Whether caused by a cold, flu, allergies, pollution, or just dry air, nasal congestion can interfere with breathing, interrupt your sleep, and make you feel miserable. Fortunately, there are a number of natural at-home remedies you can utilise to help relieve your symptoms, without some of the side effects often associated with over-the-counter decongestants.
Although many people will attribute their nasal congestion to excess mucus, it’s actually caused by swollen blood vessels in the sinuses. When an irritant – such as an allergen or virus – stimulates the nose, increased blood flow to the vessels in the nasal cavity causes the nasal passages to swell, which can make it more difficult to breathe. It can also trap mucus and interfere with sinus drainage, thus blocking airflow further.
So, what home remedies can help when congestion is bothering you?
Inhale Steam by Taking a Hot Shower
Inhaling steam can help loosen mucus and encourage it to drain out of the sinuses. One of the easiest ways to do this is to take a hot shower. This can make you feel better by helping your breathing return to normal, even if just temporarily.
Use a Humidifier or Diffuser
If you’re particularly prone to nasal congestion due to dry air, try using a humidifier to increase the humidity levels of the air you’re breathing. Inhaling humid air helps to soothe irritation in the nasal tissues and thin mucus, which can help the mucus drain away easier.
You could also use an aromatherapy diffuser to which you can add a few drops of essential oils to further assist with decongestion. Whichever you choose, just be sure to change the water daily and clean the unit accordingly to help prevent the growth of bacteria and mold, which could actually trigger nasal congestion.
Consume Plenty of Fluids
Staying well-hydrated and drinking plenty of non-alcoholic (and ideally non-caffeinated) drinks can help ease congestion by thinning mucus and making it easier to drain away.
Hot, cold and room temperature drinks are thought to be equally effective, but many people find hot drinks particularly comforting. If you’re a fan of herbal teas, try Peppermint, Eucalyptus, Ginger, Nettle or Thyme. Or even just hot water with a slice of lemon, ginger and honey can help, too. Meals with a high fluid content, such as soups and broths, can also help. Try to consume plenty of healthy fluids throughout the day for the best effect.
Try Nasal Irrigation
To remove allergens, germs and thick mucus from your nose, try using sinus irrigation to rinse out your nasal passages. A nasal irrigation device, such as a neti pot, uses sterile water or a saline solution to flush out your nasal passages, which can physically remove irritants that may be triggering your congestion, and can help dislodge stubborn mucus. Nasal irrigation may help you recover from your sinus congestion quicker, but it’s important to only use sterilised or distilled water.
Use a Warm Compress
Applying a warm compress over your nose, cheeks and forehead for 20 minutes or so can help relieve sinus pressure and nasal inflammation, which in turn can soothe headaches and sinus pain associated with your congestion. Microwavable hot compresses are available to purchase, or you can simply soak a washcloth in hot water and squeeze out the excess before applying.
Improve your Sleeping Conditions
Congestion can often feel worse at night and this is likely due to mucus pooling in your sinuses when you lie flat, instead of draining away. To help alleviate this, use an extra pillow or two to raise your head slightly while you sleep. To further assist with mucus draining, run a humidifier next to your bed at night. You can also wear an adhesive nasal breathing strip across your nose, which can ease breathing at night by lifting the sides of your nose slightly and opening your nasal passage.
Try Sinus Massage
Sinus massage is an easy at-home practice that may help relieve sinus congestion by physically stimulating your sinuses and encouraging mucus to drain away. There are many tutorials online that give you a step-by-step guide on how to massage your frontal, maxillary, sphenoid and ethmoid sinuses. The next time you’re suffering from irritating congestion, give one of these tutorials a go and see if it helps to drain your sinuses more quickly. If nothing else, you may find the massage pleasantly relaxing.
Utilise Essential Oils
Finally, you can use essential oils as a natural way to help ease congestion. The following oils are all believed to be natural decongestants:
- Tea Tree
You can reap the benefits of essential oils by combining them with some of the decongestion tips above. For example, try adding a few drops to a hot bath if you want to inhale steam, or adding some to a diffuser and place it next to your bed at night. Alternatively, you could simply add a few drops of essential oil to a tissue and inhale.
If you prefer a topical remedy, it’s important to ensure any essential oils you apply to your skin are properly diluted in a carrier oil to make them safe to apply topically. Our popular Throat and Chest Balm is safe to apply to the skin (but we recommend avoiding the face), and contains essential oils of Tea Tree, Peppermint, Wintergreen, Eucalyptus, Marjoram and Menthol, which are all traditionally used as natural decongestants. Apply to the hands and inhale, or directly to the throat and chest for all-natural relief.