I get questions nearly every week on my Facebook wall about natural remedies for sinus infections. Sinusitis can be downright miserable – your whole head throbbing with pain, congestion, plus a raw nose from constant blowing. I see folks in my office all the time in search of ways to treat sinus infections without antibiotics, and thankfully there are some super effective natural remedies for sinus infections that will effectively treat and prevent this condition.
Many folks run to their doctor for antibiotics when a sinus infection strikes, and 20% of adult antibiotic prescriptions are being written for sinusitis. A recent study, however, shows that “a 10-day course of amoxicillin compared with placebo did not reduce symptoms.” (source) It is estimated that at least 90% of sinus infections are actually caused by viruses, which are completely unaffected by antibiotics. (source)
Not only do they often not work, but antibiotics wipe out both the harmful and beneficial bacteria throughout the body. Even if they do work, frequent use reduces their effectiveness, and side effects from antibiotic can include digestive upset including diarrhea, cramping, and indigestion, yeast infections, allergic reactions and more.
Luckily there are safe and effective natural remedies for sinus infections that will end your suffering.
Natural Remedies for Sinus Infections
Break the cycle with sinus irrigation
Many folks love the classic neti pot, which looks like a stout tea kettle. With your head tilted to the side, a stream of saline water is poured through the nasal canal. Some find that the sensation of water going up your nose feels unbearably like inhaling a swimming pool, but with practice, this technique can bring you quite a bit of relief.
My kids' holistic dentist did some research of her own and found that of all the nasal irrigation systems on the market, the NeilMed squirt bottle is the most effective at irrigating high into the turbinates of the sinus cavity. Even for head colds, this has cut the recovery time for me by at least half.
She also recommended the addition of 1/4 teaspoon of xylitol to the solution of water, salt, and baking soda – which can help to penetrate through thick mucous and inhibit harmful bacteria from thriving in the sinuses. You can order an inexpensive NeilMed here.
Now, let me be clear: xylitol itself does not grow on trees, it is made in a lab – traditionally from birch and more often from corn. (source)
Before you get in a huff because xylitol is not really natural, I'm not suggesting that you start making baked goods or sweetening your tea with this stuff. Used occasionally as a sinus rinse or regularly in toothpaste, xylitol seems to really help without causing harm – and thankfully there are non-GMO options like this one.
Don't over do it, though – overuse of sinus rinsing (constant use for more than a couple of weeks) can can interfere with the body’s natural processes, and it's best to treat the reason why you are getting sinus infections in the first place.
Heat or cold?
For most cases of sinus congestion, heat brings pain relief and helps to unblock congestion. If you have extreme burning and inflammation, however, you may find that a cold compress helps to cool the irritation. This herbal eye pillow can help whether you need heat or cold.
Treat the root causes of your sinus infection
The human body works synergistically, so when one area is out of whack the whole body experiences disarray. For example, digestive imbalance may lead to sinus issues. This is because digestion plays a key role in immune health. Both of these can be exacerbated by a stressed nervous system.
Probably the most important way to address the root cause of sinus infections is to incorporate probiotics. These essential strains of bacteria are the good guys that keep harmful bacteria in check in the digestive tract and sinuses.
There are two ways to get probiotics – through food or supplements. Foods rich in probiotics include yogurt, kombucha, unpasteurized miso, and naturally fermented sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles and more. While probiotic foods should be adequate in healthy individuals, those with health issues should also take a probiotic supplement such as this one.
Some folks find that doing sinus irrigation containing the contents of a probiotic capsule is extremely helpful in healing from sinus infections and re-establishing healthy flora.
Both empirical evidence and studies show that to support a strong immune system, it is essential for the body to have adequate vitamin D levels. Yet most folks are walking around deficient in this essential nutrient.
The body’s cells need vitamin D to trigger the immune response to bacterial threats. (source) And people with with low levels of vitamin D are more likely to develop a respiratory tract infection. (source)
The best way to get vitamin D is through daily sun exposure, and you can read about how to get vitamin D in winter here.
Antioxidants (like vitamin C) do not directly act against bacteria and viruses, but they greatly reduce cell damage by neutralizing free radicals. When cells are not being damaged by free radicals the body has more fortitude to defend against infection.
Antioxidants are a daily, essential part of good health, but the trick with using antioxidants to fend off a sinus infection is to be sure to catch it early. Once your head is throbbing and compacted, you may slow or reduce your symptoms but you can’t ‘cure' your infection by taking antioxidants or eating antioxidant rich foods.
Read more about antioxidants and other immune support supplements in this post on common cold remedies that really work.
Acupuncture and Chinese herbs
One of my favorite tools for my patients suffering from sinusitis is called a tiger warmer (don't you just love Chinese names for things!), which gently heats the affected areas to support healthy drainage. That combined with a few acupuncture needles usually has patients getting up from the treatment table already feeling better.
They are then sent home with an herbal formula that will support healthy digestion and immune function, reduce inflammation, and resolve phlegm – treating both root cause and symptoms of their sinus infections.
Colloidal silver can be taken internally or used in irrigating the nasal canal, but among all of the natural remedies for sinus infections, I prefer to use this one only as a last resort.
For the most part, colloidal silver is safe to use but should not be taken daily for long periods of time – not because it will turn you blue or build up silver in your system, but because its capacity to destroy microorganisms cannot distinguish between beneficial and harmful bacteria.
Using food as the best prevention
It should go without saying, but one of the ways to prevent or heal infection is through healthy eating. Read 16 ways to adopt a real food diet here.
For starters, you definitely want to avoid processed foods and sugar as well as conventional, pasteurized dairy – especially during an acute bout of sinusitis.
Eat plenty of fat, homemade broth, and fermented foods to support your recovery. You can learn more about immune boosting foods here.
Do you suffer from sinus infections? What natural remedies for sinus infections have you found work best?
*Just a reminder: Information in this post should not be mistaken as medical advice. While I am a health practitioner, I am not your health practitioner, so please consult with your own qualified practitioner to determine the best course of action for your health.