Leave it to Oprah Winfrey to convince millions of people to use something that looks like a cross between a watering can and Aladdin's lamp to pour water through their noses! The neti pot, long a standby of yogic and Ayurvedic practitioners, is an unlikely health hero. The squat little ceramic pot used for nasal cleansing - the flooding of the nasal passages to clear out mucus congestion - was introduced to Oprah's wide audience by Dr. Mehmet Oz in early 2007. Since then, search engines have been flooded with the terms "neti pot" and spelling variations of its alias, "nose bidet." So, what is a neti pot anyway?
What are the neti pot's origins?
The word neti is Sanskrit for "nasal cleansing." In the traditions of Ayurveda, a natural medical system that originated in India thousands of years ago, jala neti is the cleansing of the nasal passages with salt water. This is where the neti pot comes in.
Why would I want to use a neti pot?
If you experience nasal allergies or sinus symptoms (congestion, headaches, pressure), or if you just get a lot of colds, nasal irrigation with a neti pot may be one option for relief. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin determined that irrigating the nose with salt water can improve sinus symptoms and reduce the need for medication for people who suffer frequently from sinusitis (sinus infections). When you flush out your nasal passages with warm salt water, you encourage blocked-up mucus to get a move on out of your sinuses, alleviating pressure and congestion and discouraging the accumulation of bacteria that can cause sinusitis.
How do I safely use a neti pot?
Because of increased demand and popularity, neti pots may be purchased at many pharmacies or health food stores. Prices are usually around the $20 to $30 range. Follow these safe neti pot steps:
- Fill the neti pot with warm water and stir in a quarter teaspoon of non-iodized salt. Regular cold water may irritate your nasal tissue.
- Stand over the sink or a basin. Tilt your head to one side and place the lip of the neti pot's spout just inside of your top nostril. Breathe through your mouth.
- Tip the neti pot up until the water begins to flow slowly in through one nostril and then down and out into the basin through the other nostril. Let the water flow for about 20 to 30 seconds.
- Switch sides.
How often should I use the neti pot?
Ayurveda recommends jala neti as a daily hygienic practice. Depending on the results you experience and your own personal needs, you can figure out what works best for you.
Is there anyone who shouldn't try using a neti pot?
If you have certain nasal conditions (including chronic nosebleeds, a deviated septum, or nasal polyps) or symptoms of a sinus infection (e.g. cough, discharge, fever, or headache), you should check with your doctor before you try using the neti pot.