Natural cures for sinus pressure and headaches
April 16, 2012 7:12 PM   Subscribe

What natural remedies work for sinus pressure and headaches?

It seems like most of the current natural sinus and cold remedies don't really seem to have much effect.

What natural products/cures/remedies have you used that worked for sinus pressure and headaches?
posted by mtphoto to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Not sure if it really works or not or what the deal is, but I always always crave spicy food with sinus headaches. It seems to get the stuff loosened.
posted by Sassyfras at 7:14 PM on April 16, 2012

It depends on the kind of headache, but what often works for me is squeezing the very top of my neck muscles together (with one hand) where they meet the base of my skull. It can get rid of tension, too.
posted by soelo at 7:18 PM on April 16, 2012

posted by Go Banana at 7:20 PM on April 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Neti pot.
posted by MexicanYenta at 7:23 PM on April 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

posted by something something at 7:23 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nasal rinsing. (Which was recommended to me by an ENT.)

Quercetin has antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties. Of course the problem with supplements vs. medications (in the US) is that the former are unregulated, but my (MD, teaches at a fancy med school) doctor suggests Twinlab and Solaray as reliable for simple supplements like quercetin.

There is a traditional Chinese medicine antihistamine herbal compound called "Jade Screen" (Yu Ping Fen San Wan) that has been recommended to me by MD doctors. Plum Flower has been recommended to me as a reliable brand. I did take this for a while, but found Zyrtec much more effective for me.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:25 PM on April 16, 2012

The ephredra plant contains ephedrine and pseudoephedrine. Pseudoephedrine is a common sinus decongestant available at the pharmacy, albeit usually with an ID, as it can be made into methamphetamine. I take pseudoephedrine for sinus headaches and it works wonders for me. One pseudoephedrine molecule from an ephedra plant is as "natural" as the same molecule found in pill form, but that's up to you.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:26 PM on April 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

The doctor I mentioned above strongly recommended against taking any over-the-counter ma huang (the TCM compound of ephedra) because so many of the ma huang samples that had been tested were contaminated with varying concentrations of refined ephedrine that you couldn't monitor the dose strength. So unless you have a practitioner with an advanced degree from a Traditional Chinese Medicine medical school compounding it for you, I would steer way clear of ma huang or any other "natural" ephedra product.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:33 PM on April 16, 2012

Thirding nasal rinse, and seconding psuedophedrine (Sudafed--the kind you can get off the shelf yourself does not have the active ingredients because of the aforementioned meth thing so make sure you ask the pharmacist--you do not need a prescription). You'd be wise not to take the latter within about 6 hours of going to bed--it will probably wire you and make it hard to sleep. It also dries you out quite a bit, which I've found can be countered by drinking plenty of water and doing the nasal rinse. This is what I use and I now shudder to imagine life without it. I emphatically recommend it--it has made a significant difference.

Wet, hot compresses are good, too, for immediate relief. If you are really suffering, I suggest going in for a massage if you can. Last time I told the person, "The rest of my body is actually fine but my sinus problems have been making me miserable so your attention is most needed above my shoulders!" She was happy to oblige and spent an hour on my neck, head, and face and it was GREAT. When she did my face she pressed in certain areas around my cheeks --firmly, but not to where it was painful--and I could FEEL/hear little pressure bubbles popping in my sinuses. It was a strange sensation but I felt a lot better afterward.

Also, something I found out the hard way recently is this: I've always had sinus issues but more recently my headaches have gotten pretty awful, and I eventually figured out it was because I was unconsciously clenching/grinding my teeth a lot (I think because it alleviates the sinus pressure a bit, albeit temporarily). I know you didn't ask about behavioral solutions but just something to be aware of--once I realized I was doing this I got it under control and my headaches have not been bad.
posted by lovableiago at 7:44 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Caffeine and pseudoephedrine help. Sometimes taking a nap works for me as well. The best solution is to move to a drier climate or one with fewer dramatic pressure changes. When I lived in Chicago, I didn't need to check the weather because my sinus headaches were such a reliable indicator. Since moving back to California, I rarely get them.
posted by mogget at 7:55 PM on April 16, 2012

Nthing the neti pot/nasal rinse route. A couple weeks ago I had bad sinus pressure and my usual mucinex/pseudoephedrine combo wasn't helping, so I begged my doctor to suggest something -- she said that.

