Nasal Irrigation: The "Neti Pot" and How it Works
By Great Hills ENT
March 03, 2014
Category: Sinus
Tags: ENT   austin   nose   Neti Pot   Nasal Irrigation  


Recently, the "neti pot," and nasal irrigation in general, have gained widespread interest in the United States after a Segment on Oprah. The practice of nasal irrigation is actually centuries old. For instance, "Jala meti" is the Hindu ritual of cleaning the nasal passages with lukewarm salt water. Despite the fact that nasal irrigation is eons old, some questions are still relevant:

  • Is there a salt to water ratio that is ideal? Evidence shows that a hypertonic saline solution is best.
  • Is there a downside to irrigating too much? Some research implies it may be counterproductive at some point.
  • What exactly happens when you irrigate? See Below

While these are compelling questions, most people who have found a place for nasal irrigation in their routine sinus hygene do not ponder these questions any more than they ponder how taking a shower works.

To maximize your benefit from nasal irrigation, it helps to know a little nasal physiology. The nasal cavity, including the paranasal sinus spaces, is an area much larger than just the nostrils. Think grapefruit size. This space is lined with specilized skin called mucosa. It has two moving parts, the mucus and the cilia.

Mucus originates from mucus glands near the surface of the mucosa. Mucus is a fluid layer that covers the entire side of our nose and sinuses. That is why healthy mucosa is always wet. The mucosa needs to have mucus on its surface the same way that the surface of the earth requires atmosphere to sustain human life. The nasal mucosa typically produces 1.5 liters of mucus every day. It functions as a first line of defense for our immune system. It captures particles like pollen or dust in the air we breathe, isolating and removing them from our breathing surfaces.

Cilia are microscopic cells that reside on the surface of mucosa. Under magnifications, collectively, they look like fields of wheat being blown by the wind. When fucntioning normally, they act like millions of organized oars that move the mucus "downriver." Usually, the cilia beat in a pattern that pushes the mucus backward through the sinus and nasal cavities until it ends up in the thrat where it is swallowed. The cilia, like your heart, are on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. However, sometimes these cilia malfunction. Injury to cilia can occur from smoke, viral infections and sometimes the mucus becomes overloaded with dust or allergens and is too thick to be removed. This can be likened to attempting to stir a paint can with a feather. In rare instances a person can be born with defective cilia.


When you consider how the nose works at keeping itself clean, it is a little easier to appreciate how nasal irrigation assists this normal function. It makes the work a little easier onthe cilia nad helps promote the self-cleaning action of the mucus. We will continue to discuss some of the practical ways you can make nasal irrigation work for you in another blog.


Barry Castaneda, PA-C


Barry Castaneda, PA-C is a Physician Asssitant at Great Hills ENT in Austin, TX. Barry Castaneda treats disoders or the Ear,Nose and Throat for adult and pediatric patients. Great Hills ENT serves the greater Austin area including Georgetown, Cedar Park, Lago Vista, Jonestown, Steiner Ranch, Lakeway, Spicewood and Point Venture. We are proud to provide excellent care to our patients for general Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) services, hearing loss, dizziness/vertigo and sleep disorders.