I seriously can’t talk or think about this without singing, “Neti pot, neti pot, oh neti neti pot,” to the tune of the 1950’s hit “Lollipop” by the Chordettes. You’re welcome, for that being in your head the whole rest of the day now!
I don’t know about you, but I’ve known about neti pots for years, but never envisioned myself using one before now! Hey, what can I say? Being a wellness blogger has already led me places I never expected, so this is just one more adventure that I’m more than happy to share with you!
I finally decided to jump in feet first because something, some type of tree pollen, has been making my nose tickle the last week or so. (I’m pinning blame on bayberry, because that’s the only new one on the dominant pollen list right now, and I was perfectly fine before it showed up!) If you’ve read my post about relieving seasonal allergies with bee pollen, you know that I swear by it unconditionally – it truly changed my life! However, while the bee pollen controls 95% of my reaction, certain things that I’m very allergic to can still cause a mild annoyance like tickling nose, a few sneezes, or itchy eyes. Sure, that’s nothing to write home about, but it’s still annoying! So I figured that I’d get a neti pot and try that for the next few weeks while this particular tree finishes its pollination, along with upping my dosage of bee pollen.
So, let’s start with the basics – what is it? A neti pot is a very simple device (that looks like a tiny watering can or teapot) used for cleansing the sinuses, done with a basic saline solution. The benefits of using a neti pot include: loosening/removing excess mucus, moisturizing dry nasal passages, and clearing dust, pollen, pollution, and other irritants from the sinuses.
Just like most other things that we Westerners “discover”, this process has been around for hundreds, even thousands, of years, taking root in the Hindu practice of Ayurveda. Likewise, it’s also been used by yoga practitioners as one of the six preparatory techniques for performing yoga. The logic was that clearer breathing would lead to clearer thinking, and, therefore, more successful meditation. Makes perfect sense, right?
From what I’ve read, neti pots grew in popularity here in the U.S. shortly after being featured by Dr. Oz on a 2007 episode of Oprah, which wouldn’t surprise me. But, hey, I can’t complain about that, because it made them readily available! In my brief exploration for one, I saw that my Walmart does carry one version that was out of stock. Target carries the NeilMed Nasaflo kit, which comes with a few mini packs of solution, for $14.39. I purchased my pot at Whole Foods for $12.99, although Vitamin Shoppe carries the same exact one (but online only) for $10.59. Likewise, Amazon has just about every type of pot out there at decent prices, which is great especially if you have Prime!
Without further ado, here is my Ancient Secrets neti pot, made by Lotus Brands, Inc. Isn’t it cute?! For being ceramic, it’s still quite light weight, and fits comfortably in my hand. Overall, the feel and finish give it a rather comforting, non-threatening vibe, which is nice being a first-timer. (Please note, the little packet of salt did not come with it – it was something I already had! All that comes in the package is the pot and the instructions.)
Setup is very easy. Simply wash and dry the pot before each use, then fill the pot with 1 cup (8 oz) of lukewarm water (never use straight tap water, and be sure that the water is distilled, sterile, or previously boiled). Then, mix in 1/4 teaspoon of any non-iodized salt, and stir until dissolved. (Note that sea salt isn’t recommended, because it can be irritating. I chose to use pink Himalayan salt, since I had it on-hand. It often gets misinterpreted as a pink version of sea salt, but it is a rock salt that is mined, not evaporated from sea water.) I’ve come across several sites that suggest to avoid using a metal spoon for dissolving your salt, so I opted for plastic just to be safe.
So, with my pot full, my hair tied back, tissues standing by, and the sink waiting expectantly, I went right at it! In case anyone is curious to see what the process looks like, I think a nice video speaks much better than simply reiterating what the instruction guide says. Here’s a quick video from the Himalayan Institute that makes it look easy as pie.
I’ll be the first to admit, mine sure didn’t go that easily! I started with my right nostril, since I felt more comfortable using my right hand first. When I first felt the water enter my sinuses, my initial reaction (no surprise) was to freak out and snort it out. Focusing on your breathing through your mouth helps calm the “Oh no, water! I must be drowning!” reflex. It took me several tries to get used to the feeling of water entering my sinuses, as well as also trying to find the right head angle. Without the right angle, it’s hard to get a flow going – there were a few points where the water wasn’t exiting out from below, so that was kind of an odd feeling! But, after trying different angles, I was able to find a pretty decent spot. (When it’s not the right angle, you’ll know immediately – you can kind of feel the water trickle into your throat or ear tubes.) Not surprisingly, when I switched to do my left nostril, I had a much better go of it. However, I still had a hard time finding my proper angle, so my exit stream on this side was a little stuttered and slow too.
While I think anyone can agree that trying this for the very first time can feel a bit daunting, now that I’ve done it once and know what to expect, I feel it’s going to get easier every time I do it. Once I’ve done it a few times, I bet I’ll even be able to get a nice flow like the woman in the video. The first hurdle is just being open to trying it! It’s not nearly as scary as it seems, and it certainly does not hurt or burn in any way. (I think we all remember that feeling of getting pool water up our noses as kids – oh the pain! It’s nothing like that, I swear.)
Having done it, I do see the allure of it. My initial reaction after finishing both sides was, “Man, do my sinuses feel squeaky clean!” It’s a hard feeling to put into words, kind of like trying to describe that clean feeling just after showering. I immediately noticed that I was already reaping the benefits – that annoying tickling sensation in my nose had gone away, and the little baby sinus headache I’d had was reduced by about 75%. Later that same evening, I noticed another awesome result – when I laid in bed, I didn’t experience my usual “sinus shift” of mild congestion! It’s one of my sinus oddities that I’ve had for as long as I can remember, so to not experience it was really rather odd, but a pleasant surprise nonetheless! In the days after my first trial, there were several other random times that I specifically took notice that my sinuses felt especially clear, definitely more so than usual. So, while it may not be the most enjoyable process ever, the results most definitely appear to be worth a few moments of awkwardness.
Even though the instructions that came with my pot say it can be done every day if needed, I’ve also read conflicting opinions online that doing it too often (even once a day) might be too much and could cause irritation. I’m sure there are circumstances where doing it daily are appropriate, but I personally don’t feel the need, and will probably only engage in this on an as-needed basis. However, I can definitely see where this would be a huge help for others struggling daily with allergies or recovering from a head cold/sinus infection!
All things considered, I give using a neti pot two thumbs up! I would certainly encourage anyone who’s curious to have a crack at it – just be willing to endure the initial learning curve, and you’ll be well on your way to super clean sinuses in no time!
Wishing you healthier, happier days!
Have you used a neti pot before? What was your first time like? Love it/hate it? Feel free to share your mulligans and bloopers, if you had any!