Neti Pot Users Swear This Funny Contraption Cures Everything from Migraines to Sinus Pain. But Does It Really Work? We Review It.
- Neti Pot (from SinuCleanse®)
- SinuCleanse® SqueezeTM
MSRP: $14.99 (Neti Pot); $10.99 (SinuCleanse Squeeze)
Place of Purchase: CVS, Amazon.com
Neti Pot & SinuCleanse Squeeze Pros:
- Provides natural sinus relief from congestion, pressure and pain
- Reduced post-cold sinus pain, pressure, and headaches
- Reduced runny nose and itching from household allergies
- Improved taste and smell
- Good directions
- Developed by an M.D. and ear, nose and throat specialist
- Accomplished what over-the-counter decongestants provide, without resorting to any medication
Neti Pot & SinuCleanse Cons:
- Takes a little practice to get used to squirting water up your nose
- “Grossness” factor: This thing works, but again, you are squirting water up your nose and letting it drain out the other side. Probably not something you want to perform in front of that new girlfriend or boyfriend. Or your spouse. Or your family.
- Neti Pot seems less effective at clearing badly congested nose during a cold. However, the SinuCleanse Squeeze does the trick.
Ratings (1-4 Scale: 1= poor, 2= fair, 3= good, 4= excellent)
Ease of Use: 3 (once you get the hang of it)
Does It Do What It Claims? Yes
Would You Buy It Again? Yes
Overall Rating: 3.6
Neti Pot and SinuCleanse Squeeze Review
The National Center of Health Statistics estimates that in the United States, more than 32 million adults suffer from chronic sinus infections — making it one of the most common chronic diseases in America.
Add to that allergen-induced sinus pain or the lingering congestion, pain and pressure from the common cold, and you have a whole lot of people walking around with stuffed up heads.
And aside from making you feel miserable, it can make your regular exercise routine routine torture, getting in the way of you hitting your fitness goals.
When people face sinus pain and congestion, one of the first things they reach for is over-the-counter decongestants and anti-histamines. A 2003 study by the University of Michigan estimates that Americans spend more than $2.9 billon a year on OTC drugs and another $400 million on prescription drugs for relief of cold symptoms.
Yet, even with these drugs, many people find that their symptoms persist. And allergy suffers and people with chronic sinus infections seem destined to a life of popping pills to get some semblance of relief.
But what if alleviating sinus pain, pressure and allergy-related congestion was as simple as reaching for a $12 dollar device called a Neti pot?
What’s A Neti Pot?
The Neti Pot is pretty much what it sounds like: a small pot that allows you to rinse the sinuses with water. Neti pots can be made out of ceramic, stainless steel, glass or plastic.
The practice of using a Neti pot or similar device is actually medically-termed “sinus irrigation” or “nasal irrigation” and it involves passing a lukewarm saline solution through the nose, where it typically drains out the other side.
The Neti pot itself and the practice of nasal irrigation has roots in the ancient Ayurvedic technique known as jala neti, which literally means nasal cleansing with water. The practitioner of jala neti uses a neti pot to perform the irrigation.
Now, before you write this off as some kind of New-Age medical mumbo-jumbo, you should should know that nasal irrigation is has long been recognized by doctors as a legitimate — and often effective method – for treating and preventing sinus and nasal conditions.
You’ll see a lot of additional claims made by websites around the spiritual benefits of using a Neti pot (especially in conjunction with the practice of Yoga) and you can take them for what they are worth. But the basic principles behind Neti pots and nasal irrigation are backed up by science.
In fact, based on emerging research around the causes of sinusitis, many ear, nose and throat specialists are increasingly turning to in-office nasal irrigation to treat chronic sinusitis.
Regular Neti pot users swear by nasal irrigation, claiming that it helps not only with providing relief from the common cold, but also can alleviate the pressure and pain associated with sinusitis. Used regularly, some people also report that it has helped them successfully treat migraines, even where medication and other tactics in the past failed.
