Natural Treatments for Chronic Sinusitis

Chronic Sinusitis is not a pleasant condition. I had cold-like symptoms most of the time. My ears kept getting infected and my eardrums burst a few times. Doctors prescribed many courses of antibiotics and steroids. The last few courses of antibiotics were ineffective and made no difference to my symptoms. That's when I started to look into the true causes of my condition and also to natural remedies for a cure.

Identifying the Causes

One day while out cycling, I had a eureka moment when I realised that I felt so much better outside. My blocked nose and cold-like symptoms seem to dissipate after about an hour. As soon as I got back indoors, like magic, the cold-like symptoms reappeared. It was then that I started to examine my home environment for clues and possible allergy related causes. To cut a long story short, it turns out that I was spending too much time indoors and that I was allergic to dust mites. These contributing factors were causing congestion and restricted airways.

I was also referred to an Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist by my doctor. It was there that I discovered I had a deviated septum which makes me more prone to getting sinus infections. The ENT specialist recommended two surgical procedures to correct the problem; a septoplasty and a turbinoplasty. Here is the drawing the ENT specialist made of my nose. That line down the middle should be straight!

Sketch of a deviated septum

I found a follow-up study on this procedure that revealed only 50% of patients who went through the operation would do it over again. This didn't seem to me to be a resounding success story. To make matters worse, I read plenty of horror stories online about botched operations. So I elected to manage the symptoms by myself without surgery.

My Treatment Plan

My treatment plan consists of two parts. Firstly, kill off the infection by steam inhalation using essential oils. Secondly, to prevent recurrence, build up the immune system and make the necessary lifestyle changes. Please don't expect any quick fixes. It's hard work; almost a full time job to get rid of the infection initially. You'll need to be determined and persistent to succeed.

Essential oils for treating sinus infections

If you can only do some of the things in this plan, then opt for steam inhalation with essential oils, leaving the window open at night and daily walks incorporating the Buteyko method. These are by far the most effective treatments for chronic sinusitis in my experience. But every part of the treatment plan helps.

Steam Inhalation with Essential Oils
Use a few drops of Tea Tree Oil, Olbas Oil and Oil of Oregano in a bowl of boiling water, cover your head and inhale for 5-10 minutes. Keep tissues handy. You'll need to do this 2-3 times a day for 2-3 weeks until nothing more comes out and you can inhale clearly.

CAUTION: Wait 2-3 minutes after the water has boiled to prevent burning the inside of your nose with hot steam.
Daily Walks
Get out and get some fresh air, away from traffic. 30 minutes minimum, ideally 1 hour. The longer the better really. While you're walking, practice the Buteyko method. (see below)
The Buteyko Method
This breathing technique helps to open the airways and is officially approved by the Ministry of Health in Russia to treat asthma. You can learn more about it here http://www.normalbreathing.com.
Ventilation
Sleep with the window ajar so you get fresh air all night. Depending upon your breathing difficulties, sleeping on one side may also be beneficial.
Rest
Slow down, get to bed early. Reduce and/or avoid the causes of stress. This enables body to beat the infection.
Inclined Bed
Consider a sloped or inclined bed. It supposedly has many health benefits. However, the main benefit for chronic sinusitis sufferers is that it makes it easier to breathe at night.
Regular Warm Showers
The steam helps to clear out the sinus passages.
Regular House Cleaning
Dust and vacuum your house regularly, use hypo-allergenic vacuum cleaner bags, wash everything at 60°C to kill dust mites.
Zinc and Vitamin C Supplements
Take regularly to build up immune system to avoid colds/flu. Vitamin C is also an antihistamine.
Raw Onions, Hot Chilli Peppers and Ginger
Nibble on these foods when you feel blocked indoors. They're natural antihistamines and will unblock the sinuses.
Warm Garlic Oil
Lying down, pour warmed garlic oil into the affected ear. This can help to prevent or eliminate ear infections. Warmed heat pads placed on a sore ear can also help to relieve the pain.

Notes

On Essential Oils for Medicinal Use

For the steam inhalation treatment to be effective, you must buy good quality essential oils with strong antibacterial properties. Go for the original brands (see photo above). They're more expensive, but you'll get good results. Don't waste your time steaming with cheap imitation oils; they're a gamble that won't pay off.

Name Original Brand
Tea Tree Oil Thursday Plantation (Australia)
Oil of Oregano Zane Hellas (Greece), or Enerex (Canada)
Olbas Oil (UK)

On the Effectiveness of Nasal Steroids and Antibiotics

Antibiotics and nasal steroids do work well initially, but with use over the longer term, their effectiveness soon reduces and they become useless. I certainly didn't want to become dependent upon these drugs, so I did some research to find natural alternatives. Vitamin C, raw onions, garlic and hot chilli peppers are your natural substitutes. Get organic if you can as they are more powerful.

On the Effectiveness of Nasal Rinses

Everybody, including the ENT specialist, told me that nasal rinses were the way to go. I duly purchased the NeilMed nasal rinse kit and started treatment. It seemed to work. There was a lot of gunk coming out of my nose and my breathing cleared for a few hours. The trouble was, there was no end to it. Every day, the same routine with no reduction in the amount of mucus or gunk produced. After about 2 months, I stopped, realising that this treatment was futile.

While nasal rinsing gives immediate relief, in the long term, it exacerbates any sinus problem. I concluded that the mucus is there for a reason; to trap and kill bacteria. When you wash it all away with a saline solution, the bacteria and/or allergens get a free pass into to your nose. Then the cycle repeats ad-infinitum.

On Blowing Your Nose

When you have a sinus infection, you tend to blow your nose a lot. This puts a lot of stress on it and it can end up getting rather sore and red. If some blood comes out, this may be a sign that you're blowing too hard and that you've damaged the sensitive nasal lining inside your nose. But there's another way! I know this sounds disgusting, but you're much better off snorting and then spiting or swallowing rather than blowing your nose. It's very effective at clearing the nasal passages and you won't damage your nose.