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Common household remedies request

My periodic right-side sinus infection has returned, so no, it wasn't infection from my rotting tooth going up, since I had the tooth yanked, but some bug from my sinuses coming down. Which I guess you would expect, given gravity.

Anyhow, I dug out an old neti pot, cleaned it thoroughly, and performed the unpleasantry of flushing out my sinuses. Now that side of my face doesn't actually ache, and my gums don't hurt, which is a win, but I still woke up with the headache I've been waking up with for the past week, and a skullful of mucus. Readers, help!

Not that this is the world's biggest medical problem, but sweet Jeebus, is it annoying. And it makes me less productive and sucks my energy. I feel like staying in bed instead of getting up and blogging.

Also, on a hunch, I googled "my ears are ringing" + sinus, and found a hit! And to think I thought the ringing was caused by increased stress (true, very true) on returning to Maine from Thailand. So getting rid of my

So, suggestions? Herbs? Teas? Can't go to the doctor for anti-biotics!

NOTE Also, in Bangkok I drank much more water than I did here. I'm wondering if that has anything to do with it.

No votes yet


Submitted by lambert on


Here’s what I suggest when you’ve self-diagnosed a sinus infection:

• Afrin (or Dristan) nasal spray, one spray into each nostril every 12 hours for no more than four days. This “opens up” the whole system and facilitates drainage of infected mucus. It bears repeating: no more than four days (just like it says on the package).

• 30 to 60 minutes after spraying, rinse your sinuses with warm, lightly salted water using a neti pot. If you don’t have a neti pot, pour some of the saltwater into your cupped palm and sniff it up each nostril (you won’t drown, I promise). Throughout the day, you can keep the linings of your nasal passages moist with either Ocean (available at most pharmacies) or Euphorbium Spray. The latter is a homeopathic remedy for sinusitis.

• Two supplements are helpful: Bronchoril (guaifenesin), which thins the thick mucus, allowing it to empty from your sinuses, and Sinatrol, an herbal combination that is antiviral and antibacterial with an immune-boosting component. Guaifenesin is also sold in drug stores as Mucinex, but like many former prescription medications it’s highly overpriced.

Seems reasonable!

Submitted by hipparchia on

I've never had any luck with any of the herbal remedies anybody has ever suggested.

vitamin c in large doses does have some antihistamine effect, but it can also have side effects. they're usually minor, but never believe anybody who tells you that something has NO side effects.

if you're taking any of the drugstore medicines, including any nasal spray that's anything other than plain salt water, definitely increase your intake of fluids.

I've found that using a neti pot helps with runny-nose-type symptoms, but once the sinuses close up and infection sets in, results seem to be variable - sometimes the symptoms get better, sometimes worse.

I've found the afrin/mucinex combination works the best of all the remedies listed above, especially if used in conjunction with the correct antibiotics!

there are three kinds of nasal sprays...

1. decongestant (like afrin) - use them for only a few days or you get the "rebound effect" when you stop using them (ie, your symptoms get even worse than before).

2. saline (like ocean) - they're just salt water conveniently packaged for you. if you're happy using a neti pot, you don't need these, but if you want to get away from pouring water into your nose, this is the way to go.

3. steroids (like Flonase) - no, not the same kind of steroids that people take to build muscles. this takes a few weeks to work (three or four usually, so it gets expensive and tiresome), and generally only helps if your sinus infection is a secondary result of allergies.


just a (sorry, depressing) note to add... allergy doctors tell me that after you live in a place for a while (generally three years or longer, I've been told), you can become sensitized to some of the allergens (like maybe the local pollen) there. go live in a new place for a little while and your allergies clear up, but live there for a longer time and you then become sensitized to those local allergens.... if you're one of these people, I guess your only recourse is to become a citizen of the world and travel a lot.

V. Arnold's picture
Submitted by V. Arnold on

...loaded with potentially very serious problems. I used to have sinusitis and found vitamin c to be extremely effective. In high doses (4,000+ mg.) per day it has an anti-histamine effect without the serious side effects of pharmaceuticals.
It's relatively cheap and effective within the first hour. I took 1,000mg 4 times a day usually the last cap an hour before bed to ensure a nights drip/clog free sleep.

Submitted by lambert on

I don't think it's allergies, because the effect is neither constant nor seasonal. That's why I think it's some kind of low grade infection.

So far, the neti pot is decreasing the symptoms. It sounds like it might make sense to use it in conjunction with other things, so I'd be interested to know what the serious problems are. (It feels kinda like being dunked in a swimming pool when water gets in your nose, so I can see that's something not to do hourly, but surely once a day is fine, if the pot is clean?)

I only had this when I came to Maine, and after my filling broke. Then again, when I worked in the cube, I used to gobble Vitamimn C, and I stopped when I left. So, who knows.

It looks like I have "chronic sinusitis" if Wikipedia is any guide:

By definition chronic sinusitis lasts longer than three months and can be caused by many different diseases that share chronic inflammation of the sinuses as a common symptom. Symptoms of chronic sinusitis may include any combination of the following: nasal congestion, facial pain, headache, night-time coughing, an increase in previously minor or controlled asthma symptoms, general malaise, thick green or yellow discharge, feeling of facial 'fullness' or 'tightness' that may worsen when bending over, dizziness, aching teeth, and/or halitosis.[2] Each of these symptoms has multiple other possible causes, which should be considered and investigated as well.

