Sunday, April 14, 2024

Natural alternatives to Afrin

Nasal congestion and sinusitis are common problems that can be incredibly annoying to deal with. Hampered senses of smell and taste, headaches, nasal pain, and excess mucus are among the symptoms that come along when inflammation strikes the sinuses.

Decongestants like Afrin remedy these problems by making blood vessels narrow, hence shrinking nasal tissues that are swollen. Easy to obtain and efficient, Afrin may be effective but it also comes with a cost. When overused, Afrin and other decongestants pose the risk of developing a dependence that is similar to addiction, not to mention the possibility of making nasal congestion worse.

Fortunately, there are a lot of alternatives to Afrin that have virtually no risks and also provides benefits that affect not only the nose but other bodily functions as well. Advice from an expert must be sought first before choosing an alternative to avoid complications or possible allergic reactions:

Do not substitute this for actual advice from an expert as many cases require treatment that CAN NOT be remedied with natural options.  These natural options may only be helpful in addition to treatments, again consult with a medical professional before self treating or self diagnosing. 

1.) Eucalyptus Oil

An essential oil derived from fresh or dried eucalyptus leaves with a wide number of medical uses and methods of application. Eucalyptus enhances blood flow especially towards the brain, exudes a refreshing effect that calms both mind and body, and is found to have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. For those who are down with nasal problems, a sniff of eucalyptus oil works wonders in providing relief to the nose. This can be done by simply applying a few drops of the oil in a handkerchief, or on a pillow before going to bed. Another way of inhaling eucalyptus oil is by boiling until it emits vapors. Nasal relief comes usually after a few days of regular use.

2.) Herbal Teas

Several herbs have been found to be useful in easing swollen nasal passages like blackberry, chamomile, fenugreek seed, ginger, licorice root, marshmallow, peppermint, and sage. These herbs are known for possessing anti-inflammatory properties along with other medical benefits. The steam emitted while brewing herbal tea can lessen nasal congestion when inhaled, the same goes when the tea is sipped. The warm fluid of the tea can thin out nasal mucus and facilitate drainage. Lemon juice can be added not only as a flavor enhancer but also for its ability to thin mucus thanks to its acidity. Headache caused by nasal problems are also minimized by the tea’s soothing effects. Despite the efficacy of these herbs, one must first seek the advice of an expert to avoid unwanted allergic reactions that may exacerbate existing medical conditions.

3.) Oregano


Oregano is regarded as nature’s antibiotic due to its amazing number of medical benefits ranging from alleviating headaches to dealing with warts. Its use dates back to the time of ancient Greeks, and even healers who practiced traditional medicine in China utilize oregano in performing their medical repertoire. Bacteria-fighting oils carvacrol and thymol are present in oregano along with numerous antioxidants that keep the body free from disease-causing toxins. For the purpose of relieving nasal conditions, a few drops of oregano essential oil into a pot of boiling water works as a steam facial that unclogs the sinuses. The oil can also be applied on the fingertips and rubbed near the nostrils as an alternate way of clearing the passages.

4.) Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera’s therapeutic uses have been recorded in various ancient texts since the 1st century. From maintaining a healthy hair to boosting the immune system, the versatility of the plant’s leaves and extract bring about many beneficial properties inside and out. Being anti-inflammatory, aloe vera can help remedy inflammation on the sinuses with just two drops of the plant’s extract into each nostril prior to sleep. An inhaler can be used by filling it up with aloe vera extract. The leaves may also be boiled until it emits steam which can be inhaled as an alternative way of utilizing the plant’s nasal relieving properties. Additionally, headaches induced by sinusitis can be relieved by either rubbing aloe vera leaves on the forehead or placing a gauze (moistened with aloe vera extract) on it.

5.) Bromelain


Bromelain is a combination of different proteolytic enzymes, or the enzymes that work by digesting protein. Bromelain is abundant in pineapples, from the juice right to the stem. Discovered in the 1800s, the enzyme fights inflammation by breaking down kinins, or the proteins that take part in triggering said condition. This process also facilitates the body’s regenerative abilities, and other medical benefits such as improved cardiovascular and respiratory health are linked to bromelain. Other than bromelain, pineapple contains other important vitamins and minerals that act as antioxidants, defending the body against free radicals that bring about illnesses which also include sinusitis. Three servings of pineapple on a daily basis provides an adequate amount of its incredibly beneficial contents.

