Good To Nose Baraka Blog

Sinus Problems? Check Your Teeth

Written By: Sue
January 26, 2016

teethThe Relationship Between Your Sinuses and Teeth

If you have been having sinus problems for a while, don’t overlook your mouth. I was reminded again of the close relationship between the upper teeth and the maxillary sinuses (the sinus cavity right below the eyes).

For 3 months, my father had been suffering with a sinus infection. Much to my dismay, every idea I suggested to him didn’t help or didn’t apply to his situation. Then he went to the dentist because he noticed a loose tooth. Surprisingly the tooth wasn’t painful. After an x-ray, the dentist found an infection at the root of the loose tooth. Once the tooth was removed and a root canal performed, the sinus infection disappeared.

What exactly is the relationship between our sinuses and our upper teeth? Isn’t there a barrier? Some sort of protection? Not really. Believe it or not, the very bottom of the maxillary sinus sits on top of the roots of our back teeth. This photo shows their relationship. The red arrow indicates the maxillary sinus. That’s pretty darn close!

One dentist put it this way: Your [teeth] roots do not actually protrude into the sinus cavities, but rather their tips cause elevations in your sinus floors akin to poles supporting a tent, leaving the sinus floors paper-thin in these areas.

So if there is an abscess (pocket of pus) at your nerve root, it could be draining into your sinuses! It can also work the other way around. An infection or build-up of pressure in your sinus(es) can make your teeth ache. Pretty amazing and little frightening at the same time.

If you’ve been struggle with a chronic sinus infection, check your teeth. Or better yet, make an appointment with your dentist, because like my father, it’s possible to have an infection without realizing it.

Food and Sinus Congestion

Written By: Sue
October 27, 2015

Hearted EggplantFood Allergies and Food Sensitivities. What’s the difference?

Over the years, I’ve spoken with hundreds of people who have chronic sinus problems. While most of them have an idea of what causes their problems, few of those ideas include the gut. After all your stomach and intestines are halfway down your body so how can that relate to your nose?* Believe it or not, a lot! While we could talk about many aspects of the gut in relation to the nose, I want to focus on food -specifically food allergies and food sensitivities/intolerance. They are not the same and are often used interchangeably.

Food allergies always involve the immune system- which reacts to the presence of a particular food by releasing histamine into the body. The histamine triggers such symptoms as runny/stuffy nose, sneezing, asthma, swelling, itching, hives even anaphylaxis. Stomach aches, nausea and headaches can also occur. You’ll know it’s an allergy because you get the same physical reaction every time no matter how that food is prepared. For example, if you are allergic to dairy you will respond the same way whether you eat ice cream or cheese.

The most common food allergies are:

Milk (mainly in children)



Tree nuts like walnuts, almonds, pine nuts, pecans


Wheat and other grains with gluten

Fish and shellfish (mainly in adults)

Food Sensitivities/Intolerance, on the other hand, do not involve the immune system and can happen for a number of reasons.

  1. The inability to breakdown particular foods -maybe that person is lacking an enzyme
  2. Certain foods irritate the digestive system
  3. Foods that cause the body to release histamine when they are ingested or foods high in histamine
  4. Some individuals become symptomatic without any known medical reason

Symptoms for food sensitivities include poor concentration, hyperactivity, unexplained tiredness, bloating, stomach pain, runny/stuffy nose, itching, or swelling. Quantity plays a part in food sensitivities more than it does food allergies. The larger the quantity that someone eats, the more severe the symptoms.

Foods High In Histamine

Alcoholic beverages, especially beer, cider and wine

Cheeses, especially aged or fermented ones

Dried Fruits

Fermented foods such as sauerkraut


Processed meats such as sausage, hot dogs

Sour cream, sour milk, buttermilk, yogurt

Smoked fish

Soured breads

Nightshades such as tomatoes or eggplant

Vinegar or vinegar containing foods


Foods That Cause The Body To Release Histamine







Papayas, pineapples, strawberries



With this in mind, you can now imagine how foods can create a physical response that causes your nose to get irritated. What I often suggest to folks with chronic sinus problems is that they pay close attention to their nose after they eat a meal or a snack or even after they’ve met their buddies for happy hour. Tracking yourself after you eat doesn’t have to be complicated. Just make a mental note of the food and then what’s happening to your nose. I think it will become clear in a short period of time which food is irritating you.

