The sinuses are air filled spaces in the face for the sound from the voice to resonate. There is not adequate drainage from the sinuses to the nasal cavity so they can become blocked easily trapping infection. When these cavities become inflamed and infected they can cause headaches, ear aches, post nasal drip, congestion, pain, pressure, face tenderness and a loss of smell. Sinusitis can be caused by stress, allergies, food allergies, structural issues (polyps or deviated septum), environmental issues (smoke, dust, air pollution, animal dander, etc.) or microbs (bacteria, virus or fungi). Long term, sinusitis can cause changes in the epithelial lining of the sinus cavity causing the growth of polyps which block the flow of mucus creating a breading ground for bacteria, thus perpetuating the problem.
When sinusitis becomes chronic, lasting more than 12 weeks or when it is reoccurring, happening more than 4 times a year, it can take a toll of the health of the entire body and on the mental health of the individual. So here I have provided some natural remedies to combat chronic sinusitis.
Herbs can be a great way to help alleviate the symptoms as well as help to balance out the body for long term relief. Helpful cooling herbs for sinus infections of a hot nature (yellow or green nasal discharge) include:
- Elder berries (Sambucus nigra): dispels wind-heat, resolves mucus damp, promotes detoxification, softens deposits and reduces inflammation.
- Echinacea root (Echinacea angustifolia, E. purpurea, E. pallida): reduces infection and inflammation, stimulates immunity, reduces allergies, dispels wind-heat, promotes tissue repair, and relieves pain and swelling.
- Andrographis (Andrographis paniculata): anti-infective, immunostimulant, and anti-inflammatory.
- Angelica root (Angelica archangelica): dispels wind -cold and wind-damp in the head, stimulates immunity and reduces infective.
- Cocklebur (Xanthium sibiricum): mucostatic, decongestant, anti-inflammatory, anti-infective and dispels damp-cold in the head (The fruit of this herb looks like little drill bits to help drill out sinus congestion).
- Magnolia bud (Magnolia liliflora): nasal/mucosal restorative, decongestant, anti-infective, anti-inflammatory, immune regulator and dispels damp-cold in the head.
- Horseradish (Cochlearia armoracia): opens the sinuses, reduces infection and promotes tissue repair.
Other helpful herbs include:
- Adaptogen herbs to help strengthen the body and strengthen any deficiencies that may be causing reoccurring issues. Such herbs include American Ginseng, Ashwaganda, Astragalus, Reshi mushrooms, Schisandra Eleuthero and Suma.
- Chinese formulas
While an infection is taking place, I find steam baths to be very effective. They help to promote drainage and decrease congestion. I take a pot of boiling water off the stove and set it on a chair or on the floor. Then I take a towel and create a tent over my head. Make sure you are careful not to burn yourself and have tissues ready because the drainage is pretty much immediate. Adding essential oils can multiply the benefits. Eucalyptus, lavender, peppermint, pine, tea tree and thyme are a few of the essential oils that might help. If you decide to use them you only need to add a few drops to the pot of water after you take it off the stove. I also think the neti pot is very helpful.
Personally, I feel that food allergies are a huge cause of many chronic and reoccurring sinus issues. There are certain foods that you may wish to avoid, either during an infection or long term. Dairy and wheat are foods that can increase mucus production and these are also foods that people tend to have food allergies to. Synthetic food coloring, preservatives, corn and sugar are also common allergens and can suppress your immune system. You may want to try eliminating these foods and then one by one add them back into your diet. This is a great way to see which foods you have issues with.
Overall there are many things that you can do to help alleviate the symptoms of chronic sinusitis; however, if this is an ongoing issue you may want to consult an herbalist to help identify the root of your sinus issues.
Battaglia, S. (2003). The complete guide to aromatherapy (2nd ed.).
Chester, A. (1996). Chronic Sinusitis. American Family Physician, 53 (3), 877-997.
Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: the science and practice of herbal medicine.
Holmes, P. (1996). Jade remedies a Chinese herbal reference for the West.
Holmes, P. (2007). The energetics of Western herbs: a materia medica integrating Western and Chinese herbal therapeutics (Rev & enl. 4th ed.).
Levy, J. d. (1997). Common herbs for natural health (Rev., expanded ed.).
Tierra, M., & Frawley, D. (1988). Planetary herbology: an integration of Western herbs into the traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic systems.
Tierra, M. (1998). The way of Chinese herbs.