3 N’s for the Nose: Neti, Nasya, and Nettles by Tom Wolfe
Part 1: Neti
“Boiled with barley and eaten as a porridge several times a day, the fresh or dried leaves of sister spinster stinging Nettle loosen and bring up deep congestion without irritating sensitive respiratory tissues…Considered a specific for adults with asthmatic allergies, Nettle tincture is used for acute care, and the infusion for restorative and healing care.”
Susun Weed, Wise Woman Herbal Healing Wise p175
“The mind is the king of the senses, and the breath is the king of the mind”
BKS Iyengar author of Light on Yoga
Part One: Neti
Friends: Spring is coming and with it the growth and pollen count that can be such a challenge to the respiratory system. The first organ that the spring pollen encounters is the noble nose. In this article I will share three herbal allies to help keep the nobility of this finely crafted organ from falling into mucus-laden misery. These three herbal Friends are Neti, Nasya, and Nettles.
Before we begin the three specific ways to use Neti, Nasya and Nettles, many of you know I have been devoted to an Indian Master named Meher Baba for thirty-four years; and Meher Baba teaches that the first goal in spiritual evolution is to actually become energy. In Ayurveda energy, or Prana, is held to exist in five distinct forms each available in one of the five breaths found in our physical body. These five breaths are named Prana, Samana, Udhana, Vyana, and Apana. They can be remembered by (the first letter in each word) the sentence “People Smile Understanding Vibrant Air”. And Pathways readers I promise you it is true that if your busy schedule allows you to master the five Pranas you will find as I have that it is true: People Smile Understanding Vibrant Air. This time of year is Fall (Prana Vayu) moving to the quiet stillness of winter (Samana Vayu). For this article we will explore keeping our breath clear, where many of us get the water and earth element (i.e. mucus) in our nose where it don’t belong.
Neti comes from the tradition of Yoga breathing named Pranayama (the control of energy or Prana through breath). Neti, simply stated, describes a variety of ways of washing out the nose with saltwater or herbal preparations in order to keep breathing free and clear of any blockages. There are three choices about Neti you will have to make before learning how to heal your nose this way. First, what kind of Neti pot to buy, secondly what type of liquid either saltwater or another herbal preparation to run through your nose, and finally where to perform this cleansing ritual.
First, the choice is yours as to what type of pot to purchase. Most folks these days associate the practice of Neti with simple white ceramic pots shaped like Aladdin’s lamp that are designed to place in one nostril and let the salt water or herbal preparation flow out the other nostril. These pots hold about a pint of water and make Neti very easy and are the first choice of ways to start with learning how to keep the nose clean and functioning properly. White ceramic neti pots have always been available in most health food stores and now thanks to the magic of a consumer driven society, neti pots come in a wide variety of shapes, colors, and sizes. All the ones I have tried work fine since all that is needed is a pot that holds a pint, a spout that fits in your nose and an easy way to fill them. So choose the one that is the right color that matches your bathroom and you will be set. These pots come with instructions on how to simply perform Neti.
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Secondly, the intelligent, informed choice of liquid to run through your noble nose greatly increases the efficacy of this cleansing. Salt water is always the first choice for everyday Neti and there are now available really cool infused salt rinses with essential oils added to the salt. A variety of companies make these preparations and my fave at this time is the Cold and Flu infused salt blend made by the Baraka Company. No, the company is not named after Barak Obama; rather both the company and our former president are named from the Hebrew (Barak) and Arabic (Baraqat) word for the grace of God. Barack is a Semitic word meaning “to bless” as a verb or “blessing” as a noun. In its Hebrew form, barak, it is found all through the Bible. It first occurs in Genesis 1:22: “And God blessed them, saying, be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.” The word Barak occurs 62 times in the book of Genesis alone.
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Finally… One chooses where to perform this ritual. I say ritual because if this practice can become pleasant to perform and a regular part of your daily health care regimen you will benefit from it immensely. However, if it never makes it to the exalted status of ritual, you will either only use it to treat symptoms or (horrors) not do Neti at all. So here is an easy tip to make this cleansing an easy part of your day. Do it as part of your shower or bathing instead of in the bathroom sink. This way there is no cleanup and for the squeamish no having to look at what comes out of your nose. In a shower it’s a no-brainer and for the bathtub fans just do the Neti before you bathe while allowing the water to warm up. Wasn’t that an easy solution to all the fuss of doing neti in the sink? Look, I know neti takes a little getting used to at first because we are not in the habit in the West of cleansing our nose on a daily basis but it evolves into an actually pleasant experience with practice. Remember as Bobby McFerrin sings, “all discipline is painful, but the fruit of discipline is sweet”.