*Western medicine has done a good job of convincing us that our body parts are separate. For example, ENTs don’t often work with GEs. Traditional medicine like Chinese or Ayurvedic don’t divide us into parts but think of the body as a whole.

Bad Breath? How Your Sinuses May Contribute

Written By: Sue
August 12, 2015

goatBrush your Teeth & Flush your Sinuses

Have you ever been told you have bad breath? It’s not only embarrassing, but frustrating if you can’t discover the source of the problem. Most people assume that bad breath comes from not brushing or flossing the teeth, but the truth is more complicated than that. There are many sources that cause bad breath including the stomach, lungs, tonsils, teeth and yes- the sinuses. Since Baraka is all about maintaining healthy sinuses, I will delve into this.

Healthy sinuses are hollow cavities in our head which contain only air (4 pairs of them to be exact). If the sinuses become infected not only can they create sinus congestion, but they can release nasal discharge into the back of the throat. This post-nasal drip then feeds the bacteria that already lives there. In small numbers, this bacteria is in normal balance with the body, but once it is repeatedly exposed to post-nasal drip, it propagates. In large numbers, the bacteria can release a noxious smell thus causing bad breath.

How do you push back the overabundant bacteria?

The most obvious answer is to stop the post-nasal drip which can be caused by a number of reasons. If you’ve had this problem a while and you don’t have a cold, it could be an allergy or lingering sinus infection. (See these blogs for ideas: Food & Sinus Congestion & Does Pollen Count with Sinus Allergies?).

While you are searching for remedies to stop the post-nasal drip, you can flush out the overabundant bacteria with salt water by gargling. This will keep the bacteria from collecting at the back of your throat. I also suggest rinsing your nose with salt water- even if you don’t have sinus congestion. Not only will a saline solution wash away excess bacteria, but it will temporarily alkalinize or increase the pH in your mouth -which deters bacterial proliferation, as most species prefer acidic environments.

There are two salt water rinses you can make for nasal rinsing and gargling. One is called an isotonic rinse and the other is called a hypertonic rinse. Do this a few times to see if it improves your breath.

On a final note, if you are trying to verify that you have bad breath by exhaling into your own cupped hands, forget it. You won’t really be able to detect what others are smelling for a good reason. Our olfactory nerves are sensitive and if they are constantly registering all smells all the time, it wouldn’t be pleasant. In other words, when a smell persists, your smell receptors turn themselves off. Imagine the perfume or cologne you applied in the morning. You might get comments on it throughout the day, but you can’t really smell it any more. Also, if you have sinus congestion, your nose is limited in what it can smell. So, on a final note, don’t try to be the judge of your own breath. Ask a friend!

Our Culture of Antibiotics

Written By: Sue
April 17, 2015

chickensThey’re Even In Your Vegetables!

In 2011, I wrote about the ineffectiveness of antibiotics for the treatment of most sinus infections. At the time, there was a lot of media attention on the subject, and because of that, I thought there would be a significant reduction in the years to follow. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened. While I’m not a big fan of antibiotics for everyday use (such as OTC creams- as I know there are effective natural alternatives), I do know when used prudently, antibiotics save lives. If radical changes don’t happen within the medical establishment to stop over prescribing, we could get to a point of no return with superbugs rendering antibiotics useless.

To understand just how prevalent antibiotics are in our everyday lives, and hopefully to inspire people to find alternatives, I’ve created a list about how they affect us day to day. If you think you haven’t had a dose of antibiotics in a while, the list below will make you think again.

