Neti Pot Craze

“It’s a great way to deal with pollen and allergies and a stuffy nose without complicated medicines,” said Kristina Taylor Lewis, an Asheville naturopath. “There is nothing quite like it.”

“Clearing your sinuses:  Cheap, effective ‘neti pot craze’ has grown in the past 5 years”

Written by Nanci Bompey, Asheville Citizen-Times
May 15, 2007

(Dr. Kristina Lewis was interviewed for this article)

ASHEVILLE — For some people, it might seem strange to stick the spout of a small ceramic pot up their noses, deliberately pouring saline solution through their sinus passages.

But for those who use the neti pot to clear their heads of mucus and congestion, especially during allergy season, there is nothing odd about it, and nothing better.

“Once you get into the habit, it’s like brushing your teeth,” said Lauren Ravenhill, assistant manager at the French Broad Food Co-op.

She said the “neti pot craze” has exploded over the past five years as more people have discovered the simple, cheap and effective way to clean their sinuses. Ravenhill said the store sells anywhere from six to 12 neti pots a week, and many people come in to buy them as gifts.

“It’s one of those trends that followed word-of-mouth,” she said.

Tiffany Knadle, a manager at Earth Fare, said neti pots are one of the top-selling items and the store can sell 30 to 40 neti pots a week during allergy or cold and flu season. Many employees at the store have also joined in the craze.

“We all use neti pots in our department,” she said.

An alternative to allergy medications

The American Academy of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology estimates that 37 million Americans suffer from chronic sinusitis. Health care providers report nearly 32 million cases of chronic sinusitis to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention annually and Americans spend $5.8 billion each year on health care costs related to the condition.

For sinusitis sufferers, the symptoms are familiar: the runny nose and stuffiness, the pain and headaches that result when air becomes trapped within a blocked sinus, along with pus or other secretions, causing pressure on the sinus wall.

The neti pot helps to administer a solution of warm water and salt to the sinuses. The process helps to moisturize the entire sinus cavity, loosening mucus and relieving pressure.

“It’s a great way to deal with pollen and allergies and a stuffy nose without complicated medicines,” said Kristina Taylor Lewis, an Asheville naturopath. “There is nothing quite like it.”
Getting the hang of using the neti pot may be difficult at first. It is hard to get the angle just right, and the feeling of water going through the sinuses may take some getting used to.
But once you get the hang of it, using the neti pot is a soothing, relaxing ritual, Lewis said. She said many people use the neti pot as a preventive measure even when they don’t have congestion. It also works great to clean out a lot of the pollen and dirt that can accumulate in the nostrils after hiking or being outdoors, she said.

Some local ear, nose and throat doctors said that while they don’t necessarily recommend neti pot to their patients, there is nothing wrong with using it to clean out the sinuses.

“It’s a good way to administer moisture to the nose,” said Dr. Barry Pate Jr., an ear, nose and throat specialist at the Ear, Nose and Throat Center in Asheville. Pate said moisturizing the nose, especially during the cold, dry winter months is a good idea.

Even more benefits

Leena Cook, an acupuncturist and herbalist at Healthy Body and Soul in Weaverville, said the process could also help improve hearing and relieve pressure on the optic nerve, which can improve eyesight and relieve tension headaches.

“People are a little resistant to try it, but then they feel unclean if they don’t use it every day,” she said.

Despite the current craze over the neti pot here in the United States, neti pots are nothing new. The neti pot has been used for thousands of years in Asia and is an integral part of some yoga practices.

Lauren Barta, a massage therapist at Namaste Yoga, said neti is one part of panchakarma, a cleansing program that is part of the practice of ayurveda, an ancient art of healing that originated in India.

Barta said using neti helps to purify the mind and helps the body, mind and spirit to integrate with each other. Purifying the body with neti allows a person to reach a level of harmony and union with God.

“I personally do neti once a week or sometimes every day depending on different things,” she said. “It helps to purify myself from toxins.”

Barta said she uses the neti pot with the intent and knowledge about ayurveda, but realizes that many people are using it to clean out their sinuses. Still, Barta said they are using it as a detoxifying element on some level.

“Regardless if they are using it in a sacred way or not, they’re looking for something,” she said. “People are looking for something to help get back to themselves.”

Tips for getting the most out of your Neti pot experience:

Keep your Neti pot clean. Wash and disinfect your neti pot after every use. Dr. Barry Pate, Jr., at the Ear, Nose and Throat Center in Asheville recommends washing the Neti pot with a little bit of bleach.

Use the right ingredients. Lauren Ravenhill, assistant manger at the French Broad Food Co-op, said purified or distilled water should be used, not tap water. She also said it is important to use pure sea salt and not table salt. The salt should not contain anti-caking agents or iodine. Some people also add pre-made formulas that include zinc, Echinacea and goldenseal.

Get the angle right. Most neti pots come with instructions on how to use them. Kristina Taylor Lewis, an Asheville naturopath, said getting the angle right is tricky, but basically you put the spout up one nostril, lean over the sink and tip your head slightly to the side, letting the salt solution flow through your sinuses and back out the opposite nostril. She said the first few times may be difficult and the water may go down your throat, but Lewis said just keep trying the angle until the water flows back out your nose.

Want to buy one? Neti pots are available at Earth Fare and The French Broad Food Co-op as well as local pharmacies. They cost between $15 and $20 and come in a variety of shapes and colors.