Sinus infections can be acute or chronic presenting with stuffy head symptoms stopping us from enjoying life to the fullest. Sinusitis is an uncomfortable condition that can be caused by a bacterial, fungal, or viral infection, or it can arise from an allergic reaction. Depending on the sinus cavities involved, pain occurs in the forehead, between the eyes, or in the mouth area. Swelling of the mucous membranes and increased production of watery mucus can become thick, yellow and stuck.
Although Western Medical treatments prescribe decongestants, mucolytics, pain relievers, and antibiotics, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) many of the symptoms that manifest as a sinus infection could be due to an imbalance of other organs. A commonly seen condition is where a patient suffers from sinusitis and constipation. If the intestines are not able to fully eliminate waste, it leads to imbalance in the upper body, producing phlegm. The herbal formula used in this case would be tailored to treat both these conditions simultaneously.
In TCM the stomach is said to ‘rotten and ripen’ food, the intestines descend waste and the spleen-pancreas separates clear nutrients to ascend and nourish the senses. When this mechanism is weak or overloaded, the turbid mucous ascends through the lungs and ‘mists’ the senses, in particular the eyes, ears and nose.
Ironically the Magnolia flower is used orally in formulas to alleviate the side effects of stopping to smell the roses for too long. It has been shown to have localized astringent, vasodilator and antiphlogistic effects on the nasal mucosa and is used to treat simple allergic rhinitis as well as nasal polyps and hypertrophic rhinitis.
Acupuncture works in a similar way. Points either side of the nose and on the brow give immediate relief and patients will often report mucous releasing and clearing during treatment. Other points are chosen to bolster digestion and reduce further mucous production, invigorate energy and relieve pain. Patients walk out able to breathe again!
Stubborn cases may require a few treatments close together while herbal medicines can be taken anywhere between a week and a month to prevent relapses and break the vicious cycle of antibiotic and nasal spray usage.
Changes in the diet are also very helpful. It is best to avoid foods that produce phlegm and this includes dairy products, cold foods such as salads and juices, alcohol, sugar, red meat and fried foods.