As a child, I suffered regu-larly with a stuffy, bunged up or dripping nose. I was always sniffing and was lost without a tissue in my pocket.
My mum took me to the doctors frequently – if it was winter, they’d say I had a cold, if it was summer, they’d say it was hayfever. Finally (after many years) they diagnosed a chronic sinus problem.
Luckily, I eventually grew out of this problem but as a herbalist I see sinus issues on a regular basis, both in children and in adults. Usually diagnosed as rhinitis or sinusitis, chronic sinus problems are often treated with antihistamines (if an allergy is present) or nasal sprays.
Oh how I remember the nasal sprays! Have you ever tried to convince an eight-year-old that squirting liquid up their nose will help stop their nose running? We aren’t buying it.
Perhaps it’s due to this past experience, but these days I never use nasal sprays in my clinic. Instead, I use herbs that work to address the underlying inflammation which causes the mucous production.
When our mucous membranes are inflamed they are swollen and sore. Our biological response is to produce mucous to soothe the soreness and wash away any bacteria or allergens that are causing the inflammation. Unfortunately, this can become a self-perpetuating cycle. The mucous irritates, causing more inflammation which in turn creates more mucous. Therefore, if it’s possible to heal the sore mucous membranes, the cycle of continued mucous production should break.
The first thing to do is avoid dairy foods and bananas. In my experience, these foods contribute dramatically to mucous formation. It may not be necessary to cut them out forever, but try reducing them for a few weeks to give your sinuses a break and see what happens. Have eggs at breakfast instead of cereal, choose fruit instead of yogurt as a snack and swap out the cheese on your sandwich for a different filling for a while.
Next, drink water. Not just tea, coffee or sugary pop which will ultimately dehydrate you. Drinking six cups of water per day will have a multitude of health benefits as well as helping to thin down mucous.
Foods like chilli, garlic, onions and ginger will also help to break mucous down so try adding these foods to your recipes.
When it comes to natural remedies I usually use a combination of two remedies for two weeks. The first remedy is Serrapeptase, an enzyme that digests and breaks down mucous from within the body. Serrapeptase deals with mucous no matter how deep it is within the sinus cavity meaning that it can get to the areas you can’t clear when blowing your nose. Serrapeptase works really quickly, which is why I use it for a short period of two weeks. Serrepeptase also deals with inflammation, so once the mucous is cleared it shouldn’t come back during those two weeks either, giving the nasal passages and sinuses time to heal.
That’s where my second remedy comes in – Plantago. Plantago is a common garden weed that has been approved by the German Commission E for respiratory catarrh, although its benefits are not limited to the nasal and sinus region.
Traditionally it has been used for the whole ear, nose and throat area. It’s my go-to remedy for glue ear in children or for people that regularly need their ears syringed due to too much wax production, as well as addressing the over production of mucous.
While Serrapeptase should give a quick fix to a sinus problem, Plantago helps long-term to restore sinus tissue to a healthy state. In herbal medicine, it’s what we call a trophorestorative because it ‘restores’ health to the tissues, rather than simply opening up the airways or drying up mucous.
Just like a scratch on the skin, sore tissues need time to heal and constantly blowing your nose or spraying chemicals up it seems to me like the equivalent of picking at a scab that won’t heal. Instead, the Serrapeptase and Plantago combo should offer protection, healing time and hopefully the key to breaking the cycle of constant congestion and/or a dripping nose.
l For more information, or to make an appointment with Nicola, contact her clinic on 01524 413733.