Benefits of the Neti Pot and Sinus Irrigation
There are a long list of benefits associated with regularly rinsing the nose and sinuses. Nasal irrigation can be used successfully to help treat or alleviate symptoms associated with:
- Acute sinus infection
- Chronic sinusitis
- Congestion and stuffiness associated with the common cold
- Allergies triggered by dust-born allergens and pet dander
- Facial pain, pressure and headache associated with sinusitis
- Inflammation of the nasal and sinus tissues
- Runny nose and post-nasal drip
- Nasal dryness
Regularly irrigating the nasal and sinus passages also may have a number of fringe benefits, including improved sense of smell and taste, better breathing, improvements in halitosis (bad breath) and possibly reduced risk of contracting the common cold or developing bacterial sinusitis.
And the best part is that it’s inexpensive, natural and won’t have you popping pills or downing bottles of NyQuil for relief.
Do Neti Pots Really Work?
I had heard enough good things about the Neti Pot to set aside my aversion to squirting warm water up my nose and actually give this a try.
Now, let’s be clear: I didn’t just wake up one morning and say, “I have to try this nasal irrigation stuff!”
Rather, I caught a nasty cold over the Christmas Holiday and was was looking for some kind of relief that didn’t involve downing tablet-after-tablet of decongestant.
In general, I try not to take medication unless I really need to, so the thought of being able to get some relief naturally was enough for me to set aside my squeemishness about intentionally putting water in my nose.
Neti Pot or Squeeze Bottle?
So I made a trek to the pharmacy in search of the mysterious-sounding Neti Pot.
I never found it, but I did find another device called the SinuCleanse® SqueezeTM – which is basically a squeeze bottle designed with a “no back wash” feature that accomplishes the same thing as the Neti Pot.
The SinuCleanse Squeeze was invented by Dr. Diane Heatley M.D, an ear, nose and throat specialist in Madison, Wisconsin.
Her product line includes not just the SinuCleanseSqueeze, but also a traditional Neti Pot (made out of break-resistant plastic) and a Kid’s version of the SinuCleanse Squeeze that uses a light saline mist to help gently rinse children’s nasal passages.
The SinuCleanseSqueeze cost about $11 dollars and includes 30 saline packets. The Neti pot from SinuCleanse operates on gravity, which can make it a little tougher to use if you have a lot of existing congestion. In those cases, I would recommend trying the squeeze bottle, which uses gentle pressure to help break up the congestion.
How To Use A Neti Pot or Sinus Irrigation Device
Nasal irrigation devices like Neti Pots, and specifically the SinuCleanse Squeeze, are generally a breeze to use.
In terms of the SinuCleanse Squeeze, you basically shake a packet of the saline powder (a combination of salt and sodium bicarbonate or baking soda) into the squeeze bottle, fill it with lukewarm water, put the cap on and then shake it to thoroughly dissolve the saline mixture.
The irrigation part wasn’t nearly as unpleasant as I anticipated, especially once you get a knack for how to do it.
The concentration of saline is critical, especially for beginners. So err on the side of using less of the saline powder than more until you get used to it. If the saline concentration is too high, it can cause an unpleasant burning.
If you are using the SinusCleanseSqueeze or a similar squeeze-bottle irrigator, lean-over the sink so you are looking straight down the drain, keep your mouth open and breath normally, and then gently squeeze the bottle until the saline goes up one nostril and drains out the other.
Yes, I know this all sounds disgusting, but this is a health and fitness site, so I’m sure you can all get over it.
You then do the same thing with your other nostril and then gently blow your nose.
The Neti Pot works on the same basic principals, although instead of leaning over the sink, you actually tilt your head to the side and let the water run into one of your nostrils and out the other side. How easily this happens really has to do with how much congestion you have, so sometimes it may take a couple of rinses to get you cleared out.
If you’d like to see a demonstration of how to use the Neti pot, you can check out this video from the Himalayan Institute. This was one video that I simply wasn’t going to make myself.
I’ve since bought Dr. Heatley’s Neti Pot version of the SinuCleanse just to see the difference, and they both pretty much do the same thing.