"Each of these symptoms has multiple other possible causes..." Oh, that sounds like the disease for me!

In a small number of cases, acute or chronic maxillary sinusitis is associated with a dental infection. ....

Chronic rhinosinusitis represents a multifactorial inflammatory disorder, rather than simply a persistent bacterial infection.[4]

More complexity! Yay!

The medical management of chronic rhinosinusitis is now focused upon controlling the inflammation that predisposes patients to obstruction, reducing the incidence of infections. However, all forms of chronic rhinosinusitis are associated with impaired sinus drainage and secondary bacterial infections. Most individuals require initial antibiotics to clear any infection and intermittently afterwards to treat acute exacerbations of chronic rhinosinusitis.

A more recent, and still debated, development in chronic sinusitis is the role that fungi play in this disease. It remains unclear if fungi are a definite factor in the development of chronic sinusitis and if they are, what the difference may be between those who develop the disease and those who remain free of symptoms. Trials of antifungal treatments have had mixed results.

So, great.

Again, I know this is a #firstworldproblem, but on the other hand I don't need to have "general malaise" (or his army) right now, and you don't need me to have it either. There is a lot to do.

Submitted by lambert on

... me of Rummy: "You go to war with the mucus you have."

Out of the contradictory information, it seems to make sense to stop doing the neti pot when the symptoms disappear.

It also occurred to me to add honey to the neti pot water, because honey is a natural anti-biotic and also because gargling honey and salt has always worked well for me when I have a sore throat. Amazingly there's literatture on this concept. Dunno about fancy New Zealand honey, though....

Submitted by hipparchia on

from your linked article (it's quite good btw, thanks for that link)

Final comments

I could find no research reports on any completed human trials on manuka honey treatment of chronic rhinosinusitis in humans. A search of Internet will find that a few individuals have tried manuka honey irrigation of sinuses on their own, but the results appear to be sketchy and anecdotal.

lots of things work well in the lab but not so much in real life. and yes, probably if it works irl, you might want to go with the fancy new Zealand honey (also from your link):

Low pH, hydrogen peroxide generation, and the hyperosmolarity mechanisms of antimicrobial action are ubiquitous for all honeys. In addition, manuka honey has been shown to contain high concentrations of methylglyoxal (MGO), contributing the relatively superior antimicrobial activity of manuka honey compared to non-MGO honeys.

manuka honey can be expensive and hard to find (I was looking for some recently) and I hadn't even heard of sidr honey.

I always think it's great when we can use something that big pharma hasn't got their tentacles sunk into, and I'm hoping that medicinal honeys can live up to their promise.

otoh, bees live on the honey they make and taking it away from them and giving them sugar water as a substitute is probably contributing to colony collapse disorder. nor do I care to take a 10% chance on snorting botulism up my nose, even if I am older than infants.

"You go to war with the mucus you have."

I'm going to steal that line someday.

Submitted by hipparchia on

otoh, yay for salt water!

Not too long ago, researchers in Australia discovered that their "surfing patients" felt significantly better than the "nonsurfers" in their clinic. They looked into this phenomenon and concluded that surfing does, indeed, improve the lives of CF patients. The salt water inhaled while surfing lubricates the lungs to prevent the thick mucus build up. This allows patients to experience deep breaths, a simple task that is rare for people with cystic fibrosis.

gizzardboy's picture
Submitted by gizzardboy on

I don't know what works, for certain, but I really hate being sick. So my solution is to take daily doses of vitamins and minerals and other stuff that are supposed to boost the immune system: Vitamin C, E, D3, zinc, selenium and a multi-vitamin/mineral pill. No mega doses, just enough to make sure I got some in my system. If I feel I'm on the verge of a cold, I up the vitamin C and add echinacea. Maybe it works or maybe it is a placebo effect, but I have gone years without much more than sniffles. I also get plenty of sleep and don't stress about things. I see the doctor once a year just because Medicare pays for it. The cheapest health care is a strong immune system.

Submitted by lambert on

Woke up this morning with only my normal, life-time sinus clogging ;-) All symptoms gone.

FWIW, last night I made the water a little warmer (i.e., didn't forget it was on the stove because I was blogging) and so -- forgive icky detail -- while I flushed my sinus I swallowed some, and last evening felt I was coming down with a cold, but then nothing. So I'm figuring that I got down to the bacterial layer, flushed it, and my throat's biota was strong enough to kill it off.

So, I think the concept of daily neti-potting is deaft, because figure out what makes the cilia unhappy and do that, as if they were plants needing soil amendments, so I'll give it last one go tonight and hope that's it.

* * *

Alternative narrative: I'm noticing today the trees are ready to pop, so there was surely pollen in the air. So maybe that interacted with the infection?

All the sources say theses problems are complex: Which makes sense: It's my API or interface to the atmosphere!

katiebird's picture
Submitted by katiebird on

It turned out that my chronic bronchitis was because of uncontrolled acid reflux -- reflux hit esophagus, made lungs contract, making sinuses think, I've got WORK to do down there, flooding lungs (and sinuses by the way) with mucus which made me cough like a fiend. And sinus headaches.

Finding the right reflux medication (and dose) has changed my life. I go weeks without coughing.