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The Neti Pot:

Nasal Irrigation: it may not seem like the most elegant of topics, but it’s surely one worth looking into if you’re interested in a safe, pleasant, effective means of dealing with airborne allergies, asthma, colds, headaches, nasal dryness or congestion, chronic sinus infections, bad breath, or low energy. The list goes on and on for this ancient practice to the extent that today, folks the world over continue to enjoy the benefits of getting water up their noses.

To the uninitiated it may sound strange, gross, or even dreadful, but once that line is crossed, there’s often no going back. It’s both a pleasant experience, and incredibly good for you. A proper ratio of warm water and salt introduced into the nasal cavity, comfortably and gently cleanses, moisturizes, and appropriates the functioning of the nasal mucosa and turbinates, enhancing our nose’s ability to breathe freely, to filter out dust, dirt, pollen, and pathogens, and to maintain appropriate sinus drainage.

There are many different irrigation gadgets available, from squeeze bottles, to bulb syringes, to battery operated pulse devices. I’m a big fan of the ceramic Neti Pot. It’s simple, gentle, thorough, and easy to keep clean.

Resembling a little genie lamp or teapot with a long spout, use of the Neti Pot, or “Jala Neti” dates back to the classic Vedic texts as one of the yogic kriyas, or cleansing practices, and as the literature affirms, and anyone’s personal experience can verify, it goes well beyond keeping our sniffers clean. It improves vision, hearing, smell, taste, clarity of thought, perception in general, and well-being.

Aside from its obvious benefits on a physical and mental level, Jala Neti is used as a spiritual tool. It benefits the sixth or Ajna Chakra centered just above the eyebrow, associated with the third eye. It holds our ability to experience clear perception, insight, intuition, spiritual growth and inner wisdom.

Although I’m not aware of any references to nasal irrigation in the classic Chinese literature, the vast level of holism and interconnectedness of Chinese physiology fully supports that use of the Neti Pot offers system wide benefits, across the body/mind/spirit.

For a good look through that lens, please read the addendum to this article. It will also be linked below.

It was both its practical application and spiritual allure that led me to the little ceramic pot back in the early 90’s, when I knew next to nothing about Chinese physiology, but was regularly practicing yoga. Anyone who’s ever maintained a yoga or meditation practice understands the intimate relationship that you develop with your breath, and therefore your nose, throat and lungs. At the time I was also working as a carpenter, and anyone who’s ever maintained a job in construction, knows what the inside of your nose gets like by the end of the day. I was a little leery at first from memories of that awful sensation of either chlorinated pool water or salty seawater up my nose, but was amazed at how comfortable and downright pleasant it was to use. The body mechanics of it took just a little getting used to, but in no time it became second nature.

The idea is to make a solution that matches the salinity, or salt to water ratio, in our nasal cavity. The instructions that came with my Neti Pot recommended ¼ teaspoon of fine, non-iodized kosher or sea salt to 1 cup of warm, distilled or filtered water, which apparently yields the requisite 0.9% saline solution. First, I heat the water on the stove to warmer than body temperature, checking the temperature with a clean little finger. Pour 1 cup of the heated water into a Pyrex measuring cup, add the ¼ teaspoon of salt and stir it in. Pour ½ cup into the Neti Pot, stand over the sink, tip your head to the left, place the spout snugly into the right nostril and pour in the warm saline, breathing slowly and comfortably only through your mouth. Ideally, the saline ought to flow up and through the nasal cavity and out the other nostril. If not, slightly adjust the positioning of the pot and the angle of your head. If you have a sore throat you can adjust your positioning so that the saline drips down the back of your throat, and for advanced users, you can gargle with that at the same time. Once everything’s drained through and emptied out, blow your nose. Repeat on the other side, then take note of how good you feel, and how bright, clear and colorful everything is.

I wasn’t aware of this prior to working on this article, but apparently it’s common to add a ¼ teaspoon of baking soda to the mix as a buffering agent, and to add to the cleansing effect. Like salt, baking soda is alkaline so it will further loosen and soften up encrusted gunk and deeply cleanse the nasal mucosa, while increasing blood flow to the area. Further, if you’re looking for a means to increase the alkalinity of your body, this is apparently a good one.

For a super dynamic, oxygenating, anti microbial treatment, I mix a few drops of H2O2 and a dropper full of Colloidal Silver in with the saline. I love H2O2. That unstable little extra oxygen atom is ready and willing to release in any anaerobic or oxygen deficient cellular environment. “Bad” bacteria, viruses, fungi, yeast, warts and tumors are all anaerobic. They thrive in oxygen deficient environments. Oxygen kills them, and their remains are carried away and eliminated. As an added bonus, I’ll remind you that “Lung governs qi,” oxygen is pure qi, and Lung begins at the nostril. (see the addendum) To top things off, I’ll often snort a drop of Colloidal Silver up each nostril when I’m done. Silver is highly anti-microbial, is an excellent bioelectric conductor, and wouldn’t you know it: qi has electrical properties.

If your nose is stuffed up to the point that you can’t breathe through it, avoid any irrigation. If you’ve already started and find that stuffiness is preventing a nice flow, then discontinue immediately. If the saline is unable able to flow through freely and gets trapped, it can add to the stuffiness, and potentially make matters worse. In that case I go for a steam tent inhale first, to get things unblocked.