6.) Garlic

The “stinking rose” contains three compounds namely dithiins, sulfoxides, and thiosulfinates. These compounds are responsible for giving garlic both its familiar scent and powerful health benefits, including cancer prevention and cholesterol reduction. Among these benefits is anti-inflammation and thinning of mucus that alleviates nasal congestion. Garlic is best left to sit after chopping or crushing instead of immediately boiling, as a sudden change in temperature weakens its health properties. Tossing chopped garlic into boiling water and inhaling its fumes is the best way to use it for nasal problems. Another way is to place a garlic clove or two in the mouth, between the cheek and gums, and chewing it irregularly to release its beneficial ingredients. Garlic supplements found in local health stores may be taken regularly to boost the body’s defenses against sinusitis and other inflammations.

7.) Onion

Everyone who chopped onions has experienced shedding copious amounts of tears while inhaling its pungent smell. Quercetin, a compound found in onions, is known for being a potent anti-inflammatory. The act of chopping raw onions already provides quercetin through the nasal passages that can also help clear it. Sipping broth with onion slices is an alternate way to derive its benefits especially if the broth’s quercetin-steam is inhaled. Brown, red, and white onions possess the most powerful scents and are more effective in clearing sinuses. Eating raw onion slices is also an option.

8.) Horseradish


A member of the Brassicaceae, a plant family known for their high concentrations of the natural chemical glucosinolate. The chemical, along with vitamin C and minerals such as calcium, glucose, potassium, and sulfate, gives horseradish its powerful ability to fight bacteria. Several studies revealed the plant’s natural anti-bacterial properties fare better than over-the-counter medicines that perform the same function. With the wide availability of dishes that include horseradish, it is easy to add it to the everyday diet of those who are down with sinusitis. Grated horseradish can be mixed with lemon juice in a jar, sealed for one whole day, and served in one tablespoon four times a day prior to eating. If a burning sensation is felt on the sinuses after taking a tablespoon, do not dilute as it is an assurance that the horseradish is taking effect.

9.) Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins and minerals found in food and in multivitamins are a must in maintaining optimum health. For sinusitis and nasal congestion treatment, here are some that will be of most benefit:

Vitamin A: Abundant in carrots, egg yolks, milk, sweet potatoes, and dark green leafy vegetables. Vitamin A builds up the body’s immunities, reduces risk of inflammation, and repairs injuries on the body including sinuses damaged by nasal conditions. Red, orange, and yellow fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamin A. The brighter the color of the peel, the more vitamins it contains.

Vitamin B12: Another vitamin that plays a crucial role in improving the immune system. It also alleviates the loss of energy, headache, and oxygen reduction caused by sinusitis and other infections. Notable sources include beef liver, cheese, clams, crab meat, cereals, mackerel, red meat, and tofu.

Vitamin C: Vitamin C is a natural antihistamine, or a compound that fights histamines. Histamines are responsible for a host of symptoms including inflammation and mucus buildup. Citrus fruits, broccoli, kale, papaya, red chili peppers, and red and green bell peppers are excellent sources.

Vitamin D: They say that prevention is always better than cure. For sinusitis, providing the body with ample amounts of vitamin D will help minimize the risk of triggering the said condition. Exposure to sunlight during early morning hours is the easiest way to accumulate the vitamin, and other sources include beef liver, fatty fish (mackerel, salmon) and fish oil, and mushrooms.

Magnesium: Aside from being a critical part of every human body function, this mineral actively fights bacteria and other infections that can trigger excessive mucus and nasal clogging. Whole grains, beans, nuts, avocados, bananas, and yogurt are known to be high in magnesium.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Renowned for being a powerful anti-inflammatory and importance in ensuring proper brain development and function. Regular consumption bolsters the immune system and protects the body from possible future nasal congestion and sinusitis triggers. Cod, herring, mackerel, sardines, and tuna are the best sources of omega-3, along with avocados, kidney and pinto beans, almonds, flaxseed, and walnuts.

Zinc: Like vitamin A, zinc promotes better defenses against toxins that trigger many health conditions, and repairs sinuses by minimizing inflammation. Lamb, legumes, oatmeal, oysters, peanuts, and seeds (sesame, squash, watermelon), are rich in zinc.

10.) Echinacea


Also known as coneflowers, these beautiful purple flowers were used by Native Americans to treat infections and numerous other conditions. Nowadays, echinacea is still popular due to its ability to enhance the creation and maturation of white blood cells that fight invading bacteria, inflammation, and provide defense to the body. Available in dried herb and root, capsule, powdered extract, tablet, and tincture forms, echinacea can be easily found in local health stores and pose minimal side effects (such as dizziness and upset stomach) that have very little risk of occurring.

Bridget Rogers
Bridget Rogers
Bridget Rogers is an independent freelance writer based out of Madison, Wisconsin. Bridget's work can be found on a variety of sources in both online and print media.


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