During winter and spring, I use my neti pot daily (or just about daily) and with each passing season, have fewer and fewer allergies and colds. In fact, since the end of my Forrest Yoga Foundations Teacher Training, where I got in the habit of doing neti daily, I have been sick with a cold maybe once and have had no seasonal allergy problems.
Winter is a great time to get into a neti habit because indoor air is very dry and dry nasal passages make us more vulnerable to air-borne infections and irritants. Mucus is a protective layer that traps allergens and microscopic particles (including dust, mold, bacteria, etc) that can lead to respiratory issues. Running a humidifier at home is a great idea, and in addition to neti for cleansing, you can keep your nasal passages moist and protected by using nasya, or Ayurvedic nasal oil.
I used to see nasya oils sold near the neti pots in nature food stores, but there seems to be a dearth of this product lately. In any case, I knew I had all the ingredients I needed at home, so I decided to make my own. Using a base of sesame oil, I re-used a small bottle that previous contained essential oils (a Living Libations Poetic Pits bottle) and added, to this 5 mL bottle, about 4 drops of eucalyptus oil, 3 drops of peppermint oil, and 1-2 drops niaouli (you can also use tea tree; niaouli is similar to tea tree and is a strong anti-viral/anti-bacterial but is gentler to skin). In this most recent batch, I also put a drop of the famed Thieves blend, a medieval recipe used during the time of the Black Plague. Shake well to mix the oils. NOTE: Depending on your sensitivity to essential oils, you may want to put half the amount of essential oil.
Sesame oil is prized in Ayurveda for its warming qualities and is especially good for calming vata, the air dosha which tends to be out of balance in winter. After doing my neti pot in the morning before meditation, I use a q-tip to gently rub nasya inside each nasal cavity. Many Ayurvedic sites say you can use the tip of the pinky finger. The respiratory oils in the blend help clear and deepen my breathing for meditation, the sesame oil lubricates and heals any dryness in the nasal passages, and the essential oils have the added benefit of being anti-vital, anti-bacterial, etc.
Traditionally, nasya is done by laying down and dripping customized nasya preparations into the nose, of which there are as many recipes as there are issues pertaining to nose and throat. Some nasya recipes call for herbs boiled in milk and added to various oils, etc. While my nasya recipe or means of administration is not traditional Ayurveda, I think it is in keeping with the idea of calming vata, protecting and supporting the delicate mucus membranes of the nose, and adding another layer of defense by using essential oils with anti-microbial properties.
There's lots of resources to learn about the benefits of nasya. Some include relief from hoarseness, stiff neck and jaw, headaches, earaches, stress, anxiety, and a positive impact on the sense organs. When I am doing neti and nasya daily, I find my sense of smell becomes enhanced (it's not one of my strongest senses so I'm always happily intrigued when it starts working thanks to my neti regime!).
My simple recipe for nasya is as follows:
- Use a small glass bottle or jar, about 5-10 mL
- Fill bottle about 2/3 full of unroasted sesame oil (don't use a cooking oil, get one sold for body)
- 4 drops eucalyptus oil
- 3 drops peppermint oil
- 1-2 drops niaouli oil (can substitute with tea tree oil)
- Top up bottle with sesame oil, close, and shake to combine oils.
- Use organic oils whenever possible
- NOTE: depending on your sensitivity to essential oils, you may want to put half the amount of essential oils. The nasya will still provide excellent benefits. I like my nasya oil a bit on the stronger side.
Even if you use organic oils, this recipe should only cost you about $.50 or less to make. If you purchase a 4 oz. bottle of sesame oil and the essential oils you like for the recipe, you probably won't spend more than $30 and the ingredients should last you the entire year or longer if you use nasya daily. You can also substitute or add other oils to your recipe but make sure they are in concentrations safe for applying to skin. I made a blend with clove oil, which is strongly anti-bacterial and anti-viral. Do some research on essential oils to find which ones could make your recipe perfect for you, but start with the basic one I outlined above. It kept me free of cold all winter.