Experiencing sinus congestion can really stuff up your day! Be it a blocked nose, headache, or uncomfortable facial pressure, many of us have suffered through these common sinus symptoms without relief. But a heavy head doesn't have to linger for days or weeks, it can easily be managed with everyday natural solutions. 

Below we explore common causes of nasal congestion so that the root cause of the issue can be addressed. Key approaches to help clear and control symptoms are also discussed, so that you may use the power of natural medicines and traditional techniques to help you breathe easy and achieve healthy airways.

Common cause and symptoms of nasal congestion

Types of sinus congestion:

  • Sinusitis – viral or bacterial origin, associated with upper respiratory tract infection
  • Allergic rhinitis – triggered by exposure to pollen, mold, animal dander, dust, food allergy
  • Obstruction – nasal polyp
  • Tooth infection

    Common symptoms: 

    • Increased nasal mucous drainage – may be thick, purulent or discolored. 
    • Nasal congestion
    • Facial pain or pressure – worse when bending over or lying down
    • Tenderness over sinus – often associated with infection
    • Loss of smell

    Other common symptoms typically associated with the common cold; headache, fever, cough, fatigue, or ear pressure.

    3 key approaches to improve sinus and airway function naturally

     1. Increase mucous clearance 

    Increase mucous clearance first priority to improve airway function is increasing removal of any mucus that is contributing to sinus congestion. Stimulating the liquefication and elimination of mucus can be achieved by the following natural techniques and herbal medicines.

    • Steam inhalations

    These are long-standing traditional remedies, like the old wives' cure of hot chicken soup, where the inhaled hot air helps to break up and soften nasal mucus so it is much easier to clear. 

    Medicinal herbs may be used in inhalations for extra therapeutic benefit as botanical plants such as Chamomile, Thyme and Eyebright can help to soothe and support inflamed sinus tissue. Simply add a tablespoon of fresh or dried herbs to the steamy water and inhale deeply. 

    • Nasal Irrigation

    Nasal rinses are another common method for helping to clear the nasal passage. Mucus is mechanically cleared away as warm saline solution is gently poured into each nostril while the head is tilted back, then allowed to drain out. 

    The topical application of saline also helps to remove common allergens that may trigger allergic rhinitis such as pollen, dander, and dust.

    • Mucolytic herbs

    A group of herbal medicines known as mucolytics have the ability to thin mucosal secretions and make them easier to expel out of the body. 

    Often found in your home kitchen, Fenugreek, Fennel, Horseradish, Garlic and Onion are excellent expellers and are ideal when there is a large buildup of thick and stringy mucus. 

    To use these common herbs for nasal congestion simply add to steam inhalation, consume with food at increased intervals and/or speak to one of our Naturopaths in-store for a personalised herbal formula.

    • Mucolytic nutrients

    Nutritional supplements such as N-Acetylcysteine (NAC) and Vitamin C have shown promising results in research evaluating mucus clearance. Both work by increasing the activity of mucosal cilia, the thousands of tiny hairs that line the inside of our respiratory system (nose, ears, lungs). Their role is to create a sweeping-like motion by moving back and forth, moving any debris out of our airways. Thus, as NAC and Vitamin C increase the cilia beat frequency, mucus clearance is sped up. 

    NAC and the proteolytic enzyme bromelain may further help to make nasal secretions easier to expel, as both break down the mucus cell bonds and making the consistency thinner.

     

    2: Reducing the formation of mucus

    The second priority to support a clear sinus is to limit the rate that mucus is being produced and can be achieved by using a group of medicinal herbs classified as anti-catarrhals. 

    Anti-catarrhal herbs include Eyebright, Ribwort, Elderflower, Golden Rod, and Golden Seal and can be taken in the form of hot infusion (tea) or liquid extract. 

    Not only are these herbs great for reducing mucus they are also multi-dimensional as many have anti-inflammatory or antimicrobial actions and can help to restore affected mucus membranes. 

     

    3: Combat microbial presence and support immune response

    In alignment with the Naturopathic principle of addressing the underlying cause of disease, it is important to combat these 2 risk factors that largely drive sinus congestion – a viral or bacterial infection and compromised immunity. 

    Common anti-microbial herbs include Golden Seal, Thyme, Calendula, Manuka, and Kawakawa. These are best taken as a hot infusion (tea) or liquid extract. 

    There are many ways to support overall immunity and boost an acute immune response, click here for information on 5 supplements that will help the body mount a robust defense against invading germs.

    Our knowledgeable in-store Naturopaths are ready and waiting to provide you with individualized advice and recommendations to help you breathe easy and achieve healthy, clear sinuses. 

    Please note - for your safety, please discuss with a Naturopath before taking any of the medicinal herbs or supplements recommended in this article. 

     

    Article - by Naturopath Kate Dalliessi