Naturally Rockford: Wash your nose: Study shows natural treatment relieves sinus symptoms

Sinus problems typically drive many of the 70 million American sufferers to drug-based commercial remedies like psuedoephedrine pills or chemical nasal sprays. But a new study, published in the medical journal Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery, shows that the simplest approach might be the best—regular nasal washing with warm water and 2 percent saline. Researchers found that the all-natural treatment not only clears up sinus symptoms associated with cold and flu, allergies and sinusitis on a long-term basis, it is proven to improve overall quality of life in patients with sinus symptoms.

The findings could point to an effective sinus remedy for Americans who experience annoying or painful symptoms—brought on by common cold, allergies and air pollutants—but who have grown leery of antibiotics and other drug-based commercial products. A consumer survey conducted last year by Impulse Research found that 82 percent of sinus sufferers said that over-the-counter drugs they have tried do not provide long-term relief.

The solution, according to the new study, is in regularly cleaning the nose with a simple method based on the ancient yoga nasal washing pot.

“The nose is a complex thing that, by design, collects pollutants to prevent them from entering the body,” said Dr. Diane G. Heatley, a Madison, Wis., otolaryngologist. “But the nose itself needs to be cleaned regularly, or sinus symptoms will develop. This new study shows nasal washing with a neti pot to be an effective treatment for the root causes of sinus problems.”

The study is the first to follow participants using nasal wash treatment, or hypertonic saline nasal irrigation (HNSI), over a long period of time. Three primary outcome measures, including Sino-Nasal Outcomes Test (SNOT-20), all showed significant improvement over the 18-month trial. Secondary outcome measures including frequency and pattern of HSNI use, side effects and satisfaction showed that participants reported improved quality of life and frequent, satisfying use of nasal washing.

The 2 percent nasal wash solution was self-administered by participants through a SinuCleanse neti-pot. Results of the study showed decreased sinus symptoms, overall improved health and, particularly intriguing according to the authors, a decreased use of sinus medication among nasal wash users.

The study’s lead author, Dr. David Rabago of the Department of Family Medicine, University of Wisconsin Medical School-Madison, concluded, “The study strengthens the argument that HSNI is a safe, well-tolerated, inexpensive, effective, long term therapy that patients with chronic sinonasal complaints can and will use at home with minimal training and follow-up.”

The research results (“The Efficacy of Hypertonic Saline Nasal Irrigation for Chronic Sinonasal Symptoms”) can be found at the Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery Web site:, or at

These results add to initial studies that were done by the University of Wisconsin supporting nasal washing as a successful way to treat sinus problems over a short period of time.

“This study provides further scientific data to support nasal washing as a safe, effective and satisfying method for relieving and preventing sinus problems,” said Dr. Heatley. “Chronic sinus problems will not go away on their own. Like weight control, sinus problems must be managed over time.”

Dr. Heatley has been recommending nasal washing to patients of her ear, nose and throat practice for more than 10 years. In 1997, she developed a commercial version of the neti pot suitable for family home use. Now widely available in U.S. drugstores, the SinuCleanse system, manufactured by Med-Systems Inc., includes an unbreakable neti pot, dry ingredient packets for a comfortable saline rinse solution, and directions for use.

According to Heatley, nasal washing is safe for everyone, including children and pregnant women, because it is drug-free. And, because it is natural, there is no risk of drug interactions. The process treats the root of nasal problems using a saline rinse to remove thickened, bacteria-laden mucus from the sinus cavities. This soothes nasal passages rather than just masking the symptoms.

From the Oct. 12-18, 2005, issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!