  1. 70-80% of all antibiotic use is in the treatment of livestock. In other words, unless you purchase organic dairy and meat products, there will be antibiotics in your food. Why is it used? To fatten the animals and prevent infection. It may be working to beef them up (forgive the pun), but infections can stem from either bacteria or viruses. Last summer Midwest farmers, who crowd thousands and thousands of chickens under one roof, slaughtered 38 million chickens due to the avian flu, a virus. Maybe we should model ourselves after the Swedish and Danish farmers who are succeeding at keeping their animals healthy and fat by improving living conditions. Here is an excellent article.
  1. Although antibiotics aren’t officially in antimicrobial soaps, anti-bacterial are. What’s the difference you may ask? Not much. The job of both is to kill bacteria, but I’m not sure that’s such a good idea. Recent research suggests there are benefits to not overly cleansing our environment. For example, children raised on farms tend to have less allergies and a stronger immune system.
  1. Antibiotics can be found in your vegetables…..yes, your vegetables. It took me a moment to wrap my head around that, but think about it- if livestock is being fed antibiotics and the manure from livestock is used to fertilize plants then it makes sense antibiotics would be found in our vegetables.

The list doesn’t end here. Just research “antibiotics or antibiotic resistance” and you’ll find a ton of information.

So what can we use instead of antibiotics for less serious infections? Here is one alternative. A year ago, The Atlantic reported on essential oils as a potential option. I’m a big fan of essential oils and use them for anything from a kitchen burn (lavender) to a stomach ache (cinnamon bark), so I was excited to see that a major magazine had written on the subject. According to the article, many farmers are starting to put essential oils or plants with essential oils into the feed of their livestock instead of antibiotics to protect them from sickness (this includes viruses!). One discovery was “that chickens who consumed feed with added oregano oil had a 59 percent lower mortality rate due to ascites, a common infection in poultry, than untreated chickens.” If you want a great read on the subject, check out this link.

Another alternative to antibiotics is growing an herbal garden. Check out Herbal Antibiotics by Stephen Buhrer. He lists many effective recipes in his book.

In the end, I hope you’ll think twice before popping an antibiotic. Do your research. There is plenty of good material on the subject.

(Additional facts:

  1. Antibiotics could change your gut microbes for up to a year. How does this happen? Antibiotics can’t distinguish between “good” and “bad” bacteria. In other words, they are also attacking the “good” bacteria in your gut responsible for controlling things such as inflammation. If you’ve noticed changes in your gut after taking antibiotics try probiotics to strengthen the necessary flora.
  1. In 2013, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 2 million people contract serious antibiotic-resistant infections each year and 23,000 die from them. Even the US government recognizes this with a 114 page document they published on the subject.

Alcohol and Your Sinuses

Written By: Sue
February 5, 2015

sparklingIntolerance and Allergies

Does your face flush or your nose become congested after drinking a glass of wine or beer? If so, these could be signs that you have an intolerance to alcohol. Most people don’t like to admit it. After all, alcohol can be part of a nice dinner with friends or a weekend by the lake. If the symptoms aren’t too severe, most people just tolerate it. However, if you relax most nights with an alcoholic beverage and have alcohol intolerance, you might experience congestion and other related issues 24/7.

Here are the facts when it comes to alcohol intolerance:

  1. With an intolerance, the body has difficulty digesting the common ingredients found in various alcohols such as sulfites or other preservatives, chemicals additives, grains, or even histamine, a naturally occurring byproduct of the fermentation process.
  1. Alcohol intolerance is different than an allergy. An allergy means that when you drink alcohol, your body immediately releases histamine into the blood in reaction to the alcohol. However, this release of histamine doesn’t get worse the more you drink. For example, if you get a stuffy nose, it never gets worse than a stuffy nose. An intolerance to alcohol, on the other hand, means that your body is missing a certain enzyme to break it down.  The more you drink the more severe the reaction. For example, if you drink a small amount you might merely get a stuffy nose, but if you keep drinking you might get asthma and after that hives. In other words, it progressively gets worse the more you consume.  That is a big difference from an allergy!
  1. Alcohol intolerance can run in families. Ask around to see if other members of your family get symptoms such as congestion or hives.
  1. Aging reduces the body’s ability to metabolize alcohol; thus what you drank in your 30s without any noticeable reaction can now cause things like congestion or asthma in your 50s.

