Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Sinusitis: Acupuncture, Herbs & Self-Treatment Tips

One of the most unpleasant parts of the winter cold season and the spring allergy season is sinusitis. Sinus congestion can range from acute cold symptom to lingering allergy symptom to chronic sinus infections.

Here are a few tips for dealing with sinus congestion:

Avoid antihistamines & decongestants.
These drugs might give quick relief, but they have the side effect of drying the sinus cavities. Sinus cavities need to be moist to be healthy. Dry sinuses are much more likely to pick up infections.

Avoid antibiotics.
Colds & flu are caused by viruses. There are currently no drugs available that kill cold viruses.

Antibiotics do have an effect on cold viruses, but they have been overprescribed, giving rise to more and more antibiotic-resistant diseases. Also, whenever you use an antibiotic, you're increasing your susceptibility to developing infections with resistance to that antibiotic. These impact not only you, but can be passed on to others.

Antibiotics can help to clear bacterial sinus infections, but they can set people up for repeated infections. The immune system is weakened with each course of antibiotics. Also, the culprit bacteria in sinus infections are often protected by an extracellular biofilm matrix, which protects them from many antimicrobial agents, rendering antibiotics ineffectual.

Alternative Approaches to Sinusitis:

Acupuncture is very effective in relieving sinusitis and sinus congestion. It not only provides immediate relief to symptoms, but causes immune boosting blood components to stay elevated for up to three days, providing ongoing relief.

Your acupuncturist will provide gentle stimulation to points on the head and face, as well as on the neck, back, arms and legs, whose meridian pathways run through the sinus area. Points are stimulated using fine filiform needles, glass cups, moxibustion, massage or other techniques.

Here are some good links to illustrate this:

Self-Treatment Using Acupressure:
You can massage points on your body to relieve colds, flus, and sinus congestion.
Here are some helpful links:

Chinese Herbs:
Chinese herbs are superior to antibiotics, decongestants and antihistamine drugs in many ways. A Chinese medicine herbalist chooses from a broad variety of herbs, tailoring each formula to fit the patient's unique constitution, the underlying imbalance causing the symptoms and the nature of the symptoms themselves.

Chinese herbs allow for a multi-pronged approach than antibiotic drugs. Certainly, many Chinese herbs have antimicrobial properties. They are more broad-spectrum and gentler than antibiotic drugs, meaning that they do not weaken the immune system or cause antibiotic resistance. Beyond that, a Chinese herb formula does not consist solely of antimicrobial herbs. It will also likely include aromatic herbs to open the sinuses, herbs that eliminate phlegm and drain damp -many are effective in breaking down the biofilm matrix where pathogens reside-, as well as herbs that clear heat or warm as needed, and boost the patient's immunity.

Herbal Steams:
These are a wonderful, relaxing way of clearing sinus congestion. Put some fresh aromatic (like rosemary, thyme or eucalyptus, even chamomile or mint) herbs in a medium to large pot & cover with water. Bring to a boil & let simmer for 5 minutes (Do not boil for more than five minutes or you'll lose the aromatic quality of the herbs.) (Alternatively heat water and add a few drops of aromatic essential oils.) Remove the pot from heat. Being sure to allow the water to cool sufficiently that you don't burn your face, sit at a table with your head over the steaming pot. Cover your head with a towel. Breathe the warm vapors into your nose & lungs for up to 20 minutes. Enjoy.

There are many wonderful aromatic Chinese herbs that open the sinuses and help clean the lungs of virus, bacteria, environmental irritants, smoke and pollution. Your acupuncturist can make send you home with a package of these for steaming.

Irrigating the Sinuses with Saline Water:
Many find it helpful to irrigate the sinuses with warm saline water in order to wash away mucous with viral, bacterial, and environmental debris. You can use a neti-pot to do this or a simple bulb syringe.

Here's a recipe:
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 oz. slightly warm tap water

Using a bulb syringe or nasal rinse bottle, 3 squirts in each nostril while making a harsh "K" sound. Blow nose between squirts and do 2-3 times per day.

Always use clean equipment for to spray inside the nasal cavity. Sterile, distilled or boiled (be sure to cool first!) is recommended to avoid dangerous contaminents.

Nasal Sprays containing Xylitol
Xylitol is a sugar alcohol which breaks up the biofilm protecting bacteria and viruses in the sinus cavity. An OTC nasal spray like Xlear can be helpful in clearing the sinuses, while also helping to keep them slightly lubricated and less susceptible to invasion by pathogens.

Other steps for avoiding sinus problems include getting plenty of rest, staying hydrated, reducing stress and staying warm. See my article on Lifestyle Adjustments for Cold & Flu Prevention for more information along this line.