How and Why to Use a Neti Pot

Exercise, clean diet, and adequate sleep are a few of the more obvious ways to maintain your health. Your nose is another vital pathway to a healthy body.

Nasal passages are the first line of defense against pollution, allergens, and other irritants; it’s important to keep them clean and functioning. A nasal wash, also known as a rinse or irrigation, is an effective way to flush out mucus and toxins and keep your passages healthy.          

The neti pot, a traditional Ayurvedic therapy that dates back thousands of years, is on the rise in the U.S., and many allergy and sinus sufferers are turning to it as an alternative to over-the-counter medication, which can carry unpleasant side effects. Using a neti pot is quick, simple, and cost effective—and perhaps most importantly, it can raise the body’s defenses against illness.

What Is a Neti Pot?

The neti pot is a form of nasal saline irrigation therapy. Made from plastic, ceramic, stainless steel or copper, it resembles a teapot but has a longer spout. Many have noted its resemblance to the magic lamp from the story of Aladdin.

The pot is filled with saline solution and then poured into the nostril. The solution flows through the nasal passage, flushes out excess mucus and accumulated debris, and exits through the other nostril. The same process is then done to the opposite nostril. While saline packets typically come with the neti pot, the mixture can be made at home using a half-teaspoon of salt for every cup of water. Neti pots are typically sold in drug stores, health food stores, and online.

Why Use It?

When you breathe in allergens, pollution, and other forms of irritation, mucus production can increase, setting the stage for congestion and infection. By performing a nasal rinse before this has a chance to occur, you can prevent and relieve symptoms that accompany sinus infections, common colds, and other illnesses. Flushing mucus and other particles out can help to thin out excess mucus, open up the nasal passages, and reduce inflammation of the mucus membrane, which swells when aggravated.

Benefits of Using a Neti Pot

Using a neti pot is an all-natural therapy that offers a number of benefits. It can help:

  • Clear nostrils for improved breathing
  • Reduce snoring
  • Reduce nasal dryness
  • Ease sinus headaches
  • Alleviate facial pain and pressure
  • Relieve allergy symptoms such as stuffy or runny nose
  • Heighten the sense of smell and taste
  • Prevent the common cold and other upper respiratory infections
  • Allow for deeper breathing
  • Reduce the need for medications such as antibiotics and decongestants

Recent studies support the use of nasal irrigation to relieve symptoms. A study performed by the University of Wisconsin looked at whether or not saline nasal irrigation would improve sinus symptoms and quality of life, and decrease medication use in adults with a medical history of sinusitis. Subjects used a saline solution combined with baking soda every day for six months to irrigate the nose. The results showed a decrease in sinus symptoms, an increase in sinus-related quality of life, and a decrease in medication use for frequent sufferers of sinusitis.

A separate study through the University of Wisconsin found that 87 percent of family doctors who participated in an electronic questionnaire recommended saline nasal irrigation to their patients suffering from upper respiratory conditions such as chronic rhinosinusitis, seasonal allergic rhinitis, and viral upper respiratory infections.

In addition to helping adults, this treatment has also proven effective for children. Research shows children with seasonal allergies who perform saline nasal irrigation and take antihistamine medication are more likely to experience a reduction in symptoms than children who only take medication. Additionally, it found that children using the neti pot were able to decrease their use of antihistamine medication.

How to Use a Neti Pot

Lean over a sink and tilt your head at about a 45-degree angle. Insert the spout into your right nostril and begin to breathe through your mouth as you tip the pot up slightly. The saline solution will flow through the right nasal passage and out the left nostril into the sink. If solution runs down into your throat, simply spit it out, and blow your nose to get rid of any mucus and excess solution. Repeat the same process in the left nostril. Use daily while suffering from symptoms.

Important Tips for Using a Neti Pot

  • Always wash your hands before using a neti pot.
  • Use the purest water possible: sterile, distilled, or filtered.
  • To avoid stinging, use non-iodized salt and make sure it’s completely dissolved.
  • Clean the neti pot thoroughly after each use with distilled or filtered water, then dry completely.
  • Mild side effects such as nasal irritation occur in a small percentage of regular users.
  • Users with a history of nosebleeds may want to avoid nasal irrigation.

Discontinue use if symptoms worsen.

*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.

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About the Author
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Emily Holland

Certified Health Coach
Emily is a certified Health Coach and freelance writer with a focus on psychology, mental health, and optimal living. A combined interest in healthy living and human behavior led Emily to pursue a certification in health coaching at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition as well as a master’s degree in General Psychology. Her personal struggle with anxiety motivated her to research and implement a variety of holistic approaches into her lifestyle, such as changes in diet and the adoption of mindfulness meditation. She credits these lifestyle changes as well as many others with helping her better manage symptoms of anxiety and everyday stressors. She is most passionate about sharing what she has...Read more