What does this all mean? Not much for the weekend or occasional drinker, because who wants to give up a glass of red wine at a dinner party? However, for those of you that relax each night with an alcoholic beverage and then can’t sleep because you are congested or are having to take a hit from your inhaler, you just might rethink how you relax.  And if not, you can now understand the reasons for those issues.

You might want to check out this blog I wrote about food intolerances vs food allergies to understand the subject more.

Spring- Allergy Season Again!

Written By: Sue
April 18, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Allergy Remedies for Pollen Season

While the snow may be behind us, spring pollen is now at our doors and can often look like a fine dusting of snow. Sometimes it’s white but often pollen is yellow and can leave a powdery layer on your car and windows. At that point it may seem obvious why pollen could be irritating your eyes and sinus passages. Yet pollen, even when unseen, can cause the body’s immune system to overreact. The body thinks the pollen is a hostile invader and releases antibodies and chemicals (histamine) to defend itself. It’s the histamine which is released into the blood that causes the runny nose and sneezing.

What can you do? Millions of people search for allergy remedies and take antihistamines to block the histamines from building up in the blood. People who do this can have success, but at a price. Many report drowsiness, constipation, anxiety and dry mouth. Ultimately, we don’t know the long-term effects of these synthetic drugs on our bodies. Use caution when taking them on a regular basis.

Nasal rinsing is a natural allergy remedy and is helpful in flushing out the pollen at the end of the day to clear the sinus cavities to get a good night’s sleep. Remember the body’s response to the pollen may last several hours after you rinse (ie the histamine remains in your blood) so you may want to rinse a few hours before going to bed and minimize your exposure to pollen. In other words, don’t go cutting the lawn or setting up the barbecue after rinsing.

But what do you do during the day when the pollen is irritating you at the office or a weekend soccer game? A curious thing has happened to us here at Baraka. Our Sinus Rejuvenation Oil seems to reduce the histamine response in the body, especially if it is used prior to allergy season (before the histamine levels have gone out of control). Now we don’t have the science to back this, but if you’ve read my other blogs you’ll see that scientific research on natural products is all over the map. You need to try different allergy remedies to know what works for you.

Other suggestions to help with allergy season include:

  • Reduce your dairy intake; which is mucous forming
  • Reduce or eliminate alcohol; which can cause a histamine response
  • Purchase an air filter and air conditioning
  • Shower at the end of the day to rinse pollen from your body

Limiting our triggers during allergy season helps to reduce our chances of allergic reactions to pollen. Try different allergy remedies until you find one that works best for you; because you know your body best. Read our blog from last week and try some of the cold and allergy remedies that have worked for the Baraka crew.

what is sinus


Before You Pop That Pill

Written By: Sue
September 4, 2013


My grandparents received their medical degrees in the 1920s during a time when Western medicine profoundly changed. The American Medical Association (AMA) grew in strength and reduced the number of medical schools in hopes of creating a better medical system. The remaining schools were required to adhere to the protocols of mainstream science. By the 1960’s, my grandfather who was a surgeon and a homeopath was told that if he didn’t stop practicing homeopathy, he’d lose his surgical privileges at a number of hospitals. Instead of finding a balance between science-based medicine and other forms of medicine, our medical schools became completely lopsided supporting only science.

Today, the hyper-focus on science results in most people reaching for pharmaceuticals to heal. We’ve lost the knowledge about plants that was passed down to us by our ancestors. Plants literally fell out of fashion not because they didn’t work, but because they were seen as the way of the past while pharmaceuticals were seen as the way of the future.

Have you ever heard of the phrase “one prune or two?” Up until the 1970’s (maybe later) statements like this could be heard in households all over the U.S. Some of you may not know what I’m suggesting, but think about it for a minute. It’s a profound statement, and says a few things:

1.  Nature offers simple remedies, and in the case of prunes, we don’t need to dash to the pharmacy to get a laxative.

2. We can trust our bodies to tell us how much we need. If offered a prune for the first time, you might take one to see how it works. Next time you might take 2 or 3 depending on the desired results. You would undoubtedly know your “dose” by this simple method of trial and error.

3. People have used folklore remedies to heal themselves from simple ailments for generations/centuries.

If you’re one of those people that would like to know what natural remedies you can substitute for a pharmaceutical, I’ve made a tiny list below. It’s worth getting to know some of the basics and even creating your own first aid kit.

