A neti pot may look like a genie’s lamp, but it won’t grant you three wishes. That is, unless you’re wishing to reduce congestion, ward off allergies and infection, and even stop snoring. Jala neti is an ancient Indian technique that originated from the Ayurveda and yoga traditions to promote deeper breathing and meditation. Today, it’s a old-school, all-natural treatment for allergies, congestion, and colds. And as with cheese, wine, and cast iron pans, older often means better.
Neti pots are small bowls – traditionally ceramic, but now often plastic - with a spout. The bowl is filled with lukewarm saltwater that is poured through the spout into one nostril and out the other. Yes, your nostrils are connected inside your head. The human body is a marvel.
If this is the first time you’re hearing of this, it probably sounds gross, or worse. It definitely takes some getting used to, but once you’ve mastered the technique it’s actually a very effective and safe and comfortable means of flushing allergens, bacteria, viruses, pollutants, and excess mucus from your sinuses. Without all that gunk you’ll finally breathe clear and keep allergy and flu symptoms at bay.
Oh, and if you’re on the hunt for a totally cool and perfectly functional neti pot, Hale has you covered.
Is it worth it?
At times we’ll all need to rifle through our medicine cabinets for trusty allergy and cold pills. These work, of course, but if you’re blowing through as many boxes of Tylenol as you are tissues, a neti pot may be a good addition to your cold and allergy treatment regimen.
The internet is full of reports from people who have suffered from sinus congestion for years, taken medication with little benefit, and finally become even symptom-free after trying jala neti. That may sound too good to be true, verging on hoax, but nasal irrigation is absolutely backed by science and recommended by a majority of physicians. No nonsense here! Seriously, google it!
Now, we aren’t going to suggest that you throw out all of your over-the-counter or prescription meds, your humidifier, or your peppermint oil. We find that all these tools, especially in combination, can help us get through colds and allergies as quickly and comfortably as possible. Before you get stuck in bed with a cold again, or unable to go outside because of allergies, consider adding a neti pot to your arsenal.
While this practice may seem daunting at first, after a few tries you’ll neti in less time than it takes to brew your morning cup of coffee (or caffeinated breathing aid tea).
But before you become a Jala Neti Shifu, there are two things to master.
First, make some saltwater
To prepare a saltwater (saline) solution, first measure out some salt. You'll want to use between a 1/4 and 1/2 teaspoon - more if your salt is course, less if your salt is fine. Also, be sure to use non-iodized salt, like Kosher or Himalayan salt. (Side note: stop cooking with iodized salt. It’s a relic of the 1920s when everyone was iodine deficient). You can also add in a quarter teaspoon of baking soda to buffer the solution a bit. Dump it all into the neti pot!
Next, heat 1 cup (8 fluid ounces) of distilled or previously boiled water to body temperature. Water should not be used directly from the tap! More on that later. If you dip your finger and the water feels neither hot nor cold, it’s ready for the neti, so pour it in and mix with the salt to dissolve fully.
By the way, to save some time, you can purchase ready-made saline solutions or dry salt blends. Hale offers a great Himalayan salt blend which you can get along with the Jala Neti Pot. Not to sound like salt snobs, but Hale salt is unprocessed, so it hasn’t been stripped of the trace minerals that help break down mucus, balance the pH of the saltwater solution, and provide additional anti-inflammatory properties. It’s also free of anti-caking agents and other chemical additives that you may find in table salt but wouldn’t want in your nose.
Next, flush the gunk
It’s now or never! Keeping the pot level, tilt your head and press the spout up against the higher nostril to create a snug fit. While bending over a sink, and breathing through your mouth (you won’t drown, promise) and tilt the neti pot to pour slowly. Once water starts flowing, don’t freak out! Let it fill your nasal cavity and drain out the lower nostril. Twist your head further to the side if the saline is just not draining.
Use about half the water and then repeat for the other nostril. You can exhale through your nose when done to clear out any extra solution.
Once you’re done, be sure to rinse the pot with the same distilled, previously boiled, filtered, or otherwise sterile water, and leave open to air-dry.
A properly mixed and warmed saline solution won’t burn the nasal passages and is actually quite soothing.
If you feel discomfort or a stinging sensation (reminiscent of getting pummeled by a wave as a kid), adjust the level of salt next time. All salt is different, so different amounts may be necessary to create the ideal solution - one that is isotonic to your nasal tissue. If you know what isotonic means and have a chemistry set handy, rock on. Otherwise, there's no harm in some light trial and error. Or use Hale's ready-made salt blend.
Temperature is also important. If the water is too hot or cold, it may irritate the sensitive nasal tissue or be uncomfortable. You could use a thermometer to make sure the water is around body temperature, but we find that just dipping your finger into the water is a pretty foolproof way to testing water temperature. If it feels neither hot nor cold, you’re good to go.
The jala neti technique itself can take a bit of practice. There are plenty of videos online that can help you out, or you can ask your local yogi to spot you and give some pointers. Your primary care physician, allergist, or ENT specialist is also a great resource.
Neti is also absolutely safe, if done correctly. That caveat is important! Medical research on nasal irrigation demonstrates incredible effectiveness without significant side effects or risks. Just be sure to use filtered or previously boiled water. Ask your doctor if you have any questions on using neti pots.
Ready, Steady, Neti!
If you are interested in practicing jala neti - or at least giving it a go - mosey on over to our store and check out Hale's Jala neti pot and Himalayan salt blend to get started on your journey toward clear nasal breathing!