The Neti Pot is a little gentler, because it doesn’t use pressure, but rather gravity to rinse the sinuses, but I found the SinuCleanseSqueeze bottle easier to master, and personally more effective at clearing the sinuses than the Neti Pot, especially if you are smack-dab in the middle of a cold when congestion is greater.
Did The Sinus Irrigation Work?
Dr. Heatley says that you can use the Neti Pot or SinuCleanse Squeeze as frequently as every two hours.
Because of the severity of my cold and the associated congestion, I pretty much used the SinusCleanse Squeeze every 3-4 hours for several days.
It definitely helped clear and drain my congestion during my initial bout with the cold.
It also prevented those plugged up ears that often are a symptom of a bad head-cold, and I found that even helped soothe my sore throat, thanks to the saline solution — some of which will inevitably run down the back of your throat during the irrigation process.
No Post Cold Sinus Headaches!
But the real magic of the Neti Pot happened in the weeks after the cold.
Normally, on the rare occasion that I do get a cold, the initial symptoms last only a few days. But the congestion can persist for me for weeks. I dread the actual cold less than the frequent and often debilitating sinus headaches that I inevitably have for weeks after a cold.
In the past, my approach was to down Mucinex every morning until my sinuses finally cleared up. Again, this could take weeks. And sometimes I’d wake up with no pressure or headache, only to have a killer sinus headache come on mid-afternoon. Not only was it annoying, but depending on the severity, it could literally prevent me from being able to focus on anything, including work or exercise.
However, this time the dreaded post-cold sinus headaches never materialized.
For this cold, instead of taking the Mucinex, I used the Neti Pot or SinuCleanseSqueeze twice a day — once in the morning and before I went to bed at night. If I felt the pressure coming on that usually preceded a bad sinus headache, I immediately grabbed the Neti Pot or squeeze bottle.
The headache’s never came — a first for me.
So I guess you can call me a Neti Pot/Nasal Irrigation believer now.
Better Taste and Smell, And Fewer Allergies
I’m still using the SinuCleanse Squeeze each morning, and I’ve noticed that not only is my sense of smell and taste better, but my head just feels clearer.
Also, I have some allergies to household dust that can make me continuously reach for the Kleenex for hours after dusting, but the Neti Pot/SinuCleanseSqueeze has basically stopped that in its tracks as well. Another first. And no Claritin necessary.
Why The Neti Pot Works
So what’s so magical about this simple, inexpensive little pot or squeeze bottle?
Nasal and sinus irrigation works because it gently rinses allergens, pollutants, dust, mucus and bacteria from the nasal passages and sinus cavities.
The saline solution also helps breakdown something called biofilm in the nasal and sinus passages, which is a layer of micro-organisms that coats the inner surface of the nose and nasal tissues. The presence of biofilms has been linked to chronic sinusitis, with one study finding them present in the tissue of 80% of subjects diagnosed with chronic sinusitis.
In fact, recent research shows that the mucus in the nasal passages and sinuses may actually be the underlying cause of chronic sinus infections, and not just a symptom. One of the tactics doctors are now using to treat these chronic sinus infections is removing the mucus, rather than the underlying infected tissue.
Another good reason to give the Neti pot and nasal irrigation a shot.
Can The Neti Pot and Nasal Irrigation Reduce The Chances for Catching a Cold?
In addition to rinsing out the baddies in your nose and sinus, sinus and nasal irrigation with a Neti Pot or similar device also encourages proper drainage of sinus passages, and can help keep the nasal tissues moisturized.
This moisturization is important, because one of the reasons doctors and scientists believe the cold virus is able to take hold in the body is via dry nasal passages, which lack the protective barrier that normally block viruses and bacteria from penetrating the body’s first lines of defense.
So there is some evidence that maintaining proper moisture balance allows the body’s natural defenses and structures (like the cilia present in the nasal passages) to block or sweep viruses and bacteria out before they take hold systemically.
In terms of preventing or treating migraines, the effectiveness of the Neti Pot or similar methods of nasal irrigation are thus far anecdotal.
