Sinus Patterns of Imbalance in Chinese Medicine
In Asia, people commonly use Chinese herbs and acupuncture for sinusitis and sinus infections; even for acute and severe cases. This use of natural healing methods dramatically decreases the use of antibiotics thus avoiding the side effects of antibiotics and the overuse of antibiotics, which is attributed to a rise in bacterial resistance. It is valuable for our society to have options other than pharmaceutical antibiotics when dealing with sinus issues, especially for the chronic and recurrent infections which conventional western medicine does not address well.
Spleen Qi Deficiency and Chronic Sinus Drainage
When the sinuses are constantly draining it is a likely indication of an underlying Spleen Qi Deficiency. The Spleen is the organ system in charge of the “transformation and transportation of foods and fluids” in Chinese medicine. When fluids are not being properly transformed in the body, it is commonly attributed in some part to Spleen Qi Deficiency. Nasal bleeding can be a symptom of the Spleen Qi failing to keep blood circulating within blood vessels. Foods that create Dampness in the body should be avoided; these would include fried foods, raw foods, fruits, juices, dairy, iced drinks, and sweets.
Lung Deficiency and Chronic Sinusitis
The sinuses are actually part of the Metal Element and Lung energetic organ system according to Chinese medicine. Additionally, the Large Intestine channel that is paired with the Lung energetic system ends at the nose. Often, chronic sinusitis is an indication of an underlying Lung imbalance, especially for those who suffer from chronic coughs, chest congestion, asthma, recurring bronchitis, or COPD in addition to the sinus issues.
Wei Qi Deficiencies and Chronic Sinusitis and Allergic Rhinitis
In Chinese medicine, Wei Qi, or Protective Qi, circulates at the surface of our body protecting us from exterior pathogenic influences such as viruses and allergens. A weakened immune system can lead to recurring colds, environmental sensitivies, and allergy attacks producing excessive phlegm and contributing to chronic sinusitis.
Kidney Deficiency and Chronic Sinusitis
The Kidney energetic organ system controls water metabolism and the five kinds of fluids according to traditional Chinese medicine. Kidney Deficiency is common for those who have allergies and environmental sensitivities.
- Yin deficiency of the Kidney may see dry nasal cavity, even atrophy of mucosa, mostly seen in atrophic rhinitis.
- Yang deficiency of the Kidney may see profuse thin nasal discharge, mostly seen in allergic rhinitis.
Chinese Medicine and Chronic Sinusitis
Chronic sinus issues can be triggered by a number of underlying conditions, including: allergies, constitutional Dampness, and structural septum deviation; a structural issue will not likely be fully resolved without surgery. With chronic sinusitis, the walls of the sinus cavity become inflamed and are often painful to the touch. Chronic recurring sinusitis or sinus infections are a complicated condition and beyond simple solutions. Underlying organ system imbalances that contribute to chronic sinusitis must be addressed, and repairing organ level imbalances can take many months.
Deficiencies of organ systems in TCM leading to chronic sinusitis are often marked by clear or white drainage according to Chinese medicine, but can be present alongside an infection marked by colored phlegm or discharges. Chronic sinusitis may have originally begain as a sinus infection, but after treating with antibiotics, the congestion became chronic and infections may have become recurring. This is likely due to the fact that the over-use of Cold-nature antibiotics (pharmaceutical or herbal) will damage the Spleen and chronic Dampness will result.
Nasal Polyps and Chinese Medicine
Nasal polyps are often caused by chronic inflammation recurring infection, hay fever, allergies, pharmaceuticals, or Wei Qi Deficiency. They are an accumulation of Turbid Damp Phlegm according to traditional Chinese medicine. If nasal polyps get large they can block your nasal passages or lead to breathing problems; some people are misdiagnosed with sleep apnea in cases of nasal polyps. Other symptoms of chronic polyps may include a lost sense of smell or taste, frequent infections, chronic runny nose, constant stuffiness or postnasal drip, facial pain, chronic sinus headache, pain in your upper teeth, dizziness, itchy eyes, snoring, forehead or facial pressure. Any of the above patterns of imbalance may lead to nasal polyps, but the most common pattern is Spleen/Lung/Wei Qi Deficiencies.
