Ayurvedic Diet

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Symptoms | Respiratory Health | Nose and Sinuses | Sinus Infection
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Sinus Infection Ayurvedic Perspectives

Sinus Infection (Sinusitis)

(5.00 out of 5 stars) 5 reviews
Written by John Immel, Asheville, NC
The winter chill in the air and the smell of cedar logs crackling and burning in a far off chimney refreshes the senses. Yet after several minutes of walking, my nasal passages have swollen shut. An unsightly drop of clear mucus prompts me to reach for a tissue. For many, this discomfort masks the genius of a stuffy nose and prompts a battle with an irritated, red proboscis. Assaulted by an arsenal of nasal sprays and drops, the nose briefly submits to temporary relief only to suffer the consequences. Cold temperatures leave our schnoz vulnerable to attack and invasion by bacteria and virus.

The Brilliance of Stuffy Noses

Ayurveda's approach redirects frustration away from our stubborn, sealed and sulking snout and instead towards the root cause. Once brilliantly buffered from exposure to the cold air and blanketed by a thick layer of mucus, the comfy cozy sinuses warm up again. Our nose knows that viruses thrive on the surface of cool mucus membranes. It's winter, and a stuffy nose protects delicate sinus tissues by swelling shut and filling with fluids to prevent nasal breathing. Forcing them open again would create vulnerability to infectious attack.

The Dignity of Boogers

The example above highlights a perspective that respects the body and dignifies its responses to disease, from boogers to blood pressure, however uncomfortable the symptom may feel. This perspective is core to many traditional healing systems on the planet from Ayurveda to the western nineteenth century Vitalists. These healing systems suggest we work with the body, embracing symptoms as teachers or clues rather than struggling against them. The presence and type of a stuffy nose helps us clarify the cause, whether due to blood stagnation, chronic cold, or underlying allergy.


Nasal congestion is the blockage of the nasal passages, also known as nasal blockage, nasal obstruction, blocked nose, stuffy nose, or stuffed up nose. Nasal congestion is usually due to swollen nasal membranes from inflammation of blood vessels.

Sinusitis is any condition of inflammation in the sinuses connected to the nasal cavity. A simple runny nose is defined by unusually large amounts of nasal fluids with or without inflammation and blocked nasal breathing. Catarrh is a runny nose with thick mucus and white blood cells in response to an infection. Snot and Boogers are the slang term for congealed nasal mucus as it dries.

Types of Stuffy Noses

Many stuffy noses result in the Common Cold. When chronic cold forces the nose to remain stuffed, the inability to flush mucus from the nasal passages may also promote growth of bacteria and viruses. A delicate balance is the key to avoiding sinusitis. The very ordinary ailment we call a common cold is known as Pratishyaya in Ayurveda. Common Colds indicate the presence of rhinoviruses, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), adenoviruses, enteroviruses, and many others. Other types of stuffed or blocked noses include polyps and injury to the temples (not covered here).

The main causes of stuffy and runny noses are:

  • Exposure to cold temperatures
  • Constipation or other toxicity polluting the blood
  • Dry heat causing irritation
  • Circulatory stagnation from rich, heavy foods
  • Infection and irritation
  • Allergies
  • GERD or acid reflux, especially in chronic sinusitis
  • Crying

Signs & Symptoms

The main symptom of a stuffy nose is the inability to breathe through nasal passages. The signs and symptoms of sinus infection are:
  • Drainage of thick, yellow or greenish mucus through the nose or back of the throat
  • Nasal obstruction with difficulty breathing through the nose
  • Pain, tenderness and swelling around your eyes, cheeks, nose or forehead
  • Aching in the upper jaw or teeth
  • Loss of sense of smell and taste following inflammation
  • Cough
Other signs and symptoms can include:
  • Ear pain - The symptoms of middle ear infection are similar to sinusitis
  • Sore throat - Infection, or mouth breathing causing dryness both irritate the throat.
  • Bad breath - Ama & putrefaction cause bad breath.
  • Fatigue or irritability - More prominent in chronic sinusitis.
  • Nausea - Mucus resists digestion by stomach acids. Swallowing mucus weakens digestion.
  • Fever - Typically associated with acute sinusitis.
Sinusitis lasting more than eight weeks or keeps coming back is considered chronic. Fever is more common in acute sinusitis. Chronic sinusitis often causes more significant fatigue.

