Pulse of Oriental Medicine: Alternative Medicine That Works for Regular Folks
Alternative Medicine That Works for Regular Folks









































Sinusitis, Sinus Infection, or "Bi Yuan"
By Dr. Michel Garay, L.Ac.

Dr. Michel Garay is a Doctor of Acupuncture, R.I. & Acupuncture Physician, Florida

More Sinusitis Articles


The sinuses are air filled bony cavities around the nasal passages. Sinuses act like control centers for air quality and their functions are to warm, moisten, purify and condition the air we breathe before it reaches the lungs. Bacteria gets blocked and is filtered out by mucus and nasal hair or cilia.

Sinusitis (sinus infection) is an inflammation or infection of the sinuses that develops after a cold, hay fever or dental infection. The process is as follows: cold clogs the sinus, allergens swells it, air gets blocked, pressure builds, mucus stagnates, bacteria multiplies, and infection settles in to produce sinusitis.

There are 4 sets of sinuses or open spaces within the bones of the skull:

1. Frontal sinus, located above the eyes
2. Maxillary sinus, at either side of the nose, inside the cheekbones
3. Sphenoid sinus, behind the bridge of the nose
4. Ethmoid sinus, around the upper nose

The frontal and maxillary sinuses are most affected by sinus infections, but any or all may be involved. Each individual tends to have problems with a specific set of sinuses and bacteria are responsible for about 50% or more of sinus cases.

The Causes of Sinus Infection Symptoms

There are a variety of causes such as injury to the nose, growths inside the nose (polyps), smoking, irritant fumes, environmental and food allergies. House mold is a pervasive and neglected cause. You may need to think about house mold, if you smell mold when you first walk in inside your home, or if you have an unusual number of clothes and furniture with mold. Be careful when buying a home or renting an apartment - take at least one other person with you or hire a professional to detect mold, especially if your sense of smell is not optimal.

Symptoms of Sinusitis (Sinus Infection)

The main sinus infection symptom is a clear or yellowish nasal discharge, sneezing and draining to the outside of the nose or into the throat. There are a variety of other symptoms such as low grade fever, high fever, cough, headache, earache, toothache, facial pain, cranial pain, difficulty breathing, loss of sense of smell, head heaviness, tenderness over forehead and cheekbones. If tapping the forehead just over the eyes, cheekbones or around the bridge of the nose causes pain, the sinuses may be infected. Sometimes, it produces facial swelling, stuffy nose and thick mucus discharge. The pain from sinusitis can be excruciating.

You must make sure you do not confuse a sinus problem with a toothache. Here's a test: Open and close your jaws, then insert a finger inside your mouth and apply pressure around the suspected tooth and gum. If no pain, you may be dealing with a sinus condition. If there is pain, it may be a tooth problem. Check with your dentist.

Natural Sinus Infection Cures and Home Remedies

· Use Tiger Balm, white or red brand according to your preference. It has aromatic herbal extracts or you can alternate with Menthol from peppermint, Eugenol from clove, Cineole from Cajuput (a relative of Tea Tree), Cinnamaldehyde from cinnamon and Camphor. Place a dab in each nostril to help you breathe better, if you are away from home and can't do inhalations.

· Humidity is the key to keeping your cilia working, mucus flowing and sinus drained. Stand in hot shower twice a day and inhale. Do nose wash, drink teas hot and cold daily, eat spicy foods, press firmly on sinus 15-30 sec, repeat on both sides of the nose. Use a hot wash cloth over your eyes and cheekbones.

· Vaporizer: To promote drainage and ease sinus pressure. Add eucalyptus, rosemary, menthol or camphor essential oils, and do several times a day, clean the vaporizer once a week. I have had success curing chronic sinusitis with acupuncture, inhalations, and using a vaporizer at night especially if mold is in the house. It is also recommended to use an air purification unit until you can move out or fix the mold problem. I have seen chronic sinus conditions vanish or definitely decrease after the house mold was repaired including my personal sinus experience.

· Sinus Cure Inhalations: Make a funnel from a cardboard, one end to fit the cup and the other to fit comfortably your nose, pour boiling water into a cup, add 2 - 5 drops of Eucalyptus, Peppermint, camphor, menthol essential oils or small amount of Tiger balm paste white or red brand to the water. Place your nose in the funnel immediately and breathe the fumes deeply. The number of drops or amount of paste will depend on your tolerance or how well you can breathe inside the funnel without becoming uncomfortable. Do inhalations 3 -5 times daily. You can also rub the above essential oils or Tiger balm on forehead and temples to relieve sinusitis, mix a few drops of 1 or both oils into a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil to apply to skin or add few drops to bath water.

· Nasal Sinus Wash (also called Neti wash or Yoga nasal wash): You can use a Neti pot or a glass bottle with a dropper and make a water solution with about 20% Ionized sea salt. The French brand "Baleine" is a good quality sea salt. Place dropper tip in right nostril, tilt your head to the left, slowly pour salt solution and make sure it comes out to left nostril. You may have to adjust head or tilt more to make sure it comes out to other nostril. At first it may seem difficult for the solution to come out the opposite nostril. This is because of the mucus blockage in the airways at the root of the nose. With repeated attempts it will come out the opposite side and create a great clearing of nasal passages. It will be amazing at how well you can breathe. Using warm, salt water as neti iseffective in preventive and clearing infections and inflammations. Neti aids sinus congestion, infection, stuffy nose, difficulty breathing, recurring sinus and throat infections. Neti wash is a good prevention method to clean our nasal passages of daily unavoidable air pollution. It should be included in you daily morning routine.

