Neti Pots: What Are They and Do They Work?

February 05, 2010 - Posted by Christa

The last few weeks, it seems like there’s been a surge of colds and sinus infections running rampant around the office. I’m sure the scene is very similar where you work – lots of sneezing and Kleenex hording. When I asked one of my coworkers how she was handling her latest sinus infection, she told me she had recently decided to try using a neti pot.

Now, I had heard of these things before. The moment after it was featured on an Oprah, I got a call from my mom, asking me if I knew anything about this nasal-clearing phenomenon. Back then, the concept of saline nasal irrigation was new to me. After doing some research, I quickly learned about the long history of the neti pot.

Today, I wanted to share some information with you to help bring you up to speed on this popular technique!

First, of course, a little history. Of eastern origin, the neti pot was originally introduced to the western world about 30 years ago. Rooted in hatha yoga practices, usage of the neti pot is considered a yogic body cleansing technique. However, originally neti (sutra neti, to be exact) employed the use of waxed cotton thread to “floss” the nasal passages.  

Over time, sutra neti evolved into a technique called jala neti. This technique utilizes the neti pot and replaced waxed cotton string with fluid. This technique, once introduced to the western world, still remained confined to small circles. Thanks to Oprah, though, the neti pot nasal clearing technique exploded in popularity in the 2000s.

Now, to be honest, using a neti pot takes some getting used to. When a person decides to use this technique, they pour a saline solution through their nasal passages. This is intended to prevent mucus from pooling in the sinuses – a major cause of sinus infections. Breathing through the mouth, the fluid enters through one nostril before emptying through the other, clearing the nasal passages of any mucus or debris.

Do Neti Pots Really Work?
Presently, there has been little research conducted regarding the effectiveness of the neti pot nasal clearing technique. However, a new study presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Annual Meeting found that when comparing daily neti pot users against those who discontinued use, they found sinusitis among daily users was significantly higher (50%) than among nonusers.

So what does this mean? According to the researchers, “although use of a neti pot for nasal saline irrigation may temporarily improve sinus infection symptoms, its daily long-term use may result in an increased frequency of acute [sinusitis] by potentially depleting the nose of its immune blanket of mucus."

For now, I remain unconvinced that the neti pot is the answer to all sinus infections. While occasional usage may provide temporary relief, ultimately it does not appear that the neti pot is a long-term medical solution.

What do you think?  Have you tried the neti pot before?  I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.



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