  • Burns – Lavender essential oil is a must have in the kitchen. Apply a few drops directly to the burn. I do an initial application and then another 30 minutes later. Use as needed.
  • Bruises – Traumeel by Heels – a homeopathic remedy. It is hands down the best remedy for bruises. I once slammed my hand in a car door and applied Traumeel immediately. I barely had a bruise. It was a bit sore but there was very little discoloration.
  • Scratchy Throat/ Night time Cough – Suck on a slice of fresh ginger. It’s intense at first, but really does the job. Great for those late night coughs.
  • Congested Sinuses – a neti pot of course!!!

Natural remedies aren’t the wayward child of pharmaceuticals. My opinion is: don’t let western medicine be the only way you think of healing yourself. We don’t need to put any more chemicals on or in our bodies unless it’s absolutely necessary. Natural remedies can be inexpensive and as close as your garden.

Go for it! I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Believe it or Not, Mold Can Cause Sinusitis

Written By: Sue
April 11, 2013

Mold and Your Sinuses

It’s time to talk about airborne allergies again. Instead of focusing on the usual culprits of trees, flowers and grasses, this blog will focus on mold, a form of fungi. While mold grows year round, spring is just the start of its proliferation; especially in a year such as this with a mild winter and wet spring.

What is mold exactly? Like most fungi, it likes moist, warm places. Mildew, which is the stuff along your shower, is the early stages of mold. Mold is an essential part of our environment as it helps to decay vegetation and enhance the soil. Mold grows in colonies and can reproduce itself within 24-48 hours. Like pollen, mold becomes airborne and that’s when you breathe it in. Indoor mold can have a negative impact on your sinuses.

Fungal sinus infections may not be something you suspect as the cause of your sinus problems, but studies show they occur at an alarmingly high rate. If you’ve ever been exposed to a moldy environment and have problems with your sinuses, you could be at risk. A study by the Mayo Clinic in 1999 revealed that 93% of all chronic sinusitis was caused by mold! This was further supported by the findings of Dr. Donald Dennis who studied 639 patients between 1989-2003. Dennis said “You breathe airborne mold particles that are in the air. Then you have an allergic reaction to these mold fragments. This reaction causes small pits to form in the membranes that line the sinuses. These pits trap mucous so that it cannot drain. The stagnant mucous gets infected, which [can] cause nasal polyps [benign growths within the nasal passages] and thickening of the lining which obstructs the outflow of mucous. The polyps then cause more infection and the infection causes more polyps. Thus, there is a vicious cycle, which perpetuates itself. If you get rid of the mold in the nose and in the air you breathe and establish drainage in blocked sinuses you can get long term relief.”

Unfortunately, fungal sinusitis mimics bacterial sinusitis so there is no way to know what you have unless a culture is taken. Below are some recommendations:

  1. Get a culture to properly identify your chronic sinusitis as fungal. Your GP should be able to do this for you, or at least refer you to the right specialist.
  2. If the test is positive, most doctors will recommend an anti-fungal pharmaceutical. Aside from pharmaceuticals there are many natural anti-fungal products on the market; medicinal plants can do the job just as well without the side effects. Visit your local herb store for suggestions and advice.
  3. Nasal rinse using a neti pot can be helpful to flush out mold that may be lingering within the sinus cavity. It will also help to flush out excess mucous.
  4. Make sure you are not continually exposing yourself to high amounts of mold. Check your home for damp places and remember if a carpet gets wet once and becomes moldy, don’t assume the mold will go away. Even if it dries out, mold spores can go dormant and then begin to grow again when the conditions are right. In addition, check the mold count in your region. Here is a great website on identifying indoor mold and safe ways to clean it up.
  5. Test your home for mold.  Buy a home testing kit to grow a culture of the mold in your home and have it analyzed to find out exactly what you’re dealing with. Some molds are much more toxic than others.

