Menthol Crystals for Congestion & Sinus Problems
Monday, 3 April 2017 | Editor
Congested Nose Symptoms
A congested nose can be frustrating to deal with especially when you have trouble breathing throughout the day and feel fatigued from your symptoms.
A congested nose is the result of inflammation of the blood vessels in the lining of your nasal passages. When the lining is inflamed the blocked sinus causes mucous to build, which is why you find it so hard to breathe through a stuffy nose. Other than a blocked nose, you may also experience pain and swelling in your sinuses throughout your cheeks, forehead, bridge of nose and between your eyes.
Blocked sinuses are also due to inflammation and can be a common complaint when suffering from a cold or flu. While the body’s natural defence mechanisms will often remedy the problem over time, in some cases if left untreated, more serious symptoms may develop, such as sinusitis. With the presence of too much mucus, bacteria is more susceptible to grow within the sinuses, leading to possible infection and the presence of yellow or green coloured mucus.
Nasal Decongestants - Yes or No?
Nasal decongestants are readily found at local supermarkets and pharmacies, however they may actually worsen your symptoms. They can provide immediate relief, this is quite often due to chemicals that act to constrict the inflamed blood vessels. There are other issues too: you'll see them listed below. But don't lose heart; there are other ways round the problem as you will see later in this article.
Decongestants can make things worse
It is tempting to use these products because of their immediate relief and because they seem so effective many people become "hooked" upon them, wanting at all costs to keep the nasal passages open. But using them for more than a few days invariably causes the congestion to get even worse.
These sprays contain chemicals that shrink congested blood vessels. That’s how they open up your clogged passages. Because they’re applied directly to the nose, they give you quick relief.
After a few days, though, the blood vessels don’t respond to the medication anymore. You spray away, but your problem just gets worse. This cycle can continue for months, years, and even decades. This is known as the "rebound" effect.
Who should not use a decongestant?
They shouldn't be used by the following groups of people without getting advice from a pharmacist or GP first:
- babies and children – decongestants shouldn't be given to children under six years old and should only be used by children aged 6-12 on the advice of a GP or pharmacist
- pregnant and breastfeeding women – it's not clear whether it's safe to take decongestants if you're pregnant or breastfeeding, so you should only use them if advised by a healthcare professional
- people taking other medications (see Interactions with other medications below)
- people with diabetes
- people with high blood pressure
- people with an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism)
- men with an enlarged prostate
- people with liver, kidney, heart or circulation problems
- people with glaucoma (increased pressure in the eye)
Other Side effects of decongestants
Decongestant medicines don't usually have side effects other than the "rebound" effect described above, and any side effects you may experience are usually mild.
Possible side effects can include:
- irritation of the lining of your nose
- feeling or being sick
- a dry mouth
- feeling restless or agitated
- a rash
- uncontrollable shaking (tremor)
- problems sleeping (insomnia)
- a rapid and/or irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia)
- noticeable heartbeats (palpitations)
- in men, difficulty passing urine
Menthol steam inhalation
An alternative method to unblock a stuffy, congested nose is by using menthol. Menthol is an organic plant extract, sourced from the peppermint plant and various other mint plants. The oil is extracted from the leaves through the process of distillation, but is also commonly produced synthetically. Therefore it is important to buy from a trusted source.
Menthol has been widely used in traditional medicine practices largely throughout Asia, in particular the renowned menthol Tigerbalm. The earliest recording of the use of menthol dates back to 23AD when Pliny, a Roman scientist discovered the use of peppermint oil. Evidence of the cultivation of menthol was also discovered in several pyramids throughout Egypt. However, menthol was not introduced to the Western world until the end of the 19th century.
100% pure menthol crystals are available from your local pharmacy. Simply add a few crystals of pure menthol to a bowl of hot water. Place a towel over your head in order to trap the steam. Inhale the menthol for at least ten minutes, taking care not to inhale too deeply. You will experience the soothing effects within a few minutes and notice you are able to breath a lot easier, as the steam helps soothe irritated tissue and thin blocked mucus throughout your sinuses. Ensure you do not topically apply the menthol mixture near your nostrils, as the strong menthol will cause further irritability to the already inflamed lining of the nasal passage.
You may be familiar with this method; it was quite common before the advent of the "short term fix" nasal decongestant sprays but it has these advantages:
- You will do no damage to the nasal packages so this will not give rise to further irritation and mucus production
- You can inhales several times a day
- If you are suffering from the "rebound" effect of decongestant sprays and are trying to stop using them, you are likely to suffer even more blocked nasal packages whilst getting over them. Inhaling can help to receive this, making it easier to get free from decongestants for the future.
One word of warning: Go easy on the amount of menthol crystals you use. Too many and they will be so strong that you won't be able to breathe them in! Start with just a few; you can add more later if needed.
In extreme cases you may wish to take even more action to get rid of existing mucus and a nasal douche is an excellent idea. Essentially you are going to sniff up a homemade solution into each nostril, one at a time. It sound horrible but is actually not as bad as it seems and works very well.
Rinsing your nasal passages helps wash away any excess mucus or irritants inside your nose, which can reduce inflammation and relieve your symptoms.
Nasal irrigation can be done using either a home-made solution or a solution made with sachets of ingredients bought from a pharmacy. We suggest making you ow, easy to do, just as effective and much cheaper.
To make the solution at home, mix a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda into a pint of boiled water that's been left to cool to around body temperature (don't attempt to rinse your nose while the water is still hot).
To rinse your nose:
- standing over a sink, cup the palm of one hand and pour a small amount of the solution into it. Even better, find a small syringe: those small ones supplied with Children's medication like Calpol are ideal but make sure you've finished using them for the child and have washed them thoroughly.
- sniff the water into one nostril at a time or use the syringe to insert the solution into the nose
- repeat this until your nose feels comfortable (you will almost certainly not need to use all of the solution)
While you do this, some solution may pass into the throat through the back of the nose. Although the solution is harmless if swallowed, try to spit out as much of it as possible.
Nasal irrigation can be carried out several times a day and a fresh solution should be made each time.