There are four pairs of sinuses in the head. The location of the pain can indicate where the infection is more prominent.

  • Frontal sinuses (in the forehead)
  • Maxillary sinuses (behind the cheek bones)
  • Ethmoid sinuses (between the eyes)
  • Sphenoid sinuses (behind the eyes)


Sinusitis usually follows a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract. The viruses damage the cells lining the sinuses, causing inflammation, swelling, and buildup of fluids that obstruct the nasal passages. The obstruction disrupts elimination of bacteria normally present in the sinus cavity. The bacteria multiply and invade the sinuses causing thick yellowish or greenish exudate. Allergens, pollutants, dryness, and chronic acid reflux create a similar effect, damaging the lining of the sinuses.

Streptococcuspneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, and Moraxella catarrhalis are normally involved in acute sinusitis. Staphylococcus aureus and anaerobes are sometimes involved in chronic sinusitis. Fungi is an increasing cause of chronic sinusitis, especially in people with compromised immunity, such as with AIDS, leukemia, and diabetes.

Ayurveda considers these pathogens opportunists taking advantage of an underlying weakness. Rather than fight the pathogen, Ayurveda considers the pathogen a symptom and addresses the deeper disease patterns that promote their growth. Disease patterns that commonly lead to infection of the sinuses include a diet or lifestyle with an excess of the following qualities:

  • Cold
  • Rough (as in lifestyle)
  • Sharp (allergens or irritants)
  • Slimy (as in mucus)
  • Dry (causing constipation or irritation)
  • Heavy (heavy food causing acid reflux)


Soups are traditional dietary foods for common cold and sinusitis. The warm broth of a vegetable or chicken soup warms the blood and entire body.

Kapha people often get stuffy noses in the spring when the blood is naturally rich. If heavy, rich foods have triggered a flood of mucus, a day of light fasting helps clear mucus and dry out the blood. Keep the head and chest warm with a hat and plenty of layers. Sweets and dairy should be avoided including cheese, yogurt, & milk because these provoke mucus (Kapha). Avoid cold water and swallowing mucus. Pitta people get stuffy noses due to allergies and Vata people due to cold quality and toxins in the colon.

Cilantro and an Ayurvedic herb called guduci are hypoallergenic.

Mouth breathing and suppressed appetite causes significant dryness irritating nasal passages. Take care to prevent dehydration. Vata may employ daily oil massage except where fever is present to balance dryness and keep the skin warm. After the acute infection has resolved, five drops of ghee, sesame oil, or nasya oil (medicated nasal oil) in each nostril daily will help the sinuses heal and restore the senses of taste and smell. Foods that are difficult to digest should be avoided. Cleanse the colon with gentle laxatives such as triphala and enema therapy.

Proper Drainage

Proper drainage of the sinus passages will help the bacterial infection to resolve. Since all infection involves Pitta dosha and inflammation, avoid substances that clear the sinuses by further irritating them.
  1. Humidifiers make the air warm and moist, soothing the lungs and nasal passages. Inhaling steam infused with ginger or a few drops of eucalyptus oil can open up the nasal passages. Avoid dry heat.
  2. Hot baths move circulation. Heat up the room beforehand to avoid a chill when finished bathing.
  3. Vibrations from humming can help phelgm to drain.
  4. Keep the head upright to help the sinuses drain.
  5. Dry throat and lung irritation from mouth breathing can be alleviated using lemon, ginger, black pepper, honey & salty tea. Sour, salty, and sweet tastes are secretagogues, encouraging fluid secretions. Fluid secretion in the sinuses thins mucus for easy removal and also coats dry membranes.
  6. Pungents like ginger, black pepper and cinnamon break up mucus and assist expectoration. Demulcents like wild cherry bark, licorice root, and marshmallow root also assist expectoration. Sip or gargle teas made from these ingredients.
  7. For sore throats try Honey, Turmeric, Ginger, & Black Pepper Tea.
  8. Clear the nasal passages by inhaling the vapors from crushed raw onions. Just as chopping raw onions make the eyes watery, sniffing them liquefies mucus. Raw onions are also a fast acting anti-inflammatory that reduces swelling in the nasal passages when appropriate. Simply crush a 1/4" thick slice of onion in a mortar and pestle and inhale the vapors until clear.
  9. Once the nasal passages have been cleared with crushed onions, rinse them with a saline solution of 1/8tsp salt to 1c water. Use a neti pot if you have one.

