils act as a decongestant, and the combination of warm steam and the essential oils is doubly effective for opening up the sinuses. You can also put a few drops of Easy Air essential oil onto a tissue or on your chest to get fast relief.
Herbal supplements: There are various herbal supplements available that can support healthy Sinuses and give you relief from sinus blockage, inflammation, and infection. For example, Congest X from the company Good Health contains a blend of key herbs and nutrients, including horseradish and fenugreek that are also used in Ayurveda. Also, the Ayurvedic supplement Septilin from the company Himalaya can help but should be taken for longer.
Be well. Best wishes,