As I type these words I am sniffling and snuffling thanks to a very stuffy nose. It’s the frustrating kind, where you can’t even get some relief by blowing it. This is because the worst kind of stuffiness comes not from an excess of mucous, but from inflamed and irritated tissue in the sinuses and nasal passages. The mucous, well, that’s just the cherry on the sundae. When fighting off a cold or the flu, these tissues and the blood vessels inside them become swollen from excess fluid. Other things, such as allergies or irritants like smoke, can also cause that dreadful stuffy feeling. Luckily, home remedies for a stuffy nose are some of the easiest and least involved as they come. These do overlap with some remedies for the cold, as is to be expected since a stuffy nose is the trademark symptom of those pesky viruses.
1. Take a Hot Shower
Yes, I have used this on the cold and flu remedy posts, and no, it’s not cheating, because it really is one of the best ways to relieve stuffiness. The steam from the shower is almost guaranteed to relieve the irritation and inflammation (temporarily, unfortunately, but still) and, if your stuffy nose comes with an excess of mucous, the steam will thin the secretions and help them drain. You can also do a bowl of steaming water with some essential oils added for an extra kick, and a towel over your head, but a shower is a little less involved.
You will need…
-A shower with hot water
Get the water as hot as you can stand it and stay in there for at least fifteen minutes.
Make sure the bathroom door is closed, and shove a towel under the door to keep that precious steam in.
2. Make Your Own Saline Drops
Saline drops (just water with salt added) are a tried and true remedy for a stuffy nose. Remember how the worst kind of stuffiness (that doesn’t improve when you blow your nose) is, in large part, excess fluids in the tissue that lines the sinuses and nasal passages that causes the tissue to swell, which makes it uncomfortable and hard to breathe. A saline solution is a powerful remedy because it uses the power of osmosis. Put very simply, when there is a higher concentration of salt outside the cells in the tissue, water will pass out of the tissue to balance things out again. When you draw fluid out of the tissue the swelling decreases, and your breathing opens up. In addition to this, the fluid can loosen up trapped mucous and help flush irritants and germs out of your body. This solution is hypertonic-it has a higher concentration of salt than the body, which draws the water out-as opposed to isotonic, which is balanced to match the bodies levels. Do not use a hypertonic solution on children under the age of 5. There is also baking soda added (optional) to help lessen the potential for the drops to sting if you have a sore nose.
You will need…
-1 teaspoon of sea salt (not table salt, or any kind with iodine!)
-1/2 teaspoon of baking soda (optional)
-8 ounce (1 cup) of water that is either purified or has been boiled
-A sterile glass jar
If you are using tap water, boil it first to get rid of any impurities. If you are using purified/distilled bottled water, heat it in the microwave until it is fairly warm-it needs to be a higher temperature to dissolve the salt. Add the salt and the baking soda to your jar, and then add the water (if you boiled it, make sure it’s cooled some! Put the lid on and give it a good shake. Shake before every use.
To use, make sure your dropper is clean and sterile, and blow as much mucous out of your nose as possible just beforehand. Lie on your back with your head hanging off the side of the bed (to prevent it from running out or straight down your throat) and put the tip of the dropper just past the inside of the nostril, taking care not to smear it all around inside your nose. Use 1-3 drops per nostril. It may sting the first few times. Stay in the same position for 5-10 minutes to allow the solution to flow into the nasal passages. Wait a few minutes and then blow your nose. You can repeat this process up to 3 times a day during the duration of your cold. It is not for extended use for allergy season or to help with (an isotonic solution should be made for that.)
I think it is more pleasant-and effective-to warm the solution slightly before using it. Store at room temperature up to a week, and then make a new batch. If you prefer a spray to drops, get a container made specifically for administering a nasal spray, and follow the instructions on how to use it.
3. Make a Spicy Decongestant
Last but not least, few things beat the power of a good homemade spicy decongestant. This recipe is one that I cherish, made with the faithful ingredients of cayenne pepper, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, honey, and ginger. Some people like the taste (I personally do) and some don’t, but whichever camp you’re in you’ll love it for the relief that it brings you when it feels like nothing else can!
You will need…
– ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper
– ½ teaspoon of powdered ginger
– 3 tablespoons of all natural organic honey
– 1/4 cup of lemon juice
– 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
Pour ¼ cup of lemon juice and ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar in pot and bring to a gentle simmer. Stir in 2-3 tablespoons of raw organic honey and ¼-½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper and powdered ginger each (the latter amount makes it quite strong.) Store in a jar in a cool, dark, place indefinitely. Adults take 1-2 tablespoons daily as needed. Shake well before using, as the powder doesn’t dissolve in the most pristine way. I find it pleasant sometimes to warm the mixture before taking it.
Tip on Decongestants
One thing to keep in mind-the best (almost) instant and natural decongestant out there is steam. If you’re in need of instant relief, hop in a hot shower or make a cup of tea/boil some water and breathe in the steam to thin out mucous so it drains easily. Have some tissues next to you!