It’s not clear if nasal irrigation alleviates true migraines, or if people who believe they have migraines are really suffering from chronic sinusitis. If it’s the latter, than the relief that migraine suffers report after beginning regular nasal and sinus washing would make sense.
Do Neti Pots Create More Congestion?
Some people report more congestion with the use of a Neti pot or that they still experience congestion even when using Neti Pots or other nasal irrigation devices. There may be a few reasons for this:
The first is that many people turn to Neti pots when they are in the throes of a full-blown head-cold (like I did.) At that point, congestion is going to be at its peak. No matter how much you rinse with a Neti pot or similar nasal irrigation products, you’re going to have a lot of congestion, period.
In these cases, the Neti pot isn’t going to magically make your runny nose or stuffiness permanently go away. Your body is producing the mucus as a byproduct of an immune-response to the virus or bacteria. In other words, the stuff is still going to be produced. It’s how your body fights infection.
However, the Neti pot can help temporarily clear this, and promote the proper draining of the sinuses which can shorten the duration of cold symptoms, and discourage secondary sinus infections or ongoing pressure.
Second, even if you use a Neti pot or sinus rinse when you are healthy, you should expect a bit of a runny nose for up to 30 minutes after sinus and nasal irrigation. The saline solution and warm water encourages the draining of nasal and sinus passages (a good thing), so you may need to blow your nose a few times after using it in the morning or at night. This typically passes within an hour, and your head should be much clearer the remaining day.
Finally, the concentration of salt in the saline solution that you use can increase mucus production. In general, beginners should use no more than 1/4 teaspoon non-iodized salt in their Neti pot or squeeze bottle. This will most closely resemble the body’s natural sodium levels in tissue. If you are experiencing significant mucus production or congestion after using your Neti pot, try reducing the amount of sodium in the solution.
Are There Any Dangers To Neti Pots or Sinus and Nasal Irrigation?
Neti pots and other devices that allow nasal and sinus irrigation are generally considered a very safe, gentle method for treating sinusitis, acute sinus congestion and allergies from things like pet dander or pollen.
Unlike over-the-counter antihistamines or decongestants, nasal irrigation has few, if any side effects when properly performed. And best of all, it treats the causes of congestion and allergies, not just the symptoms.
For serious, chronic sinusitis you should always see your doctor, since you may require more intensive treatment of infection with antibiotics. However, even in these cases, the use of a Neti pot or similar sinus irrigation can work with your medication as part of your overall treatment.
The most reported side effect is irritation of the outer part of the nostrils from the salt in the saline solution.
This typically isn’t a problem with daily use, but when you have a cold and your nose is already irritated from tissue, it can be uncomfortable. The solution is simply to apply a little lotion, moisturizer or petroleum jelly to your nostrils to protect against the “salt sting.”
Make Your Own Neti Pot Saline Solution
You can purchase pre-mixed packets of Neti Pot saline solution, or you can make your own saline or salt solution by mixing three parts non-iodizedsea salt (or Kosher salt) with 1 part baking soda (sodium bicarbonate.) Mix 1/4 teaspoon of the salt mixture with lukewarm distilled or tap water in your Neti pot or Squeeze bottle.
Where To Buy A Neti Pot or SinuCleanse
You can purchase Neti pots and the SinuCleanseline of Neti Pots, SinuCleanseSqueeze and SinuCleanse Kids MistTM at most health food stores like GNC or national pharmacy chains like CVS or Wall Greens.
You can also buy a wide range of nasal rinse products (including the SinuCleanse products) and saline packets online here at Amazon. The SinuCleanse Squeeze is around $11 dollars, and the SinuCleanse Neti Pot is about $15. If you shop around, you may be able to find them cheaper.
The SinuCleanse products are also available directly from the SinuCleanse website.
Tell Us Your Opinion on the Neti Pot!
Have you tried a Neti Pot? Did it work or was blowing water out your nose just too much?
Share your review and experiences with the Neti Pot with our readers by leaving a comment below!
Category: Product Reviews