Essential oils for sinus infections are a way to help ease symptoms and resolve the condition.
Whether you take essential oils via post-nasal drip or steam, you can use them for sinus headaches, congestion, and a drippy nose, as well as to open up blocked passages and otherwise promote the draining of the mucus clogging up your skull.
The sinuses are a series of hollow cavities within your skull, each lined with a mucosal layer. No one really knows what purpose the sinuses serve, though the main theories involve air filtration or helping to enhance our voices.
What is clearer, however, is what happens when the sinuses become aggravated in a condition called sinusitis, a sinus inflammation. Whether by allergen or pathogen, the linings of the sinuses can swell and impede drainage while also boosting mucus production. This results in congestion, stuffiness, and a painful sinus headache.
How Essential Oils Work for Sinus Infections
Congestion arises for two reasons. The first is that your sinuses and/or nasal passages are producing more mucus than can be drained out normally, causing a buildup. The second is the possible inflammation of the sinuses, which exacerbates the first problem by narrowing the available space for mucus to drain out of. Most sinusitis therapies involve water since increasing moisture in the sinus and nasal passages will help liquefy the mucus and make it drain more easily. However, water does not affect inflammation, which is where the oils come in.
The essential oils used for sinusitis are derived from herbs known to have anti-inflammatory properties and are delivered by mixing them in with conventional sinusitis treatments that relieve congestion. With this approach, the essential oils are serving as a compliment to the more direct action of the water to resolve symptoms.
For instance, steaming with tea tree oil for a sinus infection will both break up mucus and infuse the sinuses with the oil, providing a double-whammy of relief. Essential oils also smell nice, which can help keep you relaxed and calm—always a benefit when dealing with an infection.
Recommended Essential Oils for Sinus Infections
As mentioned above, the best essential oils for sinusitis are those that come from herbs with anti-inflammatory properties. Some examples include:
- Tea tree
- Sweet basil
When buying oils, it’s important to use a reputable company. Essential oils, like other supplements, are not regulated in the same way as medicine and so there is not the same guarantee of purity or quality. You should also pick an oil with a smell you enjoy—after all, if it’s going up your nose it should be something you think smells nice.
How to Use Essential Oils to Treat Sinus Infections
As mentioned above, essential oils treat sinusitis by being incorporated into other water therapies. Due to this, explaining how to use them will require a partial elaboration on other treatments.
1. Steam Inhalation
One useful method is using steam and essential oils for sinus infections. Boil distilled or tap water and pour it into a two-inch-deep, heatproof bowl. Add in seven to eight drops of your preferred essential oil and stir well. Make sure not to add in the oil before boiling since that will boil away the oil in the process.
Once the water is infused, lean over the bowl and drape a cloth over your head to form a rough “tent” with the bowl inside. Inhale through your mouth and nose until the water cools or your congestion relieves itself, whichever comes first. You can repeat this process as often as needed and eventually the mixture of essential oils and steam will relieve your sinus infection.
2. Add to a Humidifier or Vaporizer
Humidifiers and vaporizers work on the same principle—they increase moisture content in the air which in turn helps your sinus passages. Adding essential oils into the mix can further relieve sinusitis and its symptoms. Add 25 to 30 drops to the device in question and allow it time to disperse throughout the room.
3. Use with a Neti Pot
A neti pot works similar to steam but in a much more direct way. Instead of merely increasing moisture in the nasal passages, neti pots provide direct irrigation. Using essential oils with a neti pot requires making a solution first.
The solution is made by taking a cup of warm water (warm, not hot, this is going up your nose after all) and adding one tablespoon of ground sea salt. Add in nine to ten drops of the essential oil of your choice and stir the mixture until the salt is dissolved. Pour the solution into the neti pot.
Using the neti pot itself to relieve sinus symptoms is simple, but can be awkward for first-time users. Lean over the sink with your head turned to the side so that one ear is facing the sink. Carefully and slowly pour the essential oil solution into your upper nostril while keeping your head still.
The water will go in through the upper nostril and drain out the lower one. Make sure to breathe through your mouth during this process, then switch to pouring into the other nostril.
4. Use in a Diffuser
A diffuser works on the same principle as a vaporizer or humidifier, but in a smaller area with a more portable device. When preparing essential oils to treat a sinus infection via diffuser, mix half a cup of water with four to six drops of the preferred oil and remember to breathe deep when using.
