14 Natural Treatments to Unstuff Your Nose and Breathe Better
Just this morning, I woke up and found I couldn't breathe out of my left nostril. When I get a stuffy nose, I want to clear it ASAP and move on with what I have to do that day—which is why I've found and tested several home remedies for nasal congestion throughout the years because taking medication is not my first course of action. All of these remedies will help clear out your nasal passageways. Not only will you be able to breathe better, but you will also be clear-headed so that you can have a productive day ahead.
1. Use a Neti Pot to Relieve Nasal Congestion
According to Dr. Elizabeth Trattner, "One of the simplest things a patient can do is a nasal lavage. This can be performed with a neti pot that is purchased over the counter at drugstores. You can even make your own at home by using a mixture of 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of baking soda to 1 pint of distilled water. This should be done twice a day in the morning and in the evening right before bedtime. A nasal lavage helps clear the cilia of the inside of the nose of pollen, micro-particles, and mucus. This practice has been performed for thousands of years and it is quite effective and very inexpensive."
I personally prefer the neti pot to gargling salt as it is the most effective way of clearing your sinuses. Simply fill the neti pot with salt water and pour it into one nostril while tilting your head to the opposite side. These neti pots come with "saline solution," that you pour into water to use in your pot. However, "saline solution" is another word for salt, so once you run out of the solution, you can simply mix your own salt solution.
2. Use a Saline Spray to Clear a Blocked Nose
To make a saline spray, simply mix 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of baking soda, and a pint of distilled or pre-boiled water. You can buy a nasal spray bottle at the drugstore and fill it up with your homemade saline solution. Then simply spray your nose a few times a day to restore moisture to dry nasal passages and thin the mucus that is preventing you from breathing.
You can also do a salt-water nose gargle. Just fill up a small cup with warm water and a pinch of salt. Close one nostril and snort the salt water with the other nostril. Then simply blow your nose. Of course, this technique is very difficult to use on little ones. As the mother of a two-year-old, I know how often children's noses can get stuffed, but their noses are so small that it's hard to clear them out.
Note: Dr. Elliott, MD, a board-certified allergist and internist warns against using tap or bottled water to make a salt water rinse. She says, "It’s fine to gargle with warm salt water when you have a sore throat, but you never want to put that up your nose. There is bacteria in both tap and even bottled water that can make your infection worse. If you want to make your own rinse, be sure that the water is pre-boiled, or better yet, buy distilled water from the pharmacy. That way you know you are not introducing any unwanted materials into you body."
3. Inhale Eucalyptus Oil to Unclog Nasal Passages
Eucalyptus oil increases the number of phagocytes cells that destroy bacteria, increases circulation in the body, expels phlegm, and decongests the nasal passageways. It helps unclog your nose instantly. You can use eucalyptus oil in three ways:
Inhale It Over a Bowl of Hot Water
Pour a few drops into a pan or bowl of steaming hot water. Take a towel and cover your head over the pot so that you create your own mini spa. Inhale the steam. Just be careful not to get your face too close to the pot because the steam can get quite hot and boiling water can splash. Start with your face over a foot away from the water, and adjust accordingly.
Pour a Few Drops on Your Pillow Before Bed
Sprinkle a few drops on your pillow so you can inhale it while you sleep.
Use a Handkerchief
Put a few drops of eucalyptus oil onto a handkerchief, and sniff it throughout the day.
4. Eat a Clove of Raw Garlic When You Think a Cold Is Starting
Based on my experience, this is the most effective for not only clearing my stuffy nose but also getting rid of my cold. Dr. Tania Elliott, MD says, "Garlic is a natural immune booster." It is an extremely potent anti-bacterial food, and when cut, it produces a chemical called allicin, which helps thin the mucus blocking your passageways.
Just take a clove of garlic and slice it into pieces small enough to swallow. Then just swallow it with some water like you would a normal pill. Drink some warm water after to help with digestion.