Special note to the folks of the Greater New Orleans Region: as you may know, the mold count in New Orleans has been over the top since Hurricane Katrina. A low to moderate concentration of mold is a count of 1-12,999 spores. The Greater New Orleans Region has over 20,000 spores with a peak recording in 2005 (the year of the hurricane) of 65,000 spores! New Orleans is like a second home to me and I’ve seen what mold exposure has done to my friends. If you live in this region and are experiencing chronic sinus problems, please have a culture done of your nose.

Iodine in Salt

Written By: Sue
March 26, 2013


sinus infection

Salt Ponds, Sacred Valley, Peru

Iodine or Not?

Recently we had a customer share with us that she had started to use our French Atlantic sea salt on her food. She told us she preferred the taste of it over regular table salt, but wanted to make sure it contained sufficient iodine. I checked the MSDS’s for our sea salt, and iodine was not listed. Personally, I have my own opinions about salt, (see this blog that Baraka previously wrote) but it inspired me to do some research on the subject of iodine enhancement and I found some interesting facts.

First of all, here’s a bit of background on salt that some salt enthusiasts may already know but I found fascinating! Salt has a very rich history which played a vital role in shaping the course of human civilization, primarily because of its ability to preserve food. There was a time in history when salt was traded ounce for ounce with gold! The first towns developed around salt sources and roads were built to transport the salt. Today, many cities still make reference to their salt origins in their names; Salzburg and Hallstatt to mention just a couple. Wars were fought over salt and won or lost because of it, and there are many references to salt in the Bible. It has been used extensively throughout history in health and medicine, and was considered the first antibiotic because of its innate antibacterial and cleansing properties. (For a great book on salt, check out Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky.)

This diverse history is connected to the fact that salt is essential to human life. In our bodies salt regulates the fluid balance and controls blood pH, and facilitates the communication between cells. As an electrolyte it is vital for nerve and muscle function. In fact, sea salt has a similar mineral content to human blood.

In the 19th century, salt began to be processed in a number of ways. It was first bleached because we wanted a more “pure”, white product to have on our tables—similar to the fate of sugar. Then various substances were added to it, such as anti-caking agents to keep it from absorbing moisture and clumping up. Today, a very small percentage of the salt that’s produced worldwide is actually used for human consumption; the majority of it is used in industry and manufacturing. So, how does all of this relate to iodine?

Iodine is a chemical element and the heaviest trace element commonly needed by living organisms. Iodine is crucial for thyroid function and is used to counter the effects of exposure to nuclear radiation. It can be found in ocean water and in the soil. Iodine becomes concentrated in plants and animals that consume it. Most natural sea salt contains trace amounts of iodine, along with numerous other minerals. In fact, sea salt can have as many as 80 trace minerals.

Iodine was first added to table salt in the 1920’s because there was a growing problem with iodine deficiency throughout the world. Conditions related to iodine deficiency include goiter and hypothyroid symptoms, sluggishness and metabolism problems, weight gain, intellectual disabilities, anxiety and depression. Since salt is consumed by all people, adding iodine to salt was an easy and inexpensive way to treat this public health crisis. There are studies that conclude the results have been successful in lowering the occurrence of iodine deficiency. So, is iodine-enriched salt a good thing?

My take on the subject is this: iodine deficiency has occurred for a number of reasons, not only because iodine was stripped out of salt but also because mass agriculture has over-farmed the soil and depleted it of its mineral content. This means the foods we eat have an increasingly lower concentration of vital minerals, enzymes, and phytonutrients. This tends not to be the case with produce from small, sustainable farms, although mineral depletion is natural and soil always has to be replenished with cover crops and re-mineralizing substances like rock dust. Since iodine is a heavy element, it also takes longer for it to re-concentrate in soil and plants. So, adding iodine to table salt could be one possible solution. But not the one I would choose.

Salt spoonWhile iodine may be crucial to the body’s functioning so are the other trace minerals. For me, it makes more sense to eat a pure, unprocessed sea salt to get the benefit of that than a processed salt enhanced with iodine. Straight from the earth, in its natural form, is the best way to eat anything. There seems to be a modern obsession with altering and deconstructing things; taking a substance out, and then adding it or another back in. Take milk for example, where all the cream is separated out and then some is added back in to give us the options of whole, 2% and 1%. Or brown sugar, which is processed white sugar with molasses added to it! These are the products of big industry and convenience, not of health and wholesomeness.