For a steam inhale, I recommend that you do your own research to find out what kind of recipe works for you, for whatever ails you. Here’s how I go about it for upper respiratory stuff. I add about 1/2" of water and a generous couple glugs of H202 to a saucepan and put it on the stove to heat. While waiting for that to come to a near boil, I set up my kitchen table with a potholder, a large towel and a shaker bottle of both eucalyptus, and tea tree oil. When ready, I bring the sauce pan to the table, put it on the pot holder, shake in a couple to a few drops of the oils, cover my head and the pan with the towel/tent and breathe deeply through both the nose and the mouth, inhaling the medicated steam. I may add a couple more drops of oil if and when I feel like the steam has lost its kick. I stay under the tent until it stops being steamy, or until I’ve had enough.

Both eucalyptus and tea tree oils have, at the very least, powerful anti-microbial qualities, and ultimately seem to be able to treat just about anything under the sun, with great emphasis on the upper respiratory system, and the ability to fight off pathogens and resolve phlegm. I encourage you to look into other oils and/or fresh herbs based upon your particular preferences and needs. Once again though, this is another simple, cheap, and highly effective treatment method.

Here’s another one: take 2 very small pieces of a cotton ball, put a couple drops of eucalyptus on each, and place them up your nose. Be sure the cotton is small enough that you can still breath freely. It’s great for your entire respiratory system, any time, and as an excellent bonus, eucalyptus promotes super mental clarity, alertness and heightened awareness every time. Lots of folks do this during long driving trips. I like to do it when I leave the house in the morning, on my way to work.

This is important: I’m a big fan of both H2O2 and colloidal silver together in the Neti Pot and elsewhere. However, mixing H2O2 with colloidal silver to inhale is not recommended. As brilliantly as they work together for other applications, they can cause damage to lung tissue when inhaled together.

If you’re in the midst of, or experience chronic ear infections, or if your ears tend to be blocked up, I would advise a consultation with an ear, nose and throat specialist (ENT), prior to starting up with the Neti Pot. The nasal cavity is connected to the ear via the eustachion tubes. Although Neti is known to have a clearing effect on the tubes, you can easily find stories online from folks about how using the Neti Pot exacerbated or caused an ear infection. It’s not out of the realm of possibility, especially if the eustachion tubes are significantly blocked up, or impacted with shmutz. Just as with a stuffy nose, saline can get trapped, and make matters worse. Also, incorrect, hurried, or unconscious use of your Neti Pot (or anything else for that matter) can cause problems.

So, while you’re waiting weeks to months for your ENT appointment, or just overnight for an antibiotic prescription from your GP, try this powerful little trick that I swear by. We all know about the antibiotic quality of garlic. Its local use in treating ear infections is as little known, as it is utterly brilliant, and like eucalyptus, its highly pungent quality, resolves phlegm like a champ. Here’s how I go about it:

Cut two small julienned spears of fresh garlic and gently place one in each ear. Cut them so that they’re small enough not to enter and possibly damage the inner ear, but big enough not to get lost in there, and so that they’re easy to grasp when it’s time to remove them - although I have needed tweezers to get them out. I cut pieces about 1/2” x 1/8”. You can hold the garlic in place with a piece of cotton ball. For babies and small children, cut the pieces shorter to accomodate their little ears. Cover the cotton with medical adhesive tape, and apply the treatment at bedtime to prevent them from pawing at their ears, and disturbing the cotton and garlic.

I’ve had dramatic overnight success using this method with both my children when they were babies and with myself. I’ve found it provides a tingling, fizzy, and slightly warm sensation, as if something significant is happening. It is, and the only side effect is that your ear and maybe your pillow will smell like garlic, but we’ve all had worse, haven’t we?

Garlic in the ear works beautifully, costs next to nothing, and provides a great opportunity to stay off antibiotics – especially so for children, whose little Spleens are not fully developed, and take a major hit when an antibiotic is administered. Antibiotics are terribly cold and damp energetically, and quell the Spleen Fire needed to cook and assimilate, ultimately causing an accumulation of dampness, possibly more phlegm, and the enormous potential of recurrent and chronic infections, food allergies, digestive trouble, weight gain, lethargy, poor concentration, and a generally compromised ability to assimilate life, or to learn. Again though, an EMT or pediatrician visit is advisable, but in the mean time, try the garlic. You’ll be well ahead of the game, if not already the clear winner.

If you Google “Neti Pot,” the first many pages are brimming with articles touting its so-called dangers. Most relay the unfortunate story of a couple of folks down in Louisiana who died from a “brain eating bacteria” after using unclean tap water to irrigate. It was a tragic reminder that using only distilled, filtered or pre-boiled water, and keeping your Neti Pot clean will safeguard against any such mishap. You’ll also find some articles suggesting that regular irrigation irreparably damages the inside of your nose. I’d take that one with a grain of salt.

Actually, I’d take it with ¼ teaspoons worth, mixed with a cup of some nice, clean, warm water, and join the ranks of the generations of folks who’ve benefited greatly from the big medicine offered by this ancient little device. It’s cheap, it’s safe, and it works like a charm. Everyone loves their Neti Pot, and I can assure you that once you get your head around pouring water up your nose, it will quickly become one of your favorite things to do.

As always, do your own research, consult your doctor, listen to your gut, and please understand that the contents of this article are based on my own opinion, research and personal experience, none of which constitutes medical advice.

Read more here: Addendum to "The Neti Pot": A Chinese Medicinal Perspective.

June 2014

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