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
GERD or acid reflux, especially in chronic sinusitis
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
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.
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:
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 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.
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.
Hot baths move circulation. Heat up the room beforehand to avoid a chill when finished bathing.
Vibrations from humming can help phelgm to drain.
Keep the head upright to help the sinuses drain.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Augment your diet with these specially chosen ingredients below which may be useful for 'Sinus Infection'.
Individual results vary depending the cause of your imbalance and by constitution.
Please research the ingredients below to find which are most helpful for you, and check with your doctor before making any changes to your health and wellness routine.
DISCLAIMER: The pathogenesis of each person's condition is unique, and so the diet must be fit to the individual and the unique root causes of the condition in your body.
The information on this page is for educational purposes only and should not be used to treat a medical condition. It is not a substitute for medical care.
Please check with your doctor before making any changes to your health and wellness routine.
HOW DOES AYURVEDA HEAL 'SINUS INFECTION'?
AVOID DIETS, LIFESTYLES & HERBS THAT AGGRAVATE THESE EFFECTS
According to Ayurveda, one or more of the following
and biocharacteristics may aggravate 'Sinus Infection'.
If you have an excess of one of these doshas or biocharacteristics below, Ayurveda recommends reducing foods and lifestyle habits that aggravate them.
Click on the biocharacteristic to learn what foods and
lifestyle habits should be reduced.
Symptoms Tell A Story
The first step to healing is learning patterns from your symptoms.
Symptoms are clues that reveal underlying imbalances.
Symptoms show you where your body is weakened.
Ultimately, all disease has a root in tissues too weak to defend itself.
Ayurveda describes these patterns of weakness using doshas & biocharacteristics.
If you notice a biocharacteristic or dosha appears next to many of your symptoms,
it helps you establish a pattern that may be systemic.
FAVOR DIETS, LIFESTYLES & HERBS WITH THESE MEDICINAL EFFECTS
Everything you eat has an effect on your body, which Ayurveda categorizes in a simple and easy way, using biocharacteristics (gunas).
Biocharacteristics are qualities (like cold and hot) that describe the effect a food or herb has on your body.
Cooling foods like cucumber, decrease metabolism.
Heating foods like chili pepper, stimulate your body and increase metabolism.
For 'Sinus Infection', you should select foods with the following biocharacteristics.
Individual results will vary, based on your body type and the root cause of your imbalance.
FOODS TO FAVOR
CONDITION IN YOUR BODY
ABOUT DRY BIOCHARACTERISTIC
Dry is identified by lack of moisture, lack of fat, or anything that causes diuresis.
Take these quizzes
to find out if you have an imbalance of 'Pungent' taste
To learn more about the symbols above, click on them.
An agent that kills microorganisms or inhibits their growth. Antimicrobial is an umbrella term that can be broken down into specific categories of target microorganism, such as anti-bacterials, fungals, and virals.
SINUS INFECTION IS IN STAGE OF DISEASE 3 - ATTACKING TISSUE
If you have symptoms in this category it means that your imbalances are becoming stronger and weakening your body's resistance.
Most people have a weakness in one or more organs.
These areas of weakness are the 'weak link in the chain.'
They are first to succumb when an imbalance reaches a tipping point.
Repairing imbalances in this category often represent your last opportunity to prevent disease.
At any moment, these imbalances could overwhelm weakened tissue and develop into a disease.
You may feel pain or discomfort in the weakened area.
At this stage you will need to support the weakened tissue with specialized foods and herbs for the weakened tissue.
REDUCE THESE RELATED SYMPTOMS & HABITS
The following symptoms & habits may be related to 'Sinus Infection'.
See your quiz results for a computerized assessment of your body type.
Please click on the symptoms below to learn more about them.
Biocharacteristics of the 5,489 People Reporting Sinus Infection
On average the biocharacteristics
of people reporting Sinus Infection were more aggravated than 70% of other symptoms.
From the 5,489 people who reported Sinus Infection in this research study of 74,671 individuals,
average deviation in biocharacteristic levels were the following:
Ayurveda strengthens the body, in addition to addressing the disorder. It take a holistic,
systemic approach, instead of focusing only on the disorder in question. Ayurveda
shows a person how to interpret signs and symptoms of imbalance, and how to address them
using materials from home, so they can optimize their health on a continual basis. You can't
take the doctor home with you, but you can take Ayurveda home with you.
Ayurveda is the most advanced and easy to use home system for self healing with an
exceptional focus on digestion.
HOW DOES AYURVEDA WORK?
Ayurveda starts by identifying your body type,
which identifies certain tendencies in your body to get sick (as well as identifying your strengths).
It uses body type to determine the likely root causes of your disorders.
Next, Ayurveda analyzes the nature of your disorder.
It fits all your signs and symptoms into a pattern, expressed as a combination of biocharaceristics (gunas).
For example, you may have a heat disorder, a cold disorder, or an oily disorder, etc.
This simple categorical approach shows you how to correct systemic imbalances and strengthen your body as a whole.
On Joyful Belly, we've created an extensive categorization of food so you can easily match food to your imbalanced biocharacteristics.
By eating an optimal diet that balances your biocharacteristics, your whole body is strengthened
and the conditions that created the disorder are removed. Once the root causes of the disease
are removed, the disease lessens in strength or disappears altogether. Additional remedies -
such as herbs and lifestyle practices - focused on the specific disorder, can greatly enhance
To get started on your Ayurvedic journey, we first recommend that your find your body
type by taking our free quiz. In Ayurveda, every solution is based on your unique body type, so
by taking this quiz, you’ll get the best results.
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.
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.
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.
- Kathy Gehlken, San francisco, CA, 02-04-13 (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)
Kumar, Try some chamomile compresses on your eyes and a eucalyptus tea inhalation to clear your sinuses.