In Chinese medicine, sinuses are considered to be part of the Lung system, which is the most exterior of the meridian pathways. The Lung channel is the first to be attacked by outside pathogens when our “wei qi” or immune system is weak. For an acute episode, often treating the Lung channel is enough. One or two treatments and/or some at-home remedies will usually be enough to clear it right up.
But chronic or recurring sinus trouble is the sign of a deeper underlying imbalance that may take a bit more time and attention. Chronic mucus and phlegm are the result of a weakened Spleen energy leading to an accumulation of dampness in the body. There is a saying in Chinese Medicine, “The Spleen generates dampness, the Lungs store it.” To properly solve chronic or recurring sinus conditions, one must address the underlying imbalance, which, most often, involves treating both the Lung and Spleen energy.
Here are some strategies for treating chronic and acute sinus conditions:
1. Cut way back on dairy and sugar (consider eliminating for at least a month, if possible). Dairy products, especially, promote the mucus build-up in your sinuses (you should also avoid dairy when you have a cold). Baked flour products (bread, crackers, cookies, pasta) can have a similar effect. In very long term or stubborn sinus cases, it is worth trying to cut back on these things as well.
2. Keep air moist. A humidifier at night works wonders, but remember to keep it clean: mold can make sinuses worse for some people.
3. A little thing called a neti pot also does wonders because it promotes nasal irrigation. Essentially, you’re rinsing your sinuses with a saline solution, and while it may feel a little awkward at first, most people get the hang of it pretty quickly (it’s not painful–just a little odd feeling in the beginning–even my dad does it!). Use the neti pot daily during acute attacks and then a few times a week during the winter season for chronic conditions. You can find neti pots in many retail locations, including some drug stores, and you can also buy them through Holden Acupuncture as part of my Sinus Soother Package, which also includes eucalyptus oil and ginger or mint tea.
4. Warm compresses are better than cold for sinuses. For “stuck” sinuses, alternate warm and cold compresses, always ending with warm. Even better: buy eucalyptus oil and make a steam with it. Boil a pot of water, then add 2 drops of eucalyptus, and hold a towel over your head over the steaming water and inhale. This will help loosen and drain sinuses. Keep tissues nearby!
5. Warming or cooling herb teas can help as well, depending on your constitution and whether you are more warm or cold, or if there is an infection. If there’s an infection (yellow mucus, feeling of heat), mint tea is good. If the discharge is clear or white with more of a tendency to be chilly, ginger tea is a smart choice.
6. Stay well hydrated. Drink lots of room temperature water, tea, etc. and cut WAY back on any fruit juices, icy cold beverages or foods. Ice cream, sadly, is very bad for sinuses. Soup, however, is really good!
7. Seek Acupuncture, Craniosacral Therapy, and Chinese Herbs. Treatments in the office can offer a great deal of relief for both acute and chronic sinus conditions. And often a Chinese Herbal formula that both drains the sinuses and addresses an individual’s underlying imbalance can greatly speed the healing process. Call 508-829-8094 if you’d like schedule an appointment for treatment and/or herbal consultation.
Note: While many herbal teas are safe and effective to experiment with on your own, if you need something more, I strongly recommend consulting with a trained herbalist.