I’ve Tried Every Sinus Remedy Out There—And Here Are The 8 That Actually Work

Whether it’s just that time of year or you’re a chronic sinus sufferer, I hear you.

I’ve dealt with allergies and sinus issues since childhood. My hometown is part of the Ohio River Valley, so allergens like to sit around in the air here. It’s such an issue, a doctor once told me, “If you want to stop having allergies you have to move.” To top it off, I have narrow nasal passages and asthma.

As a result of all of this, I’ve tried everything under the sun to ease the many annoying and downright painful symptoms of the dreaded sinusitis. Lucky for you, I’m going to share my (mostly unscientific) findings about which remedies actually help!

What Is Sinusitis?

Sinusitis happens when you have a combination of  swelling or inflammation that causes nasal congestion and infection in the cavities around your nose and eyes. The inflammation is caused by a virus, and in more rare cases, bacteria or fungus. Allergies, nasal polyps or other obstructions can also cause sinusitis. A sinus infection is considered either acute or chronic based on the causes and length of symptoms.

sneezing photo
Flickr | William Brawley

Symptoms Of Sinus Infection

The most common symptoms are:

  • Nasal congestion and discharge
  • Facial swelling and pain/sinus headaches
  • Sore throat or irritation
  • Coughing

When To See A Doctor

Most people suffer from acute viral sinusitis, with cold-like symptoms and upper respiratory illness. Antibiotics aren’t effective, so you’re better off managing the symptoms at home. If it goes on longer than 10 days, pay the doctor a visit.

Acute bacterial sinusitis typically comes with that nasty, thick yellow or green discharge that you see when you blow your nose or cough up post-nasal drip. You’ll also likely have sinus pressure and pain. It can be treated with antibiotics, and should clear up in 10 to 14 days.

Chronic sinusitis is usually caused by irritation due to allergies. Symptoms tend to happen seasonally, and can be treated with allergy medications like antihistamines and home remedies. Symptoms can last for months at a time, and may require allergy shots or other interventions.

If home remedies, antibiotics, allergy shots or other medications don’t provide relief, a specialist should be consulted to explore other options.

doctor photo
Getty Images | Scott Olson

8 (Mostly) Natural Sinus Relief Remedies That Actually Work

Without further ado, below are the eight remedies that have done wonders for me time and again. My sinus infections are often brought on by allergies, but I’m no stranger to bacterial infections.

Remember that the typical bout of sinusitis can last anywhere from seven to 14 days, so I would recommending giving these remedies some time before you run to the doctor for antibiotics. If you’re not seeing any improvement at all after a few days or have a fever, I would recommend consulting your doctor.

1. Apple Cider Vinegar Sinus Brew

Natural remedy lovers sing the praises of apple cider vinegar for its many health benefits. Add lemon, honey and Cayenne pepper, and you have a triple whammy of antibacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal properties, plus the stew can boost your immune system and energy levels.

Here’s a good recipe for apple cider vinegar sinus brew.

Cayenne offers anti-inflammatory properties, while lemon provides vitamin C and honey soothes irritation. If you use raw, local honey, you get the added benefit of offsetting pollen allergies. Sinusitis can already cause some tummy upset because of swallowing mucus, so be cautious if your stomach feels sensitive and maybe try leaving out the cayenne. Remember, apple cider vinegar is also acidic, so don’t go overboard. I drink this only once a day. Drink it down before it gets cool!

apple cider vinegar photo
Flickr | JeepersMedia

2. Oregano Oil

Discovering oregano oil was a game-changer for me. It acts as a natural antibiotic, boosting your body’s ability to clear infection. Similar to apple cider vinegar, it also contains compounds that have anti-fungal, antibacterial and antiseptic properties.

As soon as I start to feel congested, I start my morning by breaking open an oregano oil capsule in a small dish of hot water, placing a towel over my head and breathing in the vapors. You can also take a capsule with a meal, use oregano essential oil in a diffuser or add it to your bath. There are a number of other methods to treat sinus pain with oregano oil, so use the one that works best for you.

3. Steamy Showers With Peppermint Oil

While studies are mixed on whether or not steam is helpful for relieving congestion or sinus pain, I find a steamy shower with peppermint oil refreshes me and keeps me moving.

I turn up the heat on the water (but don’t make it scalding!), add several drops of peppermint oil to the shower floor and close the door to let the steam build up. In the shower, I breathe deeply and let the hot water hit my face around my sinus cavities. Sometimes I will also massage my face with a washcloth under the water. Peppermint oil contains menthol, which provides a cooling sensation that can make it feel easier to breathe (this is why it’s often an ingredient in chest rubs and lozenges).


4. Sinus Rinse Or Saline Spray With Grapefruit Seed Extract

At the first sign of nasal issues I use saline spray with grapefruit seed extract.

Grapefruit seed extract is a natural antibiotic, and you can add a few drops to saline spray, buy a spray that has it included or add a few drops to your a saline rinse. You may have heard people refer to saline rinsing as nasal irrigation—and many do so using a neti pot, which looks like a small teapot. You put warm, distilled water and saline solution in the pot and pour it into each nostril while tilting your head at a 45 degree angle over a sink. The point is to clear the nasal passages by thinning out mucus and stimulating the cilia in the nose to move out irritants.

I find this process a bit messy and tricky to get right, so I use a battery powered pulsator. This way, I can really blast that saline solution where it needs to go when I feel blocked up. It’s important to use distilled water, not tap water, so you don’t end up with additional infections from bacteria. I also purchase saline packets made for nasal irrigation, so I know I’m using the right amount.

neti pot photo
Flickr | harmonli

5. Vitamin C

I up my vitamin C intake as soon as I start to feel the least bit sick. Adding a daily supplement or glass of Emergen-C are probably the easiest ways to get it. However, health professionals generally agree raw fruits and vegetables are the best sources for upping your C. Lemons are an excellent source of vitamin C, as are strawberries, peppers and kale, all of which have more vitamin C than an orange.

6. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

You have to thin out that mucus! And there’s no better way than by hydrating as much as possible. If plain old water is getting old, try drinking coconut water and eating broth or soup (make sure it’s not too salty). Hot, caffeine-free teas or hot water with lemon and honey are great options that have their own healthy, soothing benefits. If the air in your home is dry, consider using a cool mist humidifier.

humidifier photo
Flickr | Editor B

7. Warm Or Cold Compress And Rest

If you’re starting to feel sick or have a full-blown infection, the best thing you can do is rest! You can help your body fight off infection with all these remedies, but they’re more likely to work if you get enough rest. Since you’re already lying down, take the opportunity to soothe pain or congestion by alternating warm and cold compresses to help loosen congestion and ease sinus pain. I love using face masks that you can chill or freeze in the fridge when I have sinus pain or headaches.


8. Over-The-Counter Medications

I list meds last because they are usually my last resort. If it seems like my sinusitis is related to allergies I will take Claritin. If sinus pressure is an issue, I’ll take a curcumin supplement (the active ingredient in tumeric) to combat inflammation or ibuprofen if it’s really bad.

I don’t love taking OTC combo medications because you end up treating issues you don’t have or setting yourself up for side effects that can make you feel worse. Cold medicines also make me feel really spacey, and I already feel that way with a sinus infection! That said, if I’ve let things go, as a busy mom can tend to do, I’ll take Mucinex Sinus-Max to breathe again. In my world, if I get to this point, a doctor visit is in my near future!

Have you tried any of these sinus pain remedies? Which one works the best for you?