This magic pot clears your head, too, and it’s legal everywhere

Posted by Al Boyle
On October 1, 2023

Before I preach about magic pots: Happy 99th birthday to former President Jimmy Carter!

When I think of him, I think…

What. An. Amazing. Life. And. Legacy.

From his service to his country, to his Nobel Prize, to his foundation’s global influence, to his seventy-seven-year marriage to his wife Rosalynn, only his humility rivals his accomplishments.

And now, on with this week’s head-clearing topic…

“Just keep breathin’, and breathin’, and breathin’, and breathin’

And oh, I gotta keep, keep on breathin’

Just keep breathin’, and breathin’, and breathin’, and breathin’

And oh, I gotta keep, keep on breathin’, mmm-mmm”


Album: Sweetener (2018)
Ariana Grande

I started breathing better about fifteen years ago, and I credit the pot. This, after too many years of dealing with congestion. Whether the cause was a head cold, seasonal allergies, or a virus, I knew the drill:

Over-the-counter nasal sprays, cold medicines, and antihistamines. Brand names and generics, some seeming more effective than others. Some seeming 100% ineffective.

If the congestion became chronic, I’d be taking prescription antibiotics to get rid of the upper respiratory infection while resorting to mouth-breathing to function during waking and sleeping hours.

The old school approach. Medicated, yet miserable. Still, I viewed the pharmaceutical “solution” as the only solution. You can’t avoid colds, allergies, viruses, and sinus infections. You can only deal with them once they’re raging, right?

My more recent experiences suggest otherwise.

So, what was the fundamental change fifteen years ago? Why do I experience those illnesses with greater infrequency, and why are the symptoms briefer and milder?

I suspect there are a few reasons:

  • Remote work doesn’t expose me to the Petri dish that is an office. It also doesn’t let me contribute to that Petri dish when I’m unwell.
  • The people in closest proximity to me wash their hands, cover their mouths with their elbows when they cough, and avoid close proximity when they’re ill.
  • At the first sign of congestion, I hit the pot.

The neti pot.

The Yeti what?

What’s a neti pot?

A neti pot looks like a teapot or genie’s lamp and comes in a range of colors and materials. I have ceramic and plastic versions. Whatever type you choose, you fill it with a saltwater solution using—

this is critical—distilled water.

Why distilled water?

Because it’s dangerous to use anything else: Microorganisms and other impurities in some tap water have permeated the blood-brain barrier and killed people.

Distilled water costs less than $2 per gallon. Make the investment.

How does a neti pot work?

You mix your saltwater solution, place the spout just inside your nostril, tilt your head, and raise the neti pot. Gravity guides the water through your sinuses.

Some people view it as irritating your sinuses. I prefer the term “flush” because the finely ground salt is just enough of an abrasive that, when combined with the modest water flow, can remove pollen, dust, and other gunk from your sinuses quickly and painlessly.

First one nostril, then the other. Same path, yes, but different approaches.

Mouth-breath if you breathe at all

It takes seconds to neti pot, so you might just hold your breath as I most often do.

But if you need to breathe… and I cringe to say this… you’ll want to mouth-breathe.

See, the toughest thing to get used to with neti potting is letting the water flow through your sinuses unimpeded. If you’re lucky, you’ll only make the mistake of breathing through your nose while neti potting once.

It may be purer salt water, but it’s still salt water. Ever inhale a bit of ocean water while swimming? The summer fun, it burrrns!

Mouth-breath if you must. Or just hold your breath until you’ve finished working the nostril.

Where do you buy supplies?

Your online and neighborhood retailers and pharmacies sell kits that include the pots and salts. You can also buy them separately.

I buy pure salt packets online. It’s important the salt is finely ground so it doesn’t hurt when you’re flushing. It’s also helpful when the distilled water is closer to room temperature because cold water can make your sinuses ache when you’re flushing them.

Level up your neti pot experience

A few months ago, a friend shared an anecdote their dentist shared with them: They use a Water Pic and special attachments to flush their sinuses.

Now, my friend works in the healthcare industry, so I figured I had at least a 50/50 chance their intel was legit and not an ad hoc intelligence test. Plus, I know where they live.

It sounded appealing, so I gave it a try. Much easier.

You don’t have to tilt your head anymore. Battery power lends gravity a hand to get the water flowing and keep it flowing.

And no dentist was ever this gentle. There, I said it.

Neti or not

I realize this approach isn’t for everyone.

My wife finds the ritual downright medieval.

My Dad, may he rest in peace, watched me do it. I turned to him when I was done, and I’d never seen that look on his face before.

I interpreted it as, What did I just watch that I can’t unsee?

All I recall him saying was something like, I’m glad it helps you, at which point I laughed out loud. Fair enough. Thanks for listening.

I’d love to learn from you. What would you add to make the neti pot experience easier or better?



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