Nasal irrigation is not new; it has, in fact, been practised for hundreds of years by yoga practitioners in south-east Asia, where the practice is known as jala-neti. `Jala-neti' is a Sanskrit word literally meaning to cleanse the nose with water. The practice of jala-neti is part of hatha yoga and the Ayurveda system of traditional medicine.
In traditional jala-neti, a solution of sea salt is delivered to the nose using a neti-pot. A traditional neti pot looks like a metal teapot, but has a nozzle that is designed to plug the nostril. The salt water is isotonic, i.e., the salt concentration is similar to that of blood. This saline solution is poured in one nostril and should pour out the other thereby clearing away excess mucus to enable a good airflow through the nose.
In recent years nasal irrigation has been investigated by scientists and found to have several health benefits, especially for those suffering from rhinitis and sinusitis as well as those recovering from nasal or sinus surgery. This clinical testing has shown that a stronger hypertonic saline solutions, i.e., salt concentration greater than that of blood, are more effective than the normal isotonic concentration for treating nasal conditions. Nasal irrigation has also been shown to be useful when used in conjunction with medications such as corticosteroid nasal sprays and antihistamines.
These days, nasal irrigation is easier than ever, as sachets of salt are available making it easy to prepare a solution of the correct concentration, free of harmful additives. Table salt should not be used because it often contains impurities. A wide range of devices for delivering the saline to the nose is also available. Bulb syringes can be used which enable the user to manually control the flow of the saline, and more advanced `pulsatile' devices are available which pump the saline into your nose in a flow that pulses. This technique is believed to dislodge more mucus and may help stimulate the important small hairs in the nose called cilia. Despite modern devices, neti-pots are still a popular choice and are available in a range of shapes, sizes and materials.
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