How to Use a Neti Pot
The Scoop on Neti Pots
First used in Ancient India and now available in your local drugstore, neti pots can help keep nasal passages clear. Should you run out and buy one?
By Sara Calabro
Medically Reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH
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Neti pots first came to be thousands of years ago, when yoga and Ayurveda practitioners in India developed the practice of neti, a nasal purification technique designed to rid the body of toxins. Today, many people with sinusitis swear by neti pots as an effective, medication-free method of reducing sinus pain.
The Latest Research on Neti Pots
Neti pots are filled with saline solution. The user inserts the pot’s spout into one nostril and tilts his head to the side to allow the saline solution to flow up the nasal passage and then out the other nostril. The technique is then repeated on the opposite side.
Neti pots’ long history, testimonies from doctors and patients, and supporting scientific evidence contrast with recent research that pokes holes in this age-old remedy for sinus pain.
At the 2009 American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) Annual Meeting, researchers presented findings that cast doubt on the effectiveness of neti pots for sinusitis. The study monitored 68 patients over two years. Patients used neti pots daily during the first year, then discontinued them in the second year. Analysis showed a 62 percent decrease in the frequency of sinusitis during the year neti pots werenotused. Researchers concluded from this study that long-term neti pot use could potentially damage the nasal mucus layer that promotes immunity, leading to a rise in sinus infections.
“My 20 years of clinical experience says that neti pots are very useful for sinusitis,” says Jordan S. Josephson, MD, director of the New York Nasal and Sinus Center in Manhattan and author ofSinus Relief Now. “Many of my patients who used to get sick all the time now no longer get sick since using the neti pot.”
In response to the research presented at the ACAAI conference, Dr. Josephson says it doesn’t tell the whole story. “If you’ve had sinusitis for years and you suddenly start irrigating, the benefits are going to be gradual,” Josephson says. “It could take a year before your sinuses fully readjust to a healthier level.”
The Pros of the Neti Pot
One of the chief benefits of the neti pot as a sinus treatment is that it has limited side effects. Researchers in London looked at the safety of nasal saline irrigation for sinusitis and concluded that the technique is well tolerated and contains benefits that outweigh the drawbacks.
Another upside to the neti pot is that using it for sinus pain may also help alleviate other symptoms. A study at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine found that people who use neti pots for sinusitis may also notice improvements in their asthma and allergy symptoms.
These findings are not surprising when you consider that many doctors recommend the neti pot for cleansing out daily toxins. “Neti pots help clear our nasal passages of everyday dirt and pollution from the environment,” says Josephson, who recommends that people irrigate their sinuses once daily with saline solution that is one-quarter teaspoon salt to 8 ounces of water.
The Cons of the Neti Pot
Currently, the biggest known downside to neti pot use is the one suggested in the study presented at the ACAAI conference. While researchers acknowledged the temporary benefits of nasal irrigation, they asked physicians to use caution when recommending long-term neti pot use, to avoid potential damage to the immune mucosal layer in the nose.
Keep in mind that the neti pot is not a cure-all. People who have tried a neti pot but are still experiencing sinus pain should see a board-certified ENT doctor. Nasal obstruction, congestion, yellow or green discharge, relentless post-nasal drip, and hoarseness are signs of severe sinusitis that may require prescription medication.
Video: Woman dies from brain-eating amoeba after using neti pot
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