Disclaimer: 'Sinus Infection' could be serious and should be checked by a medical doctor.

Aggravated Doshas & Qualities

Symptoms Tell A Story

The first step to healing is learning patterns from your symptoms. Symptoms are clues that reveal underlying imbalances, showing you where your body is weak. Specifically, they reveal the doshas & qualities that may have become aggravated. If you notice a quality or dosha appears next to many of your symptoms, it helps you establish a pattern that may be systemic.

One or more of the following doshas and qualities may be aggravated.If you have a systemic imbalance of one of these doshas or qualities, Ayurveda would generally recommend avoiding foods and lifestyle habits with that quality.

Vata aggravatingKapha aggravatingDigestive Effects Help

Key: V = Vata, P = Pitta, K = Kapha. A slash through a dosha means it an aggravated dosha. To learn more about the symbols above, click on them.

Correct Imbalance

Food and lifestyle habite with the following effects may reduce imbalances associated with 'Sinus Infection'.
About Pharmacological Effects
The list of actions below have not be approved by the FDA and should not be used to treat a medical condition.

Stage of Disease: 3 - Attacking Tissue

If you have symptoms in this category it means that your imbalances have weakened organs and tissues. At any moment, these imbalances could overwhelm weakened tissue and develop into degenerative disease.

Educational Resources

Browse these educational resources for 'sinus infection'.
Balance Your Kapha Diet in a Week - eCourse
Gain deeper wisdom and insight as you balance your Kapha diet in a week with this eCourse. Gracefully heal your body.

Specialty Formulas by Joyful Belly

Please review these herbs & products below to determine which ones might be helpful for Sinus Infection.
Nasya Oil
Vata aggravatingPitta aggravatingKapha pacifying
Breathe freely with Ayurveda's classic formula for clearing the sinuses, supporting respiratory health, and invigorating your mind. Nasya Oil contains an energizing blend of sesame oil, herbs and essential oils.

Turmeric Cumin Rescue Tea
Vata pacifyingPitta aggravatingKapha pacifying
Cleanse your body, invigorate your blood. The rustic warmth of this formula is especially useful on damp, cold days.

Ayurvedic Herbs & Natural Products for Sinus Infection

Please review these herbs & products below to determine which ones might be helpful for Sinus Infection.

Chyavanprash Nutritive Jam (9.4oz)
Vata pacifyingPitta pacifyingKapha pacifying
Ayurveda's most popular immune tonic. Tasty and safe for adults and children alike, chayawanprash prevents seasonal colds and flus.

Sinus Rinse
Vata aggravatingPitta aggravatingKapha pacifying
Breathe easy! Sinus Rinse contains herbs to disinfect and clear mucus from sinus passages. Excellent for sinus congestion, allergies, and seasonal colds.

Strong Lungs
Kapha pacifying
Breathe easy with Lung Tonic. Nourishing and cleansing for the whole respiratory system. Great for healing from acute or chronic respiratory conditions.

Bayberry Tincture
Vata aggravatingPitta pacifyingKapha pacifying
Opens up your ears by clearing and stimulating your lymphatic system. This formula especially targets your neck, ear, & sinuses to relieve pressure and improve circulation.

Mahanarayan Oil (4 fl oz)
Vata pacifyingPitta aggravatingKapha pacifying
Mahanarayan Oil is a traditional Ayurvedic herbal oil, similar to MahaGanesh oil, but more heating. Good topically for joint pain.

