Treat Sinus Congestion With These Herbs

Millions of people suffer from occasional sinus congestion. Far from just being a "stuffy nose," congestion can come with pressure, pain, and difficulty sleeping. Over-the-counter or prescription decongestants often contain stimulants that help constrict blood vessels in the nose and sinuses, reducing inflammation. Unfortunately, many people don't tolerate these medications well. Fortunately for these congestion sufferers, there are natural ways to help reduce their symptoms.

Eucalyptus oil
Eucalyptus is best known as the active ingredient in decongestant rubs. It is antiviral and antibacterial, and the strong vapors are excellent at stimulating nerve receptors in the nose and making it feel easier to breathe. To use, diffuse some eucalyptus oil using a vaporizer, oil warmer, or aromatherapy diffuser. It can also be applied topically in the form of a salve, or diluted into a carrier oil like sunflower seed oil and applied to skin. Be careful with undiluted eucalyptus oil-- it's very strong and may burn or irritate skin in its concentrated form.

Congestion makes it tough to sleep. Chamomile is a known relaxant that's also rich in anti-inflammatory compounds. Brew up a hot cup of chamomile tea, and breathe in the steam to help loosen mucus and make it easier to breathe. Once the tea cools to a drinkable temperature, drink it down to benefit from its sleep-promoting and healing properties. Chamomile may not be suitable for people with ragweed or daisy allergies, however-- try an unrelated relaxing and anti-inflammatory herb instead, like lemon balm.

If congestion is due to allergies, ginkgo biloba may help provide some relief. This tree contains natural antihistamine and anti-inflammatory compounds that may help reduce congestion symptoms. It is best taken as a tincture or in capsule form, and should be started before allergy season reaches full swing-- it can take awhile to experience its full effects.

Stinging Nettle
Though it's known for causing a rash when touched, stinging nettle is actually a pretty potent antihistamine herb. It has a long history of use in treating hay fever and other inflammatory conditions, including chronic congestion. It can be taken as a tea, tincture, or in capsule form. Like ginkgo, it's best to start using stinging nettle before allergies reach their peak.

Anyone who has ever eaten spicy food can attest to the nose-clearing ability to hot peppers. Cayenne pepper contains capsaicin, which encourages improve blood flow and reduce swelling (including the swelling in nasal passages). It can be taken as a tea, in capsule form, or infused into vinegar or alcohol as a tincture.

Other Natural Remedies
Often times, strict cleanliness is enough to help cut down on congestion. Regularly using a neti pot helps rinse pollen and other congestion-causing irritants out of nasal passages. Washing bedding in hot water and drying it in a dryer helps cut down on dust mites, while avoiding the pollen exposure that line drying can cause. Keep bathrooms, kitchens, and other potentially humid areas scrupulously clean to avoid the growth of mold and mildew. Lastly, many old construction materials provoke allergies and congestion as they age and break down. Consider repainting, cabinet refacing, and replacing cracked or crumbling grout to cut down on the number of spaces where dust and mold spores can collect and trigger allergies.

Congestion is the body's natural response to sinus irritation, whether that irritation comes from a virus, bacteria, or allergen. Decongestant medication may help symptoms, but it often doesn't address the root cause of the irritation. Herbal remedies, when combined with careful cleaning, can both treat the pain and pressure of congestion and reduce or eliminate environmental irritants and disease-causing microorganisms.


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