Growing up with CF meant BIG SINUS TROUBLE for me. I’ve had six sinus surgeries. I think my first one was around age 12. CF sinus disease can be brutal! Once infection takes hold in those little cavities it can really wreak havoc, lead to impossible, persistent infection, surgery, and can even affect our lung (and large intestine, but that’s for another post) health. And the headaches! Oh the headaches! Any of you who’ve dealt with CF sinus trouble know exactly what I’m talking about.
By about the age 17, I was at the point where my sinus surgeon told me, “I would just have to accept the fact that I would probably need surgery every six months of my life from then on”.
BUT, my last sinus surgery was at age 19 and I have not had one since. I just turned 38 last month.
How did I change my predicted sinus fate? Research, trial and error and re-trial, diligence and perseverance, re-examining the use of diet, exercise, and various forms of body work. That said, sometimes sinus issues do improve with age (but not like the night and day difference I experience when I give my sinuses proper care vs when I have not) and then there’s Grace so we need to factor that in to this big goooy equation.
Much of what I’ve learned about sinus health I’ve actually learned outside of CF Clinic. It may be because of this that I’ve had several patients and families of patients ask me over the years if I could share some of what I’ve learned with them.
The thing is, at this point I’ve been at this for a long time and there is A LOT to share. It would be a VERY LONG blog post. So…… for those that have already asked and for all other’s living their lives with CF sinus trouble, or any person with sinus trouble for that matter, I decided it would be a good idea to create this series. A series of posts dedicated specifically to SINUS HEALTH. If what I have to share can help even one person avoid a sinus surgery and the involved agony of impacted, infected sinuses, then it’s worth the time it takes to share. I am not sure exactly how many there will be yet (it looks like maybe 7 ?), but my hope is that this could be a reference point that might help others on their own paths to easing sinus arrrrggggghhhh.
Most of what I will share can also be easily adapted for kiddos. I will do my best to include those tricks in the posts where appropriate, but feel free to reach out if you have questions or want to set up a specific coaching session to look at what might be your best starting point in your own unique sinus puzzle.
My story is only my own and what I’ve learned while working with my body is simply an offering so please take it as so.
It is of course important to let your doctors know if you decide to pursue a new treatment. It’s also important to understand that everyone’s body is different, with or without CF. We all have our very own unique constitutional make up so it’s important, with any treatment, Western, Eastern, prescribed, supplemental, ANY TREATMENT, to take that into account. This means it is important for you to put in the effort to see how your own unique body responds and know what works FOR YOU. This can take patience and diligence, but really knowing your body, understanding what works for you can be one of the most important parts of your own health power.
So, without further ado, Sinus Health Post 1: Essential Oils
I started learning about essential oils about 17 years ago. My exploration has included reading a number of books, studies, working with certified aromatherapists, naturopaths, doctors, essential oil professionals, and of course, the all important self experimentation.
They have become an important part of my health care regimen, particularly for the respiratory tract and sinuses. Essential oils can be used in a number of ways for adults and children over 2. They can be used topically, in a diffuser, in a steam inhalation, inhalation in via your hands or a tissue throughout the day, and even in some cases ingested or made into nasal sprays. I know that some people nebulize ( I mean in a neb cup, not a diffuser) essential oils. I do not do this personally and feel like I don’t have enough experience, and can’t find enough research at this point, to comment on this type of use. The lung tissue is delicate so it’s important to be really careful about what we inhale directly there.
It’s important to use good quality oils when you are using them therapeutically. I personally prefer to use Aromavera or Young Living oils most often, although I have also experimented with some DoTERRA oils as well as Aura Cacia.
Never use something labeled “essence” therapeutically.
Never ingest an oil unless you are very certain about the quality and source and being helped by a professional.
Some oils can be used “neat”, this means applied straight to the skin or undiluted. Some are best used in a 1:1 dilution, meaning one part essential oil to one part carrier oil. Some will need a bit more diluting still at a 1:4 dilution, or one part essential oil to 4 parts carrier oil.
It’s a good idea to do a small patch test when using an oil for the first time. Just put a drop of a carrier oil (jojoba or grape seed work well) and one drop of the oil on the inside of your arm and wait a bit to see how your skin reacts. If there is any redness or irritation wipe the oil off and use just the plain carrier oil on the spot to flush the oil from the skin. If your skin reacts it doesn’t necessarily mean you cannot ever use that oil, but it is telling you that at this moment this particular oil may be challenging for your body. In this case I would advise consulting a professional before using that oil.
Some oils that are great for sinus health and can all be used in a 1:1 dilution are eucalyptus blue, peppermint, eucalyptus radiata, juniper, fennel, and rosemary. Thyme is also a great sinus trouble helper, but is a bit strong and is better to be used in a 1:4 dilution.
Many essential oil companies will also push blends that are their own unique formulations. Many of these blends have A LOT of different oils in them. I’m all for experimenting, and if there’s something that works well and easily without having to mix it yourself there is benefit in the ease of that (see nasal inhaler options below). That said, especially for people who are new to essential oils or might have already compromised systems, I think it’s a better idea to see how your body responds to oils individually first. This will give you the best chance at gaining a basic understanding of how your body responds before throwing a more complicated blend with many oils into the picture.
When you are ready to try a blend of oils start simply. Combine only 2-3 oils and use maybe 1-3 drops of each oil. (Remember your carrier oils as needed.) When you blend more than one essential oil together a new synergistic formula is made from the combination. The blend will have it’s own effect that neither of the oils, just used on their own, would have, and thus possibly be uniquely beneficial. There are many simple homemade blends that you could experiment with as you are first starting out.
Here are a few of my favorites for sinuses:
- Homemade Nasal Spray Formula- Buy a 1 ounce empty tinted nasal spray bottle. Combine 1 ounce of purified (boiled or distilled) water with 2 drops each of eucalyptus, sage, rosemary, and juniper.
- Steam for Upper Respiratory and Sinus infections- Pre mix into 1 quart of water, 30 drops of essential oil of rosemary, sage, eucalyptus, and bergamot. Mix gently. When ready to use pour some into a pot and bring to a rolling boil. Once the water is boiling remove from heat, hold head over steam and cover head with a towel (close your eyes and be careful to not burn yourself going in).
- Neti recipe- (If you’re not familiar with the neti pot clearing method I will talk about that as a future part of this series.) This neti recipe is from one of my absolute favorite books on aromatherapy, The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy by Valerie Ann Worwood. I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to learn more about essential oils. I love it so much and reference it so often that I actually have two copies. One for the office and one for home ;).
4. Steam, tissue, massage, oh my!– These methods are also from Worwood’s book and some of my favorite go to’s when I’m sick.
The steam combo is easy to make up in a little sealable container and then just drop one drop of the combined blend into your pot of water for each steam session.
The tissue method is a life saver to keep in your pocket or just even place on your pillow or face while laying down.
Finally, this oil blend can really work wonders rubbed into your cheek bones and temples and the back of your neck. It can really help ease a headache.
There are also some great nasal inhalers out there if you’d like to just try something simple and easy without really diving in to the full exploration with your own oils yet. They are also super handy for travel, or to toss in your purse or car for on the go. Some of my favorites are Olba’s inhaler (they also make great pastels) and both the Breathe Easy and Sinus Sniffy by Best Soap Ever.
So there it is, my scoop on the use of essential oils for your SINUS HEALTH. Go get um tiger!!
Next up- Forms of BodyWork for SINUS HEALTH….