I also use the same thing that lovableiago uses, which is a lot easier to manipulate than the teapot-looking thing. (MENTALLY it's still a challenge to wrap my head around "I am intentionally inserting water into my nose and that's just freaky", but that's just my immature hangup.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:11 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Have any access to a willow tree? Chewing on willow bark, which contains salicylic acid, relieves headaches.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 9:04 PM on April 16, 2012

Neti pot, humidifier, a lot of water and green tea; running and asanas for prevention.
posted by rainy at 10:32 PM on April 16, 2012

Saline sprays made for kids really help me. So does codeine, but that's another story :( damn sinus problems!
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 11:25 PM on April 16, 2012

I prefer 24 hour timed-release pseudoephedrine, again from the pharmacist's window. It takes the edge off and works a little gentler in my system.

Gargling with a fresh minty antiseptic mouthwash for a full minute before getting in the shower always seems to get things moving - sometimes inadvertently. So will brushing your teeth with a "total" type gel for a few minutes.

If you can't deal with neti pot, cup your hands around your chin and nose in the shower and let them gradually fill until a little water enters your sinus cavities. Expel and repeat. Feels like you've been in the swimming pool, but it helps.

I drink a lot of tea, and the used teabags on the eyes seem to help with the headaches, especially when it's one of those that is very sharp and in one focused location around the eyes. If they don't do it, heating pad on low across eyes and forehead will help.

Ramen noodles with my own chicken broth, garlic, couple dashes of Tabasco and some fresh cracked black pepper instead of the seasoning packet. Guaranteed sneeze-o-rama, but it helps.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 3:17 AM on April 17, 2012

All good stuff, but there are certain conditions -- large concha bullosa, deviated septum, small or bocked sinus ostia, deep fungal infections -- that nothing short of professional help, and quite possibly surgery, will help. If you've been though repeated bouts of this that never really gets better, you need to see a doctor to truly resolve it.
posted by eriko at 5:51 AM on April 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

Seconding Neti pot for sinus drainage, make sure the water is warm same as your blood temp and salinity is just right. I use 1-2litres per side 2-3 times a day when i get bad sinusitis and in general for good health. If its weird at first you will get use to it but please check instructions properly and ensure you drain the water out correctly after. if it hurts the salinity/temp probably need adjusting.

Drink lots of fluid especially vitamin rich veggie juices, hot lemon/honey/fresh chopped garlic and or water boiled with fresh thyme if you have bronchitis / chest infection too. Peppermint & eucalyptus oil helps. Gargling salt water & iodine mouth wash helps kill germs alot too. Or visiting a salt room for an hour or so regularly to clear sinuses.

Massage, Heat packs, hot water bottles are good for muscle / neck relaxant. Ayervedic heating balms might help too?

If your sinusitis is ongoing, exceptionally painful, etc, you need to see a doc.

Wish you quick recovery!
posted by Under the Sea at 6:07 AM on April 17, 2012

It depends on what is exactly going on in your sinuses. Even though pseudoephedrine is the go-to drug, if your sinuses are already dry it is going to make things worse.

If your nose is leaking basically water, then go with it. But if you are congested and when you do have a productive sneeze, it isn't particularly watery, stay away. Whatever inflammation you manage to cut with the pseudoephedrine, you'll cancel out by drying up your boogers.

My remedy of choice is to over-humidify my environment, drink green tea and lots of water, and use a NSAID to reduce the inflammation without drying things out. Guaifenesin may help too.

And yeah, if it is chilly out, sometimes a good stiff run or walk really gets the nose juices running.

(You know that commercial for Activia yoghurt where they show a mock up of the digestive system, and there is a blockage that the Activia fixes? Think of your sinuses like that. They hurt because there is a blockage. You want to promote the moving around of stuff.)
posted by gjc at 6:28 AM on April 17, 2012

Steam your head! Works as well as a neti pot without the fuss.

1) Boil water

2) Pour water into large bowl

3) Put a towel over your head and then your head over the bowl

4) Breathe deep, but be careful not to burn yourself

5) Feel a million times better

Every time I do this I can actually feel the pressure releasing in my sinuses.
posted by deeparch at 6:56 AM on April 17, 2012

Osha Root tea can help.
posted by dizziest at 7:08 AM on April 17, 2012

I like strong, fresh ginger tea or I make really spicy food.

For the ginger tea I grate about a 1" chunk into boiling water and let it go for 20-30 minutes. Then strain and enjoy. Sometimes I also put in lemon or lime juice and/or honey.
posted by fromageball at 8:20 AM on April 17, 2012

The warmth and salinity of the neti pot, if used, is important for your health; I never could get the hang of one.

One thing I keep about me is a peppermint oil made for massage and stress relief; a little on my chest or nose helps clear up slight congestion before it compounds into need-a-hot-shower-now territory.
posted by tilde at 10:01 AM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Peppermint oil is a great suggestion. Also eucalyptus oil.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:21 AM on April 17, 2012

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