Nourish - 9 Natural Remedies to Help a Sinus Infection
Sinusitis is the infection of the sinus and typically occurs when excess mucus develops or there is a blockage of the sinuses.
Causes of Sinusitis
Unfortunately, there are many ways in which sinusitis can be caused and so it can be hard to pinpoint exactly what is causing your own personal flare up.
The causes for this excess mucus or blockage to the sinuses can be from an active cold or flu, an allergy such as hay fever, a bacterial imbalance, a virus, or a reaction to a toxin such as breathing in environmental toxins like pollution, or cigarette smoke. It can also be caused by a deviated septum or the small hairs (cilia) in your sinuses that help move mucus out not working properly.
If sinusitis becomes a constant struggle, I advise you to visit your doctor or nose specialist to help find out the underlying cause.
Symptoms of a Sinus Infection
They include but are not limited to:
- Face tenderness
- Pain in face, sinuses, and behind your eyes
- Sinus pressure
- Nasal congestion
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Nasal discharge
Types of Sinus Infections
Viral Sinus Infections
Many people who find themselves under the weather with a sinus infection head straight for the antibiotics, but you may be surprised to know that the most common of all sinus infections are actually due to viral infections, not bacteria!
This means that the antibiotics you may be taking are actually useless, as you cannot kill a virus with antibiotics.
The symptoms of a viral sinus infection typically last up to seven to ten days and generally go away on their own with rest and natural support from a good diet and supportive herbs or supplements.
Viral sinus infections do not require antibiotics.When you experience any type of sinus infection it will more than likely be a viral sinus infection.
Bacterial Sinus Infections
Bacterial sinus infections are not as common as viral sinus infections, however, it may be problematic to tell the difference between a bacterial and viral sinus infection because they share common symptoms.
Even more frustrating is that your viral sinus infection can actually develop into a bacterial sinus infection in some cases – groan. This often occurs when the bacteria in the fluid-filled sinus pockets multiplies.
Signs that your viral sinus infection has developed into a bacterial sinus infection is a clear increase in the severity of symptoms, such as increased congestion or nasal discharge (that is thick, dark, and/or greenish-yellowish) and more severe facial pain.
It’s also good to note that the main noticeable difference between viral and bacterial sinus infections is that the bacterial variety typically lasts longer than 10 days.
If there is failure to get better after seven to ten days then it is likely that the infection has become bacterial. Your doctor can determine whether or not you have a bacterial or viral sinus infection.
Natural Treatment for Sinus Infection
Although both viral and bacterial sinus infections tend to resolve themselves over time, with symptoms like heavily congested nasal passages, a throbbing pressure in your head, pain and overall fatigue; who wouldn’t be looking for a fast route out?
Here are my 9 Natural Remedies to Help a Sinus Infection:
1. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!
Keep drinking to help naturally thin out mucus. Stick to clear liquids that are free of caffeine, sugar and alcohol – herbal teas, water or clear veggie broths are your best bet.
2. Balance Your Gut Flora
Your “good” bacteria, also known as your gut flora, are made up of thousands of different species of bacteria that live in your intestines.
Roughly 80% of your immune system is in your gut, and the trillions of good bacteria making up your gut flora regulate your immune system and overall health in many different ways. When this community is disturbed or compromised, it can quickly become unbalanced and lead to a lack of good bacteria, interestingly enough, especially in your sinuses.
How so? Well, your sinuses, nose, and mouth are all just extensions of your digestive tract. An unhealthy gut flora, or one that has a limited amount of bacterial species can often lead to chronic inflammation, and one of the ways this can show up is a sinus infection.
Inflammation of the mucus membrane causes a blockage of the drainage ducts and fluid in the sinuses, and this then leads to an infection.
So what to do about it? Start eating fermented foods and probiotics of course. To help restore your healthy gut bacteria, go for naturally fermented foods and drinks which introduce live bacterial cultures to your digestive system.
Fermented foods like sauerkraut, lacto-fermented veggies, milk and water kefir, live yoghurt, greek yoghurt, kimchi and kombucha all naturally contain probiotics, and the more probiotics in your diet the better!
Check out our Nourish fridges for some of the products mentioned above, or why not try making your own?
See my article here on making your own sauerkraut. Additionally, find yourself a quality probiotic like Super 8, Bio Kult or Optibac.
3. Take Natural Anti-Viral Herbs
Whilst there is a time and place for antibiotics, we can’t ignore the fact that they are often overprescribed and unnecessary. Not only are antibiotics ineffective against viral infections, but they also have potential negative side effects, including destroying your gut flora.
Taking even just one course of antibiotics will significantly weaken your gut flora, and as we just covered, an unhealthy gut flora leaves your immune system compromised and much more susceptible to infection. Furthermore, because so many of us are used to taking antibiotics, the bacteria itself is becoming more and more resistant to the antibiotics, and our immune systems are being weakened over time.
For those of you who suffer regularly from sinus infections, a weakened immune system means you’re not only more susceptible to bacterial infections but to the (more common) viral sinus infections.