If the small amount of iodine in sea salt does not seem sufficient, I would recommend finding a whole food supplement for iodine such as kelp capsules. This ensures that the iodine will be in a bio-available form (something our bodies can use right away instead of needing to expend a lot of energy and resources to make it useable). Sea weed has the highest iodine content of all foods! There are many varieties, and it can be used in soups, fresh in salads or sprinkled over food. Other good sources of iodine include fish, potatoes with skin, cranberries, navy beans, strawberries and certain greens.

While this blog has plenty of facts, there are also plenty of opinions, which I hope you will take with a grain of salt– unprocessed mineral rich sea salt that is!

Stinging Nettles Sting, But Can They Be Beneficial?

Written By: Sue
March 12, 2013


Benefits of Stinging Nettles

Every once in a while I want to write about a remedy that has uses beyond the sinuses. There is no better reason to deviate from that than to discuss the benefits of stinging nettles (Urtica dioica).

My partner, who is an herbalist and midwife, brought a bunch of nettles into the house the one morning. The nettles were 4 feet in height and she’d gathered enough to make it look like a giant bouquet. I had just woken up and my heart started to pound. While I was thinking about taking a shower, she asked if I wanted to be flogged with nettles. If you’ve never heard of this before, you might think she was slightly crazy.  After all, isn’t that a plant most people avoid when walking through tall weeds and grasses? Doesn’t it create severe itching and a red rash like hives?

Yes, yes and yes, BUT that doesn’t mean it is bad for you! Nettles, like many plants that are categorized as ‘weeds’, have a bad reputation. Weeds are seen as invasive since they grow where they’re not wanted, and in the case of stinging nettles, cause skin irritation. What could be worse, right? Walt Whitman said, “a weed is a plant whose virtues have yet to be discovered.” I disagree, because most of these ‘weeds’ have a long history of medicinal use.

Nettles grow abundantly in Europe and North America and are used for a number of ailments including anxiety, sinusitis, arthritis and diuresis. They are typically taken orally by steeping the dried or fresh leaves in hot water for a tea, or as a prepared tincture or herbal supplement. So why would anyone want to be flogged with nettles if you can take it in a more desirable form? One reason is because nettles are an incredible anxiety and arthritis reducer. The tea, in comparison, works over time but doesn’t have the same immediate effect.

So, how does someone get flogged with nettles? First, you develop nerves of steel. Then you smile at the person applying the nettles hoping they have nice thoughts about you and are not holding a grudge. Initially, it isn’t a pleasant sensation because of the itching. I have a low back problem so I had my partner apply the nettles there. At first it felt like it was being scrubbed with a scrub brush. Almost immediately I felt the itching and then when I’d had enough I ran back to bed and pulled the covers over myself. WOW!! I couldn’t believe the intensity of it. I felt like my back would crash through my chest, but within 3 minutes, most of the itching subsided and my body relaxed deeply. I fell asleep for 20 minutes and when I awoke I couldn’t believe how calm I felt. I thought maybe it was because of the anxiety created from the itching, but my relaxation lasted all day.

After researching the uses of nettles, I found a bountiful history. Before we started spraying herbicides on this misunderstood plant, it was used for a number of ailments. The Egyptians used it for lumbago pain. In medieval Europe, it was used to treat arthritis and to rid the body of excess water (diuretic). The Irish make it into a soup because it’s a blood tonic, rich in iron. And today, nettles are sold in German pharmacies as treatment for prostate disease.

As far as sinus conditions go, nettles have been ingested to reduce hay fever symptoms. Some modern day herbalists believe it has the ability to reduce the histamine response of the body triggered by an allergen. In other words, your nose won’t get congested because nettles have antihistamine properties to minimize any reaction the body may have to an allergen.

Here is a great article rich in details about nettles.

Being flogged with nettles isn’t for everyone.  It isn’t something you can do on your lunch break at work or in your car driving home; however, if you have 30 minutes on a weekend morning, you might give it a try. Dare I say- I dare you?!

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