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The Neti Pot: A Gross, Essential Wellness Tool

It’s been a bad cold season. I don’t know one person who hasn’t been sick in the last month, and most people are saying something like “I’m never sick for this long.” I’ve been to the doctor three times in the last four months. I’ve been told two things:

1. Colds and viruses seem to be lingering this winter more than is typical
2. If you come back for codeine this often, it will look suspicious

No, I did not see it first on Oprah, although I did first hear of it on television. The old man George on Six Feet Under was always raving about his Neti pot, which Ruth called his “stupid nostril pot.” Since I started using my stupid nostril pot, some things have improved.

How does it work?

Step one: jam it up your nose

Step one: jam it up your nose



The Process

1. Fill the pot with water. This can take some tweaking depending on the person, so experiment. The water can’t be too hot, or too cold. You’ll know. Just experiment.

2.  Mix a quarter-teaspoon of salt into the pot.

not too much, not too little...

not too much, not too little...

Again, this amount may vary slightly depending on the person. If you have too much (or too little), it may burn a bit. The question of which kind of salt to use comes up occasionally. I’ve only used cooking salt. Most guides I’ve read suggest “pure sea salt” if available. If you don’t have sea salt handy, cooking salt or table salt are perfectly acceptable

3. Insert in one nostril and tilt your head so that it runs out the opposite nostril. The feeling can be a little unnerving the first time, but passes quickly. Pace yourself. It’s not supposed to exit like a fire hydrant. If your sinuses are stuffed up, it’s not going to go fast at all, so give it as much time as it takes.

4. Refill and repeat with other nostril. Some people do half a pot on each nostril to make it go quicker. That hasn’t worked as well for me.

The art of nasal irrigation has been around for centuries by smart Yogis. The idea is that diseases and germs enter the body through the nose. The nose is a impressive little petri dish of nastiness because of how moist it is. The sinuses are the front lines of the body, and once they’re infected (or dusty), the rest of you doesn’t have a chance. Enter the Neti Pot.

My father-in-law, an amateur mountain man known as “flint-striker,” used to practice this with a handful of water and salt. This method was apparently common in India as well. The pot itself just makes the process more convenient. Other people I know who rave about the NP have reported success in treating (or preventing):

  • asthma
  • allergies
  • colds


Search long enough and I’m positive you’ll find someone saying this amazing nose douche will cure your cancer, send your virility through the cosmos, and take care of your bunions. Maybe they’re right, but I certainly can’t vouch for any of that. I personally have found it most effective for the common cold.

It’s strange to say, but my Neti Pot is now part of my day. It’s not fun, but I look forward to it…sort of. I always feel better when it’s over.

PS: Have some neti pots you’ve been jamming in your nose? Tell us all about it in the comments section

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Ben Owens April 16, 2009, 3:32 pm

    Lindsey loves her NP. She keeps trying to get me to use it, but I don’t know. It looks like it feels really weird…

  • Josh Hanagarne April 16, 2009, 4:11 pm

    It feels like having a baby deer lick the inside of your head. You’ll love it. do it!

  • Bill Long April 16, 2009, 6:21 pm

    Josh have you been visiting the zoo letting the deer lick your nose? 🙂

  • Josh Hanagarne April 16, 2009, 6:27 pm

    No, there’s a tiny deer that lives in my head.

  • Bill Long April 16, 2009, 6:30 pm

    HA I seen that technique on tv also …Ophra I think….(my wife was watching…) Looks intresting I may try it next time I get a cold.

  • Ann Elise April 17, 2009, 7:01 am

    I recommend sinus flushes a lot in my emergency medicine practice. I love your pictures. I usually refer my patients to the video at SinuCleanse.com but maybe I’ll send them here instead!

    I do a flush every 2-3 hours at the first sign of a cold, and have avoided upper respiratory infections for a few years now. That’s a powerful motivation to keep flushing, considering how many infected people I treat per shift (and how often my colleagues get sick).

  • Josh Hanagarne April 17, 2009, 7:48 am

    Thanks Ann. It’s great to here from someone who actually recommends the NP to clients. Every 2-3 hours is pretty intense, but if that works for you, I’m willing to try it. thanks for the comment. My wife and I both have enjoyed your blog, by the way. Gardens and food: I think we’d all get along famously.

  • Raj October 8, 2009, 6:10 pm

    I’ve used the squirt bottle where you push it up your nose and force the water up. I had been sick for a little while and one of the symptoms was a bacterial build up in my nose. It was quite uncomfortable and there was an odor IN MY NOSE. Flushing out the bacteria was the only thing that relieved my nose and it helped a lot. Other than that, it does help with congestion but that is a temporarily solution that may not be any better than blowing your nose.

    • Josh Hanagarne October 8, 2009, 6:28 pm

      @Raj: I ran into a snag last night with my neti pot. I was finally so stuffed up that I couldn’t get anything to go through in either direction. I needed a neti pot with a fire hose attachment, or full of acid maybe.

  • alfa July 7, 2012, 6:56 pm

    make sure to boil the water before using it to kill any bacteria, let it cool and then start using the neti.