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Table of Contents > Articles > Understanding and Treating Sinusitis
Understanding and Treating Sinusitis

Chances are you're familiar with the feelings of pressure, pain, or tenderness around the eyes that characterizes sinusitis. About 31 million Americans report symptoms of sinusitis every year. Sinusitis is an infection of the sinuses, the passages that lie behind your cheeks, nose, and eyes. Colds, viruses, and allergies often leave the sinuses vulnerable to infection. Sinusitis may also result from an infected tooth, swimming, a disease in the sinuses, or an injury to the sinuses.

When sinuses become infected, mucus membranes swell and block fluid drainage. The increase in pressure can cause a dull or severe frontal headache. Bending down or leaning over may make the pain worse, as may cold or damp weather. Sinus headaches tend to be worse in the morning and improve in the afternoon. Other symptoms of sinusitis are:

  • Toothache
  • Yellow or green nasal discharge or postnasal drip
  • Mild to moderate fever
  • Cough or sore throat
  • Loss of smell
  • General fatigue and tiredness

Using a vaporizer or inhaling steam will shrink swollen passages and promote normal sinus drainage. Your doctor can prescribe nasal sprays to help you breath easier but these should only be used short-term. Antibiotics may also be prescribed. A decongestant can help, but don't use one if you have a heart condition or problems urinating.

There are numerous complementary therapies for treating sinus infections. Avoid foods that encourage the body to make mucus, such as dairy products and bananas. Avoid environmental allergens (such as tobacco smoke, dust, and auto fumes) if possible and any specific food allergies you may have. Drink plenty of fluids and decrease your sugar intake. You might also try one of the following supplements to boost immunity:

  • 1,000 mg vitamin C three times a day
  • 30 to 60 mg zinc a day
  • 15,000 IU beta-carotene a day

Or to reduce inflammation:

  • 500 mg bromelain three times a day, taken between meals
  • 500 mg quercetin three times a day, taken between meals

There are a variety of herbal treatments that help promote sinus drainage, relieve pain, and strengthen the immune system. Herbs can be taken in capsules, brewed in teas, or in tinctures. Try drinking one cup of tea or taking 30 to 60 drops of tincture every two to four hours of the following herbs, which can be effective taken individually or in combination:

  • Wild indigo
  • Eyebright
  • Licorice
  • Coneflower
  • Goldenseal
  • Garlic
  • Ginger

Homeopathic remedies for sinusitis include arsenicum album,kali bichromicum,pulsatilla, and nux vomica. Consult an experienced homeopath for a recommendation on which remedy may be effective for you.

Additional home treatments include alternating placing hot and cold wet washcloths on your face. Use a hot one for three minutes, then a cold one for one minute, and repeat three times. Try to do three sets a day. Eucalyptus, lavender, rosemary, or thyme oils added to a hot bath may give you some relief as well. Another option is to add two to five drops of one of these oils to a pot of water, bring to a simmer, and inhale the steam.

If you go to your doctor's office, he or she will probably look in your nose and lightly press your face to check for tenderness. If your doctor prescribes antibiotics, follow the instructions and take all of the medicine even if you start to feel better. Unfortunately, sinus infections can come back or may persist despite medicine. If that's the case, your doctor may prescribe a stronger antibiotic or order diagnostic tests.


Herbal teas: Using 1 tsp. dried herb per cup of hot water, steep 5 to 10 minutes for dried leaves or flowers, 10 to 20 minutes for dried roots.

Tincture: A preparation made from alcohol or water and alcohol, containing an herb strength of 1 part herb to 5 parts solvent or 1 part herb to 10 parts solvent.


Integrative Medicine Access: Professional Reference to Conditions, Herbs & Supplements. Newton, Mass: Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000.

Review Date: January 2000
Reviewed By: Integrative Medicine editorial

Copyright © 2004 A.D.A.M., Inc

The publisher does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of the information or the consequences arising from the application, use, or misuse of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or otherwise. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made in regard to the contents of this material. No claims or endorsements are made for any drugs or compounds currently marketed or in investigative use. This material is not intended as a guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information provided here with a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or other authorized healthcare practitioner and to check product information (including package inserts) regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed herein.

Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)
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