What to do about it: introduce natural antiviral foods and herbs into your diet:
- Oregano Oil
- Olive leaf
- Manuka Honey
- Vitamin C
See my article on 6 Natural Remedies to Stop a Cold in its Tracks for more info about these herbs.
4. Drink Natural Decongestants
Tonics, teas and shots made with naturally decongesting ingredients like ginger, turmeric, lemon, horseradish, garlic, cayenne and apple cider vinegar are wonderful at helping to clear out nasal passages and provide relief. They’re also fantastic at boosting and supporting your immune system, plus they give you anti-inflammatory benefits too.
You can sip on ginger tea using a teabag (like Pukka 3 Ginger) or why not try making your own?
Turmeric and Ginger Herbal Tea
- 1 cup hot water (not boiling)
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1 to 2-inch piece fresh ginger, grated
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder (or 1-inch piece of fresh turmeric, grated)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Pinch of fresh ground black pepper
- Pinch of ground cayenne pepper
Combine in a glass. Let stand for a 10-15 minutes, then sip.
Maybe you’re in need or something more potent? How about this apple cider vinegar tonic combining the beneficial, nose-run-inducing cayenne and antibacterial, antiviral qualities of raw honey?
Apple Cider Vinegar Tonic
- 1 cup hot water (not boiling)
- 2-4 tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon raw honey
- Squeeze of lemon
- 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Mix together and sip.
Or why not try your hand at Fire Cider – a sure way to knock any infection on the head.
5. Steam Inhalation, hot showers and Vaporizers
Humid air is your best friend when it comes to sinus relief.
Inhaling steam helps to loosen congestion, calm inflammation and relax nasal passages so you can breathe more easily.
Herbal Facial Steam: To a bowl or pot of hot water, add a few drops of eucalyptus, thyme, or rosemary (fresh herbs can also be used in place of essential oils, just add herbs to pot, bring water to a rolling boil and then remove from heat). Then hold your face over the pot and drape a towel over your head. Close your eyes and breathe deeply for instant relief. Repeat as needed. Eucalyptus, thyme and rosemary oil all have anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties and help to reduce the swelling of mucous membranes.
Shower: Warm, steamy showers are a super easy home remedy you can do to help relieve sinus pressure and also help loosen mucus and clear things out. Simply sprinkle a few drops of eucalyptus and/or peppermint oil/rosemary oil around the shower, then turn up the water to as warm as you can stand it.
Vaporiser: Alternatively, using a vaporiser keeps air humid and is great to use at night while you sleep.
6. Nasal Rinse
Neti pots are a wonderful, natural and safe way to clear out nasal passages and relieve sinus pressure. They’re great to add in to your daily routine, and can be used once or twice a day. (follow instructions on the packaging)
Neti pots are especially good for those who find sinusitis is triggered by cigarette smoke, pollution or mould.
7. Hot + Cold Compress
Much like a herbal steam, a warm compress helps to relieve pain and increase circulation, and by alternating hot and cold compresses, this can help further with sinus pressure and pain and help keep nasal passages clear.
Simply hold a warm, slightly damp washcloth over eyes and nose for 3-4 minutes, then switch to a cool washcloth for 30 seconds. Repeat this several times. The warm compress helps loosen mucus, while the cold relieves pain.
An optional of using ginger tea will further help to soothe inflammation. Grate a 2-inch piece of ginger into a cup. Pour boiling water over the ginger and allow it to steep for 10 minutes. Once this tea has cooled enough to hold a finger in for 10 seconds without it burning, dip your washcloth in the warm ginger tea, squeeze the towel to drain off the excess liquid and repeat as above.
Alternatively, lie down on your back, close your eyes and place the warm towel on your face and breathe in deeply. Repeat this 4-5 times or until the ginger tea has cooled completely.
8. Facial massage
When you’re suffering from sinus pressure and congestion, massaging your sinuses may help to alleviate irritation and drain a stuffy nose.
Using your fingertips, apply gentle pressure just to the side of each nostril, around your cheeks for about one minute. If you don’t experience any relief after this time, increase the pressure slightly and move your fingers in a circular motion. Do this for an additional minute.
Next, use your fingertips to apply pressure to the inner corners of your eyes. Increase the pressure and use circular movements, if needed.
I can’t advise this one enough! Rest is so important when supporting your body to heal and fight off infection. Prioritise this one.
And If you are having trouble falling asleep when you have a sinus infection due to pain and congestion, try out the above tip on steam inhalation before bed, or have a vaporiser going in the bedroom. Sleep with your head slightly elevated, and keep your room nice and dark.
If you are experiencing reoccurring or constant sinus infections, it may be in your best interest to see an ear nose and throat specialist and discuss alternative treatments to help improve your sinus function.
*Please note that while we are knowledgeable about our products and nutrition, this blog should never be a substitute for medical advice and attention
Please remember that you should always obtain the all-clear from your doctor before starting any new supplement plan or diet if you’re on any medication