Diet for Sinus Infection

A diet rich in these foods & nutritional supplements may help re-balance the aggravated qualities and doshas in sinus infection.
Black PepperVata pacifyingPitta aggravatingKapha pacifyingCinnamonVata pacifyingPitta aggravatingKapha pacifying
Fennel SeedsVata pacifyingPitta pacifyingKapha pacifyingGarlicVata pacifyingPitta aggravatingKapha aggravating
Ginger (Dried)Vata pacifyingPitta aggravatingKapha pacifyingGinger (Fresh)Vata pacifyingPitta pacifyingKapha pacifying
HoneyVata aggravatingPitta aggravatingKapha pacifyingLemonVata pacifyingPitta aggravatingKapha pacifying
Radish (raw)Vata aggravatingPitta aggravatingKapha pacifyingRed Onion (raw)Vata aggravatingPitta aggravatingKapha pacifying
Salt (Mineral Salt)Vata pacifyingPitta aggravatingKapha aggravating

About the Author

John Immel, the founder of Joyful Belly, teaches people how to have a healthy diet and lifestyle with Ayurveda. His approach to Ayurveda exudes a certain ease, which many find enjoyable and insightful. His online course Balance Your Ayurvedic Diet in a Week provides tools for gracefully healing with Ayurveda to thousands. John also directs Joyful Belly's School of Ayurveda , which specializes in digestive tract pathology & Ayurvedic nutrition. John and his wife Natalie recently published Explore Your Hunger: A Guide to Hunger, Appetite & Food.

John's interest in Ayurveda and digestive tract pathology was inspired by a complex digestive disorder acquired from years of international travel, including his public service work in South Asia. John's commitment to the detailed study of digestive disorders reflects his zeal to get down to the roots of the problem. His hope and belief in the capacity of each & every client to improve their quality of life is nothing short of a personal passion. John's creativity in the kitchen and delight in cooking for others comes from his family oriented upbringing. In addition to his certification in Ayurveda, John holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Harvard University.

John enjoys sharing Ayurveda within the context of his Catholic roots, and finds Ayurveda gives him an opportunity to participate in the healing mission of the Church. Jesus expressed God's love by feeding and healing the sick. That kindness is the fundamental ministry of Ayurveda as well.

Comments & Personal Experiences

How does 'sinus infection' affect your quality of life? What aggravates it? What has helped you? Is there something you'd like to know about 'sinus infection'?

(5.00 out of 5 stars) 5 reviews

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Wow! As always, an article full of rich, unique content! I remember a remedy from childhood - when we had a headcold, we'd take a pinch of anise seeds (ajwain) wrapped in a soft hanky and sniff at it all day. It was comforting for sure, but I don't recollect if it helped with the symptoms.

- Garima Thockchom, Fremont, CA, 02-11-10 (Reply)
Very thorough and informative!
- Kathy Gehlken, San francisco, CA, 02-04-13 (Reply)
- turtle, 04-26-13 (Reply)
Tis is so beneficial right now as my students are all overly busy with kids and school and activities. And getting run down as the season and temperature changes so abruptly and we all get jammed in together at school and work...it's a tough time to get sick. So this info is timely to say the least. Dawn Boys, West Kelowna, BC
- Dawn, West kelowna, BRITISH COLUMBIA, 09-19-13 (Reply)
I have puffy eyes three month ago
- Kumar, 10-27-13 (Reply)
I am sinusitis patient. help me for good treatment... bchsatyam@gmail.com Andhra India
- , 01-30-15 (Reply)
Kumar, Try some chamomile compresses on your eyes and a eucalyptus tea inhalation to clear your sinuses.
Thank you so much for the wonderful tips! Any advice for the accompanying neck pain that can come with sinusitis?
- Brianna Battista, Buffalo, 09-19-16 (Reply)
Massage can help with drainage and relieve neck tension. If you don't have access, try laying on a tennis ball and gently rolling it around the tense areas.
- Kimberly Kubicke, Wall, NJ, 09-19-16 (Reply)

What is Joyful Belly?

Browse recipes and hundreds of other ingredients on this extensive educational website. Joyful Belly helps people confidently choose food that restores their healthy glow, using the ancient technique of Ayurveda. Our extensive collection of online recipes, ingredients, and articles makes health easy. To get started, take the free dosha quiz to find your Ayurvedic body type.

What is Ayurveda?

Learn about Ayurveda from the author of this article and founder of Joyful Belly,
John Immel.

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