5. Take a Bath with It
Apply eight to 10 drops of essential oil to a sponge and place it in your bathtub. Let it float as you bathe and diffuse the oils into the bath water. Since this method partially relies on using essential oil-infused steam to treat your sinusitis, you will need to make the bath as hot as possible while still allowing you to be comfortable.
Essential Oil Recipes to Use for Sinus Relief
When using essential oils for sinus headaches, congestion, or other nasal symptoms, you can employ a single type of oil or combine types so long as the total drops don’t exceed the recommendations above.
Here are a few suggestions that have been found to result in particularly effective combinations.
- Three drops pine or rosemary
- Three drops peppermint
- Two drops eucalyptus
- Three drops rosemary
- One drop thyme
- One drop peppermint
- Four drops eucalyptus
- Four drops pine or rosemary
- Four drops peppermint
- Five drops rosemary
- Five drops geranium
- Three drops peppermint
- Two drops eucalyptus
Some of these require mixtures in excess of what is advised by certain methods. In these cases, keeping to the spirit rather than the letter of the recipe will be called for. For instance, the fourth can be scaled down for steam treatment by only using two drops of each oil.
Foods to Eat and Avoid for Sinus Infection Relief
While there are many available types of essential oils for sinus infections (doTerra, for example, provides therapeutic-grade essential oils), you can also make certain dietary adjustments which may relieve symptoms or otherwise minimize agitation.
Foods to Eat
- Soup and tea: Unsurprisingly, the classic steaming bowl of chicken noodle soup is more than an old wives’ tale. Getting liquid into your body a good way to thin out mucus, and the steam these foods produce will deliver an impromptu cleansing.
- Anything spicy: Spicy foods will not cure your sinusitis but it will certainly make the sinus passages open wide and promote drainage. One thing to keep in mind is that while spicy foods can provide short-term relief, they can sometimes cause an increase in inflammation after the effects wear off. If you don’t know how your sinuses will react then spicy food can be worth a try, but put the chili peppers away if things worsen.
- Water: Drinking plenty of water helps thin out any mucus your body produces and keeps the nasal and sinus passages hydrated and slick.
Foods to Avoid
- Caffeine: Caffeine is a diuretic, meaning it makes expel water faster than normal. As mentioned above, keeping water in your body is important to keep mucus thin.
- Milk: It’s not actually clear whether milk or other dairy products can promote mucus production. What is definitely known, however, is that milk leaves a coating behind on your throat when you drink it. For some who are already in the midst of a sinus infection, this can leave you feeling slimier than you’d like.
Other Natural Remedies to Treat Sinus Infections
If essential oils aren’t cutting it or you find yourself looking for other ways to treat sinus headaches, there are other options to consider, including:
- Turmeric or ginger root
- Apple cider vinegar
- A salt-water rinse
- Pressure point activation (facial massage)
- Vitamin C, and
- Oil of oregano (taken orally or mixed with food).
Tips to Prevent Sinus Infections
It’s always better to not have to go through an illness for any duration—prevention is the best cure, after all. With that in mind, here are some quick measures you can take to avoid getting stuffed up or runny.
- Keep your nose from drying out, by using saline sprays, humidifiers, or other methods.
- Try to keep your home in the “Goldilocks” zone; not too dry and not too humid.
- Avoid irritants like smoke, pollen, or cleaning products that give off fumes.
- Avoid long periods of swimming in water treated with chlorine.
- Avoid diving into water, since this forces water through the nasal passages and into the sinuses.
Sources for Today’s Article:
“7 Ways You Can Use Essential Oils for Relief in Sinus Congestion, Headaches, and Infections,” Essential Oil Benefits web site, June 1, 2015; http://essentialoilbenefits.com/7-ways-you-can-use-essential-oils-for-relief-in-sinus-congestion-headaches-and-infections/, last accessed March 21, 2016.
“5 Essential Oil Based Remedies for a Sinus Infection (Sinusitis),” Essential Oil Sanctuary web site, May 30, 2015; http://essentialoilsanctuary.com/5-essential-oil-based-remedies-for-a-sinus-infection-sinusitis/, last accessed March 21, 2016.
Marks D., “Foods to Eat to Cure Sinus Infections,” Livestrong web site, last updated April 28, 2015; http://www.livestrong.com/article/272195-foods-to-eat-to-cure-sinus-infections/, last accessed March 21, 2016.
Sollitto M., “7 Ways to Prevent Sinus Infections,” Care2 web site, August 16, 2012; http://www.care2.com/greenliving/7-ways-to-prevent-sinus-infections.html, last accessed March 21, 2016.