Sinusitis -- an infection of the air-filled cavities behind the eyes, nose and cheeks -- affects approximately 30 million people each year in the United States, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. A sinus infection can be terribly painful, with pressure behind the eyes, nasal congestion, nasal discharge and loss of smell. Herbal teas are an effective and natural way to relieve the symptoms of a sinus infection.
Antimicrobial herbs can be taken internally as a tea or even used as a diluted nasal rinse to kill the infection. Garlic is one of the strongest antiseptic herbs and is effective in supporting the immune system and killing infectious pathogens when taken as a tea. Other useful antimicrobial herbs for sinus infections include ginger, thyme, sage and elder flower. Herbalist Jim MacDonald also recommends the use of hyssop, elecampane and yerba mansa for their decongestant and antimicrobial properties.
Echinacea is the most common immune-stimulating herb. Echinacea angustifolia root is considered the strongest medicine for infection – compared to the leaf – when made into a strong tea which can be done by simmering an ounce of root for at least 30 minutes in two cups of water. Another immune-boosting herbal tea that can support recovery from a sinus infection is made from elderberry.
Western herbalism uses the term “trophorestorative” to describe herbs that help tone and rejuvenate tissues or organs. Goldenseal is the premiere trophorestorative for the mucous membranes, helping tone and heal boggy, inflamed sinus tissues, according to Master Herbalist Paul Bergner in his book “The Healing Power of Echinacea and Goldenseal and Other Immune System Herbs.” Bergner recommends using small doses of goldenseal tea -- a few teaspoons three to four times a day -- after the acute infection is over to rebalance the mucous membranes and clear lingering inflammation.
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Along with taking herbal teas internally, the same herbs can be mixed with a mild saline solution for doing nasal irrigation with a neti pot or other method. This can get the herbs directly in contact with the mucous membranes of the sinuses and kill off infectious agents. It can be nice to add moistening – or demulcent – herbal teas to a sinus wash like marshmallow or slippery elm to soothe inflamed, irritated tissues. Herbal steams are another way to harness the healing affects of herbal teas – make a tea from wild oregano, eucalyptus or yerba santa, then sit with your head over the pot and a towel covering both to reap the full benefits of the steam therapy.
Amy Myszko is a certified clinical herbalist and nutritional consultant who has been helping people find greater health and balance through diet, lifestyle and natural remedies since 2006. She received her certification from the North American Institute of Medical Herbalism in Boulder, Colo. Myszko also holds a BA in literature from the University of Colorado.