My 12-year-old is always asking me to tell her stories from my childhood, so I recently described the time when I got into big trouble for making long-distance calls to an out-of-state girlfriend. The phone bill was over $500. “Wait,” she asked, “you mean, the phone company charged you more money because the person lived farther away?” It’s such a foreign concept today when we can have a video conversation with someone on the other side of the planet for free! (Moment of gratitude for communication technology . . . Amen.)
Our talk turned to how the world was more culturally insular back then. I explained that many of the Eastern philosophical and medical concepts that are commonplace in our house and community only became mainstream in the past few decades. Global connectedness has allowed us to share the pearls of our cultures with receptive others around the world in an unprecedented way. It’s awesome.
The only downside is that details – and sometimes even the core value – can get lost in translation. One particular “incomplete translation” I’ve been working on correcting for 20 years has to do with the yogic practice of neti – which can be a valuable part of our immune enhancement routine in these crazy times.
Neti – AKA “nasal washing” – comes from the millennia-old tradition of Ayurveda. It cleanses and soothes the nasal passages and is great for people with allergies, crusty nasal mucus, difficulty breathing through the nose, snoring, and frequent colds and flus. By helping to clean and heal our upper airway, it may help the body to more effectively catch and kill airborne viruses. However, traditionally neti has always been prescribed in combination with another practice called nasya – but somehow almost no one knows about it.
While salt water in the nasal passages can clean out the gunk and calm the membranes down, it can also leave them dry and vulnerable. Sometimes the dryness even causes these membranes to respond by producing more mucus. This is why nasya – the practice of lubricating the inside of the nose with oil – is essential. Whereas neti can potentially “strip” your nasal passages, nasyacoats and protects them.
Several years ago, I developed an herb-infused nasya oil called Dragontree Nasal Oil, and it’s been one of our best sellers. I think it’s been popular partly because of the unique combination of herbs it contains and partly because there just aren’t many products like it out there. One doctor tells me she gives it to all her patients who get frequent colds and flus and says it has helped them tremendously.
Let’s look at the whole neti-nasya practice. A neti pot is shaped like a small tea pot, the spout of which fits comfortably in a nostril. You start with warm, clean water (body temperature is good) to which you add a little salt. The ideal degree of saltiness varies from person to person – about the saltiness of tears is usually good. A standard solution is 1/4 teaspoon of salt per 1/2 cup of water. Try this concentration first, and adjust the saltiness if necessary.
Fill the pot with your saline solution, stand over a sink, and place the tip of the spout in one nostril. Tip your head sideways without leaning your head forward or back. As the pot is tipped, the solution should enter one nostril and flow out the other. It helps to keep your mouth open and try not to breathe through your nose. Pour half of the solution through one nostril and then the other half of the solution through the other nostril. This process cleanses the nasal passages of dust, pollen, bacteria, viruses, and other debris which can cause allergies, colds, and sinus infections. If it causes a burning sensation it’s often because there isn’t enough salt for you. Try a little more. Sometimes a pinch of baking soda in the solution can also help.
Now for the nasya. We have often heard from clients that they feel congested after doing neti. This is probably because they didn’t do nasya. There are two main ways of applying oil to the nasal passages. One is to place oil on your (very clean) little finger and use this to lightly coat the inside of each nostril with oil. The other option, which I prefer because it’s more thorough, is to use an eyedropper to instill 4-5 drops of oil into each nostril while lying on a bed with your head hanging slightly off the edge. With this second method, it is best to relax in this position for a few minutes to let the oil penetrate deeply.
A good all purpose (tridoshic) oil for neti is safflower (which is what we use in the Dragontree Nasal Oil). If you don’t have any on hand, you can use olive oil or even liquid ghee (clarified butter). Nasya provides lubrication and protection against pathogens in the nasal passageways after being cleansed by neti. If the nasya step is skipped then the process of neti can potentially make our membranes more susceptible to irritation and infection.
I have studied and experimented with many forms of “medicated” nasya oil over the years. Typically these oils are infused with various herbs and/or essential oils to enhance the protective and cleansing effect of this practice (or occasionally to calm the mind or achieve some other therapeutic effect). For my own herbed nasya, I chose herbs and oils that are traditionally used to kill germs and calm irritated mucus membranes.
I know it’s a bit of an unusual practice, and due to the herbs sometimes people experience a bit of stinging and a bitter taste when they use it – especially if they have an early stage infection. But I’ve been told so many times that it rapidly cleared whatever was in there, so apparently the effectiveness trumps the weirdness factor!
If you try it, I would love to hear about your experience with it.
Wishing you clear, full breaths,
P.S if you’d like to use our Dragontree Nasal Oil in your immunity routine, you can find a bottle here:
Grab a bottle of Dragontree Nasal Oil