Bacterial Sinus Infections
Ideally, a sinus infection is addressed quickly and effectively; this is rarely the case, thus the huge number of people who suffer with chronic sinus conditions. While conventional wisdom in Chinese medicine suggests that tonic herbs should not be used during an acute infection, those with chronic sinus infections have no choice but to use the tonic formulas mentioned above, even with signs of an active sinus infection, in order to make any progress in resolving this issue.
Bacterial sinus infections tend be accompanied by yellow or green viscous discharges. There are strong anti-bacterial herbs that can clear up sinus infections effectively, such as coptis, goldenseal, and Oregon grape root; these are best used for a week to 10 days to wipe out a sinus infection; Bacterial infections are most often classified as 'Hot' condition in Chinese medicine, and the herbs that clear this type of infection are very ‘Cold’ in nature. Thus, these herbs cannot be taken for longer than two to three weeks without disrupting the Yin-Yang balance of the body, and possibly damaging the Spleen function; this is true for pharmaceutical antibiotics also. For children, echinacea glycerite is a gentle and effective antibiotic that can be used to heal sinus infections, but adults require stronger antibiotics. Goldenseal and Oregon grape root are commonly found at local health food stores.
Those who experience re-occurring sinus infections often harbor bacteria in the sinus cavity that can multiply rapidly when Damp phlegm presents due to allergies or a cold. One should avoid drying out the sinuses with potent over-the-counter anti-histamines before clearing any infection; the symptoms may disappear for a time, but the next time you have the sniffles, a mild viral infection, or hay fever, you may end up with a full blown sinus infection because the bacteria is lingering.
Until the bacteria are fully eliminated, the chronic cycle will continue. In addition to the anti-bacterial herbs mentioned above, Neti pots are used to irrigate the sinuses with salt water and can be quite effective in curing chronic sinus infections. Intense ear candling, with three candles on each side for three days, can also draw out the infection effectively reducing future re-occurring sinus infections. In the end though, it is necessary to resolve the Organ level imbalances as mentioned above to break the cycle of chronic sinus infections.
Nasal Boils and Chinese Medicine
Stomach Heat gives rise to Fire invading the nose by way of stomach channel of foot-yangming. Swelling, smelly mucus discharge with a green tint, and pain would be common symptoms with this type pattern. Some of the reasons for Stomach Heat may be Stomach Yin Deficiency resulting from general Yin Deficiency, Liver Fire Overacting on the Stomach, or poor dietary practices.
Fungal Sinus Infections
Fungal infections rely on Dampness to survive. Taking steps to reinforce the Spleen and Lung functions (TCM) as mentioned above, will help to decrease the Dampness that the fungus depends on to multiply. Also using steams and humidifiers containing pure essential oils with anti-fungal properties such as tea tree and myrrh will help to resolve fungal sinus infection quickly.
Allergies Leading to Sinusitis
Herbs that 'Release the Exterior' are employed in clinic for immediate relief of allergies. However, eliminating allergies is the optimal solution, and there is a system of medicine that can completely eliminate allergies called NAET. NAET.com utilizes acupressure and homeopathy to re-align the body so that it properly deals with allergens. You may wonder why one person creates, or was genetically pre-disposed to a certain substance, and others are completely unaffected. In Chinese medicine, the body’s immuno-over reaction to common substances such as pollen, pet dander, or foods, is seen as an energetic imbalance. Chinese medicine is excellent at bringing the body back in to balance, thus can eliminate allergies.
Acupressure and Essential Oils for Sinus Headaches and Sinusitis
As pressure from sinus congestion builds, sinus headaches can occur. For immediate relief of sinus headache pain many pure essential oils are effective at opening the sinuses and reducing the pressure; applying them over the sinuses and at the temples can give immediate pain relief; they must be diluted so not to burn the skin. Typical essentials oils for a sinus headache include diluted eucalyptus, peppermint, wintergreen, and lavender. Acupressure is also effective at reducing the sinus pressure involved with sinus headaches. Large Intestine 4, Urinary Bladder 2, and Stomach 3 are all commonly used acupressure points for sinus headaches. An acupressure point which is highly effective and is used widely for nose congestion is Bitong, meaning "opening up the nose." Those with sinus problems can massage this point regularly.
In addition to sinus headaches, sinusitis may be accompanied by a stuffy nose; sticky-yellow or purulent nasal discharge; nasal congestion; nosebleed; diminished sense of smell; headache; a feeling of heaviness in the head; fever; sore throat; and facial pressure around the cheeks, eyes, and forehead.