It is always difficult to ignore pain, and it is almost impossible to ignore when the pain is literally ‘in your face’. Which is why sinusitis is so horrible. The sinuses are hollow bones, as narrow as a pencil lead, situated within the skull. Lined with sensitive mucous membranes, the sinuses become swollen and secrete mucus in response to a trigger such as an allergy or a head cold. Since the sinus cavities are tiny, any build-up is bound to increase pressure and block fluid from draining away, causing the pain of sinusitis. What’s worse is that these tiny stagnant rivers of mucus are begging to be sites of infection.


  • Headache, usually painful and often throbbing, behind and above the eyes. If you are unsure whether your headache is due to congested sinuses, press firmly with your fingertips on the eyebrows and cheekbones. If you squeak with pain at either location, your sinuses are most likely inflamed. The other giveaway is the headache is worse when you bend forward.
  • Eyestrain and eye pain.
  • Swelling and puffiness under the eyes.
  • A congested honker.
  • Post-nasal drip; mucus dripping down the back of throat.
  • Sore throat.
  • Bad breath.
  • Fatigue.
  • Loss of smell.

What causes it?

  • A head cold is a common precursor to sinusitis. First the cold virus creates inflammation and the subsequent mucus production creates an open invitation for bacteria to swan in and form a secondary bacterial infection.
  • A mechanical deficiency in the nasal department such as a deviated septum means the sinuses are unable to drain adequately. Combine this with an allergic disposition and you are bound to suffer from sinusitis. Surgery may be the best solution if bony bits are behind the blockage.
  • Nasal polyps will also block the way for sinuses to drain. However, nasal polyps are as much a symptom of inflammation as a cause of sinusitis. If they are surgically removed, odds on, they will grow back. The treatment options below should sort it out.
  • Some people are born with extra-narrow sinuses that clog easily when an allergy or cold occurs. If this is you, you need to always be mindful of this proclivity, and use some options below as preventative measures.
  • Your chronically inflamed sinuses could be due to a fungal overgrowth. Quite probably in your home or environment and possibly in your very person.

What to do


  • During a sinus attack, give alcohol a miss as it further swells mucous membranes.
  • Drink at least 3 litres of clear fluids daily. This will help stop the mucus from becoming too thick, which is when it tends to become infected.
  • Eat copious amounts of garlic and onions as they are mucolytic (they can break up mucus) and antibiotic (they can kill microbes).
  • Other good foods include horseradish, chilli, ginger, fenugreek, wasabi (Japanese green mustard) and nasturtiums (put the peppery leaves and pretty flowers in salads).
  • Avoid dairy products and sugar for the duration of the attack; they both can increase mucus production.
  • Your sinusitis might be due to a food allergy. First foods to suspect are dairy and wheat.
  • If you suspect your sinusitis might be due to a fungal overgrowth, check this by having a squiz at Candida on page 00. Following the Candida diet may give you permanent relief.
  • Increase foods high in vitamin C, a natural antihistamine such as citrus, papaya, kiwifruit, strawberries, pineapple, guava, rockmelon, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and capsicum.
  • There may be a link between a high-salt diet and sinusitis, as there is with hayfever and asthma. Reduce added salt and packaged food, which often has high levels of salt.


  • As part of your 3 litres of fluid (less for children), enjoy 2–3 cups of this therapeutic brew. In your favourite teapot, plunger or thermos, combine the juice of a lemon and add half of the lemon rind, chopped up, half a stick of cinnamon, a handful of fresh thyme crushed or chopped, 2–3cm of fresh ginger root thinly sliced or grated and a good dollop of honey. Add boiling water and stand for 5 minutes (or hours in the thermos).
  • Sinus-beating herbs include elder, eyebright, golden seal, echinacea and golden rod.
  • Vitamin C will stem an infection and is an effective natural antihistamine.
  • If you are sinus-prone, take horseradish, vitamin C and garlic tablets throughout the year.


  • A Vicks inhalation before bed can help clear the sinuses, as will the steam from a hot shower.
  • God’s gift to sinus sufferers is the neti pot (see page 00).
  • Where possible, avoid or reduce known allergens such as chemicals, mould and dust in your home and work environment.
  • Allergy desensitisation is a long-term commitment, but is very effective. Firstly, an allergy specialist will determine the exact nature of your allergens by pricking the skin of the forearms with tiny amounts of the offending substances. A welt may appear, the size of which will depend on the extent of your allergy. Depending on the ilk of your practitioner, either vaccine or homoeopathic dosages of the allergen will be dispensed. Sometimes as drops, others via regular injection.
  • Buteyko breathing works well for sinusitis, and even better for preventing sinusitis if you are a regular sufferer. This technique raises CO2 levels, which has the effect of increasing nitric-oxide levels. Nitric oxide, a naturally produced compound, has anti-inflammatory and antibiotic properties. Perfect for shrinking the swollen mucous membranes lining the sinuses as well as helping to combat the infection.


The following essential oils once blended together may be used as a steam or dry inhalation. Sprinkle 8 drops onto a tissue or into a bowl of steaming water or into a room vaporiser. Mix with 20 g of aloe vera gel and apply to the chest and neck area. Mix with 125 g of Epsom salts and relax in a warm bath.

  • 2 drops of everlasting oil – anti-tussive expectorant, mucolytic, anti-inflammatory
  • 3 drops of cajeput oil – analgesic, febrifuge, antiseptic, expectorant
  • 3 drops of ravensara – antimicrobial, antiviral antiseptic, immune stimulant, expectorant
  • 2 drops of eucalyptus peppermint – decongestant, expectorant, mucolytic, balsamic

At a glance


  • Avoid alcohol as it swells mucous membranes, the last thing you need.
  • Drink at least 3 litres of clear fluids daily to thin the mucus and encourage drainage.
  • Avoid dairy and sugar, increasing foods that improve sinusitis (see above).


  • Herbs are very effective for sinusitis (elder, eyebright, garlic, golden seal, horseradish, echinacea and golden rod).
  • Drink 2–3 cups of the lemon herbal tea described above daily.
  • Vitamin C has antihistamine properties that will reduce the swelling within the sinuses. If you are sinus prone, take a vitamin C table that is combined with garlic and/or horseradish throughout the year.


  • Unless you are very congested, use a neti pot each morning. It works by improving drainage, as well as shrinking the swollen mucous membranes.
  • Buteyko breathing can help cure and prevent sinusitis. Buteyko breathing over time reduces your sensitivity to allergens.