Your hippie friend, yoga instructor and Oprah-crazed aunt swear by that funky little Neti pot that promises to get rid of sniffles, colds, congestion, and allergy symptoms. But is this spouted nasal irrigation vessel right for you? To know if you can benefit from the Neti pot, you need to separate the myths from the truths (which we've conveniently done for you). And don't miss the details on at least one liquid you should never pour through your sinuses.
Neti Pot Truth #1: Neti pots were popular long before Dr. Oz "discovered" them.
The Neti can be traced back thousands of years in India, where it was used as a cleansing technique in Hatha yoga, says Warren Johnson, author of The Neti Pot for Better Health. In yoga science, the sixth chakra, or third eye, lies between the eyebrows and resonates with clear thinking and clear vision, he says. "Neti can help balance this sixth chakra, which leads to clairvoyance and extrasensory perception." Still, most people use the Neti pot for sinus relief, not spiritual awakening, so to balance your mood, you may want to try these powerful yoga poses from Jen Aniston's yogi.
Neti Pot Truth #2: Neti pots may have true healing power.
Neti pots aren't just a new-age trend. "I've seen people who are dealing with sinus infections, seasonal allergies, and non-allergic rhinitis (chronic stuffy nose) all benefit from using a Neti pot," says Dr. Brent Senior, president of the American Rhinologic Society. The Neti essentially flushes allergens, bacteria and infection-causing mucus out of the sinuses—think of it as a wetter, more forceful alternative to blowing your nose.
Neti Pot Truth #3: It's not uncomfortable!
To use a Neti pot, you simply mix about 16 ounces (1 pint) of lukewarm water with 1 teaspoon of salt and pour it into the Neti. Tilt your head over the sink at about a 45-degree angle, place the spout into your top nostril, and slowly pour the saline solution into that nostril. The fluid will flow through your sinuses and into the other nostril, flushing out allergens, bacteria and mucus along the way. The main difference between a Neti pot and other nasal sprays or decongestants is the huge amount of flow of the saline solution, which may help flush out your sinuses faster than basic saline nasal sprays. There's no scientific proof that Neti pots work better (or worse) than other treatments, Senior says. So the most effective way to get relief depends on the person and on their doctor's recommendation.
Neti Pot Truth #4: Neti pots are only a short-term solution.
Dr. Talal M. Nsouli, a physician with the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, recommends Neti use to patients dealing with the common cold or nasal dryness, but he warns against overuse. "Our nasal mucous is the first line of defense against infection," Nsouli says. Too much nasal irrigation may actually make your sinus infection worse by depleting the nose of mucous. If you're battling the common cold, use the Neti pot no more than once per day. For chronic sinus problems, Dr. Nsouli recommends using the Neti a few times per week.
Neti Pot Truth #5: Nothing you see on YouTube is doctor recommended!
YouTube is loaded with videos of would-be Johnny Knoxvilles filling their Neti pots with coffee, whiskey and Tabasco. "That's just craziness," says Senior, who has heard of his own patients testing everything from cranberry juice to…we wish we were kidding…urine. Saline (one teaspoon of non-iodized salt per liter of lukewarm water) is by far the safest and most common agent, and though some antibiotics have been successfully used in clinical trials, nothing should be added to your Neti pot without consulting a doctor first.
Still not convinced the Neti is right for you? Get fast relief from allergy symptoms with one of these 14 simple strategies. Or if allergies aren't what's bugging you, use these tricks to boost your immune system and stay well all season.