· Brahmastra, from the Ayurvedic tradition, will clear your sinuses and is good for early stages of a cold. Use 1 thumb or 3 cm ginger slice, crushed 1 fresh dried red chili, 1 cup of Vodka. Cut ginger very fine and place everything in a container, add water up to 1 liter. Turn heat down and simmer for 20 minutes, add the juice of 1 fresh lemon and honey to taste. Drink it hot throughout the day.

· Garlic is an excellent broad-spectrum antibiotic and antiviral. Make a vegetables soup, minestrone or chicken soup. Use large amounts of garlic, onion, oregano, horseradish, hot pepper and ginger. It warms you up almost immediately, opens your sinus and touches your soul.

· Use any mint, spearmint, mountain mint, oregano, eucalyptus and drink the teas.

Other Herbs:

1. Oregano, from the mint family, use as hot tea and inhale vapors as you drink it
2. Ginkgo, also has respiratory benefits, recommended for sinusitis. Get 50:1 extract, use 60- 240 mg/ day
3. Horseradish, may use a straight spoon or add to soup

Join the PulseMed mailing list

Treatment with TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine)

Lettuce and other raw vegetables produce Cold and Dampness. Cucumbers and strawberries are especially Cold; oranges, and other citrus fruits produce Dampness. Cold and dampness, in excess, are detrimental. When the lungs are absolutely cold, clear mucus runs down the throat (especially when you lie down). Mucus is produced by a Cold Spleen, and if your Lungs are weakened, they can't hold it back, so you get postnasal drip. The Lungs are susceptible to extreme temperatures - they have been referred in TCM as the "delicate organ."

  • Ephedra or Ma Huang, to relieve congestion. Do not use it if you have anxiety, glaucoma, heart disease, high blood pressure, or insomnia.
  • Ginger root can be crushed and applied as a poultice to forehead and nose to stimulate circulation and drainage.
  • Drink plenty of water, fresh vegetables, fruits, hot soups and teas to relieve congestion, sinus pressure and help mucus flow. Add cayenne pepper and raw onion for faster relief.
  • Do not eat dairy products because they produce phlegm.
  • If nasal secretions are clear after a week, you probably don't have infection. If the mucus is greenish or yellowish, you probably do. If secretions are clear and you don't have other symptoms of a cold, you probably have allergies.
  • Moxibustion (burning moxa) is effective because its smoke treats sinus infections and blockages. Use dried mugwort, or a moxa stick, and keep the moxa smoking. Then close one nostril, inhale the smoke with your open nostril, alternate, and continue for 5 minutes, repeating 2-3 times until the problem is gone.

TCM diagnosis for sinus conditions is difficult because it can be a hot or cold pattern and it's not always easy to differentiate. You may need two formulas. You may have to call your practitioner after a few days to see how things are going.

Acupuncture for Sinus Problems

Acupuncture treatments should be done every other day. Environmental irritants causing allergies can start as sinus episodes. Use St 36, to strength lungs, LI 4, to drain, Lu 7 to get rid of deficiency heat in lungs, Sp 6, to tonify, LI 11, to drain, Ren 12, midline, and St 36 with moxa for severe cases.

Acupuncture Points for Symptomatic Treament

  • Local points for Sinusitis: LI 20, UB 2, UB 7, Bitong
  • Other points: GB 20, LI 4, GB 20, LV2, LU7

Acupuncture Based on Underlying Root Pattern Discrimination

There are 4 common patterns:

  1. Lung Heat: LI 11, LI 4, Lu 10, LU 7, LI 20, DU 14, Bitong; Formula: Cang Er Zi San
  2. Liver and Gallbladder Fire: LV 2, GB 43, LU 7, LI 4, GB 15, Bitong
    Formula: Long Dan Xie Gan Tang
  3. Stomach and Spleen Damp Heat: REN 12, UB 20, REN 9, SP 9, UB 22, LI 11, Li 4, REN 13, Bitong
    Formula: Dan Xi Bi Yuan Tang
  4. Lung Qi Deficiency: UB 12, UB 13, LU 7, LI 20, Shangyizhao, Taisi, Bitong
    Formula: Fen Zi Lin Tang

Common Underlying Pattern in Sinus Conditions

Chronic sinus conditions in TCM have usually a common pattern of Spleen deficiency THAT you must consider in selecting acupuncture points or Chinese herbal formulas.

  • Spleen Qi Deficiency: UB 13, REN 6, LU 9, LU 7, ST 40, REN 12, UB 21, UB 20, SP 3, ST 36
    Formula: Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang


  • Pranayama, La dynamique du souffle. by Andre Van Lysebeth
  • Insights of a Senior Acupuncturist. by Miriam Lee
  • The Practice of Chinese Medicine. by Giovanni Maciocia

Join the PulseMed mailing list

Related Resources

About The PULSE
All information herein provided is for educational use only and not meant to substitute for the advice of appropriate local experts and authorities.

Copyright 1999-2074, Pulse Media International, Brian Carter, MSci, LAc, Editor