An effective Ayurvedic remedy for nasal cleansing is nasya. Nasya is one of the five purification methods in panchakarma therapy and is also commonly done as an Ayurvedic treatment on its own. You can get a professional nasya treatment by a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner, or do a simple nasya by yourself at home.
This Ayurvedic treatment is beneficial for all doshas, particularly vata and kapha. Nasya is used for maintenance of health as well as prevention and treatment of ailments of the head and neck. Whether it’s a full nasya treatment or a daily dose of oil, there are many benefits to regular nasya therapy.
What is Nasya and Is It Safe?
Nasya is the administration of oil in the nasal passage. Nasya can also be done with plant extracts, medicinal powder, or with herbal smoke. Here, I am referring only to the nasya using oil because suitable oils are easy to find and it is the most common nasya preparation.
Nasya is completely safe for most people, however, there are time when it is not suitable. Do not perform large dose nasya if you have fever, acute rhinitis, extreme fatigue, or have just given birth. Also avoid nasya treatment on days you are fasting or have taken drugs or alcohol. A nasya treatment is not to be given to young children or the elderly, but a small dose can be done on anyone.
Benefits of Nasya
Nasya helps to clear and lubricate the sinus passage, relieving acute and chronic sinus problems such as allergies, mucous congestion, dryness, and snoring. Nasya also helps to relieve headaches, migraines, stiff neck, fatigue, insomnia, and stress-related problems. It reduces anxiety, clears and strengthens the mind, and stimulates the nervous system.
Nasya is praised in yoga because of its effects on concentration and meditation, as well as its lubricating action which soothes the drying of the nasal passages from regular breathing practices (Pranayama).
Nasya is extremely effective due to its rapid absorption into the mucous membranes of the sinus passage. The active herbal ingredients are absorbed more efficiently through the nasal passage than when taken orally.
How to do a Nasya Treatment
It is best to do nasya in the morning or the afternoon. Do not do a large dose nasya if you have just eaten.
• First, massage your face concentrating specifically on the cheeks and forehead where the sinuses are located. The more vigorous the massage, the more it will loosen the mucous and the toxins in these areas. Using a cream or oil on your face will make the massage more comfortable.
• Next, apply steam to the face for 2-3 minutes. A hot towel is adequate to provide the necessary heat to open the sinus passages.
• To administer the oil tilt your head back, this is easiest if you are lying on a bed with your head hanging off the side. Your nostrils should be pointing towards the ceiling.
• It is easiest to administer the drops using an eye dropper or a bottle with a built in dropper top.
• Administer a drop into one of your nostrils. While plugging the other nostril, inhale deeply. You need to draw the oil deep into your sinuses so take a few deep, slightly forceful inhalations. When this is done correctly, you will feel a tingle or slight burn in your forehead.
• Repeat in the other nostril, one drop at a time.
• If your nasal passage is very dry or clogged, you may need to administer more drops. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, it may take a higher dose of oil to get the desired results. One may need up to 6-10 drops in each nostril, but it is advised to add the drops slowly, especially if it is your first time doing nasya. Also, take into consideration that a “drop” will be different depending on the bottle you are using.
• Remain with your head tilted back for a few minutes to allow the oil to penetrate fully. During this time, you can massage your forehead, cheeks, and the bridge of your nose using firm pressure.
• Soon it will feel like need to blow your nose. Don’t. To expel the mucous and toxins, sit up and suck the oil in deeper, drawing it out through your mouth. To do this correctly, you may need to make some unpleasant sounds. This may seem unappealing at first, but it is essential, and in time it will feel more natural.
• Within 20 minutes all mucous, toxins, and extra oil will be expelled.
• After nasya therapy, avoid exposure to cold and wind, and do not wet your head for at least 30 minutes after the treatment.
Small Dose Nasya for Daily Use
It is recommended to use a small dose of 2 drops in each nostril every day for maintenance of health and the prevention of ailments.
For this, simply tilt your head back, administer the drops using the method mentioned above, inhale deeply through your nose, and allow ample time for the oil to penetrate.
You may still get a slight cleansing reaction. Effects and benefits will be more delayed than with a full treatment, but results will be accumulative as you do this daily.
What Kind of Oil Can You Use?
Make sure you use a high-quality oil. You can buy medicated oils which contain herbs. The herbal ingredients increase the medicinal properties of the nasya therapy.
There are many medicated herbal oils available from Ayurvedic suppliers such as Bazaar of India or Banyan Botanicals. I would recommend using the condition-specific oil blends: Prana Vata and Udana Vata from Bazaar of India.
Alternatively, you can use plain sesame oil. It has less of the medicinal properties, but will lubricate your nasal passage and still give many of the healing benefits of nasya therapy. Make sure to choose plain, natural sesame oil; do not use sesame oil that is sold in the grocery store for Asian cooking.
Can You Use Nasya After Neti?
Nasya works best in conjunction with neti. You may want to alternate nasya with neti if you have a lot of congestion and mucous problems. Be aware that too much neti can cause drying of the nasal passage, so it is important to perform regular nasya to keep the nasal passage well lubricated. Learn more about neti in Nasal Cleansing with Neti.