A Brief History of Nasal Irrigation

A Brief History of Nasal Irrigation

Nasal irrigation has recently garnered a lot of attention in the West, due in no small part to the television commercials which feature people using small, plastic, tea pot-shaped devices to pour water through one nostril, and letting it flow from the opposite nostril. For those of us who have never seen nasal irrigation products before, this can seem somewhat odd, or even comedic, but make no mistake; nasal irrigation actually has a very long history that goes back for centuries.

jala-neti, or nasal irrigation, was part of a hygienic regimen. The practice involved a neti pot, which is remarkably similar to products which are still used for the very same purpose. Salt water was chosen because it can help to remove excess mucus without irritating the lining of the sinus passages.

The Flow of History

While it was very popular in India, nasal irrigation wouldn't come to the West for a couple thousand years. In the meantime, it spread throughout much of Asia as a popular form of morning hygiene, not dissimilar from the way that we treat washing our faces and brushing our teeth. It wasn't until the turn of the century that medical practitioners in the West began to see the benefits of nasal irrigation as a form of relief from sinus discomfort. The introduction of more industrial air pollution undoubtedly spurred interest as well, as more people living within the city had to deal with dirty air and irritated noses.

Within the past two decades, nasal irrigation has garnered even more attention, particularly in America. Scientific studies on the subject have revealed that nasal irrigation can, when performed in moderation as recommended by a doctor, have positive results for people who suffer from sinus congestion.

Not So Different

A lot has changed about modern medicine from the time of the Vedas to our current era of health care, but we still use many of the same ideas, which include:

The use of a “saline solution.” In ancient times, this referred to a mixture of plain salt and water. In modern sinus irrigation, that solution is carefully measured, and made from distilled water, which is less likely to carry harmful microbes.

The shape of the irrigation device itself. The neti pot design is nearly identical to ancient neti pots, save for the fact that they're made from plastic. Older neti pots were made from clay, bronze, and other materials. Plastic's naturally antimicrobial nature makes it ideal for a low cost, safe product.

Another thing that hasn't changed? The actual effectiveness of nasal irrigation. While our technology produces safer and cleaner saline solutions for the practice, nasal irrigation has remained as one of the more cost effective treatments for sinus relief. The more things change, the more they remain the same.


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