5. Take a Hot Shower or Inhale Steam for Sinus Relief
The steam from a hot shower will help clear out your nose by thinning mucus and restoring moisture to inflamed mucus membranes in your nostrils. While this clearing effect is temporary, it can still help remove blockages in your nasal passageways.
6. Drink Warm Water or Hot Tea (Peppermint or Ginger)
One of the reasons your nose is stuffy is because of mucous buildup. Drinking ample water helps to thin out this mucus and drain it, which is why it is always the standard advice given by doctors to patients with sinuses.
Warm water or tea is even better because the heat will loosen up the mucus and help you breathe better. Herbal teas like peppermint or ginger tea are great choices for clearing your nasal passageways. The menthol in peppermint breaks up phlegm and relieves sinuses and headaches, and ginger has high anti-inflammatory properties that instantly relieve congestion.
7. Eat Spicy Foods to Thin Mucus
Spicy foods will often help drain the nose. Like the effect of steam, this effect may only be temporary but will help lead to more lasting results. We make Indian food everyday, so I can easily add a Serrano chili or cayenne pepper to make something extra spicy. Mustard oil or wasabi are also great for giving that instant clearing effect.
Try adding chilis to your cooking. If that's too much effort, you can easily order spicy Indian or Vietnamese dishes.
8. Lie on the Side That Is Unstuffed or Less Clogged
If you want to clear nasal congestion at night and help relieve the pressure on the more stuffed side of your face, try lying on the side that is less stuffed. This works especially well after nose gargling salt water or using a neti pot.
9. Massage Your Sinuses
Massaging your sinuses can help to break up the congestion. It works, just like any massage, by loosening things up.
Below is a video that walks you through exactly how to drain your sinuses using massage and pressure points.
10. Cut an Onion to Clear a Blocked Nose
Dr. Tania Elliott, MD explains, "Raw onion is great for boosting the immune system!" This morning, an item on my to-do list was to make sauce that required onions. Cutting onions up instantly unstuffed my nose. The strong smell not only made me cry but also helped open up my nostrils.
11. Use a Humidifier While You Sleep to Add Moisture to the Air
We do this in our Connecticut home during the wintertime. A humidifier instantly puts moisture into the air, increasing the humidity (hence the name). Like drinking a glass of water, using a humidifier can help thin out the mucus in your nose and sinus areas, allowing you to breathe better and sleep more restfully.
12. Use Warm Compress on Forehead
To relieve sinus pressure, place a warm compress on your forehead and nose. The warmth from the compress will clear up mucus that is built up in the mucus membranes located throughout your neck, temples, forehead, and nose.
13. Eat Chicken Soup to Get Rid of Sinuses
Dr. Elliott, MD explains that "Chicken soup can help fight infection. Studies show it boosts neutrophil production—a key component of the immune system needed to fight bacteria." This is because chicken soup is chock full of potent herbs and spices (onions, celery, and pepper) that stimulate nasal clearance. It is also full of protein, which strengthens your immune system and helps your body fight cold symptoms, such as congestion and fatigue.
14. Drink Some Apple Cider Vinegar
Mix some apple cider vinegar with water and honey, and drink up for better breathing. Apple cider vinegar contains potassium, which thins mucus. It is also abundant in vitamin C, which gives your immune system that extra boost for fighting off the common cold.
How to Sleep With a Stuffy Nose
- Prop your head up to help drain the mucus. You can do this by using two or more pillows to keep your head elevated.
- Spray your nose with a saline spray before bed. The blast moisture of moisture does wonders for decongestion.
- Use a humidifier or diffuser in your room to ensure that your nasal passages are moist all through the night. Adding a few drops of eucalyptus oil in would be even better. The menthol in eucalyptus is antibacterial and helps open blocked mucus membranes.
- Rub your chest with eucalyptus oil of Vick's vapor oil. Again, the menthol heals with decongestion.