Your head aches.
Your forehead hurts.
Your nose is stuffed up and the sides of your face feel swollen.
Then there’s the pain in your teeth, jaws, and between your eyes.
And the post-nasal drip in the back of your throat.
And the coughing that keeps you up at night.
You drag yourself out of bed to the doctor.
The doctor tells you it’s a sinus infection, scribbles a prescription for antibiotics, tears it off the prescription pad, and is on to the next patient.
But the vast majority of sinus infections (also called “rhinosinusitis”) are actually caused by viruses.
More rarely, sinusitis can be caused by a fungal infection.
Doctors often find it convenient to prescribe antibiotics.
But it’s actually quite rare for a sinus infection to be caused by bacteria.
UpToDate is a website written and reviewed by doctors that many medical clinicians use for up-to-date medical information. According to UpToDate, over 98 percent of rhinosinusitis is viral:
The most common cause of acute sinusitis is a viral infection associated with the common cold … Bacterial sinusitis occurs much less commonly, in only 0.5 to 2 percent of cases, usually as a complication of viral sinusitis.
Because antibiotics are effective only against bacterial, and not viral, infections, most people with acute sinusitis do not need antibiotics and would be putting themselves at risk for medication side effects and for developing antibiotic resistance by taking them for nonbacterial sinusitis [my emphasis]. (Source)
If a sinus infection lasts more than 7 to 10 days and is accompanied by fever, it may be bacterial.
But even if you have a bacterial infection, what if you don’t want to take antibiotics?
What if you’re concerned taking antibiotics will destroy your body’s good bacteria?
Or you’ve read the recent study about antibiotics make viral infections potentially lethal?
What if you want to treat the sinus infection without antibiotics?
I’ve been extraordinarily lucky.
I haven’t personally been plagued with sinus infections.
But my husband, my co-author Dr. Paul Thomas, and lots of people I know frequently get them.
I asked these good folks for recommendations for the best ways to treat sinus infection without antibiotics.
Let’s talk about those treatment options for sinus infections without antibiotics; then let’s talk about how to drill down to the root causes of sinus infections so sinus infections can stop ruining your life.
Here we go.
3 Ways to Treat a Sinus Infection Without Antibiotics
1. Rinse Your Rhino (aka Use a Neti Pot) to Treat a Sinus Infection Without Antibiotics
Doing a nasal rinse can help with sinus infections, stuffy noses, colds, and everything in between.
It’s a little awkward.
You may feel like you’re drowning when you first try it.
But you’ll get the hang of it. Don’t give up.
I recommend you get in the shower the first time you do a nasal rinse.
According to my friend Peter Chordas, a nurse practitioner: “If it’s viral, a neti pot could be your best friend. If it’s bacterial, a neti pot could be your best friend.”
You can rinse your sinuses without a neti pot.
Just cup water from the shower or sink in your hands and snort it up your nose.
But a neti pot makes it a lot easier.
They’re inexpensive (under $20) and come with instructions.
This neti pot is very popular on Amazon.
Do a nasal rinse with salt (1/4 teaspoon in a full pot of body temperature water) once or twice a day or as symptoms occur.
Pro tip #1: Add a drop or two of colloidal silver to the water for a faster recovery.
Pro tip #2: Simmer 1 cup of water with 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 crushed garlic clove. Let cool and strain out the garlic. Use this water for your nasal rinse.
Caution ⚠️ : Sinus rinses done too often may irritate your sinuses and cause infections. Do the nasal rinse gently and discontinue if it bothers you.
2. Try Teas to Treat a Sinus Infection Without Antibiotics
Another effective way to treat a sinus infection without antibiotics, even if it’s bacterial, is to brew and drink steaming hot medicinal teas.
Drink one cup of these teas 2 to 3 times a day or until symptoms are gone.
The most popular teas for treating sinus infections without antibiotics are:
1. Thyme tea with garlic:
Boil 8 oz of water
Steep a handful of fresh thyme leaves and stalks in the boiled water for 15 – 20 minutes or longer
Add 1 clove of peeled crushed fresh garlic (you can crush it by banging it with the bottom of a mason jar or the side of a cleaver)
Add 1 to 2 Tablespoons of fresh lemon juice and honey to taste
2. Cayenne pepper and turmeric tea:
Pro tip #1: Make triple recipes of these teas and keep them in a thermos to enjoy hot tea throughout the day.
Pro tip #2: Consider adding fresh ginger, oregano leaves, and black pepper to either tea.
Caution ⚠️ : If you aren’t used to strongly flavored medicinal teas, cayenne may be too much for you. Start with a smaller amount and see how it feels. If you find the tea irritating to your stomach, enjoy some homemade applesauce or probiotic sauerkraut along with the tea.
3. Call the Chiropractor to Treat a Sinus Infection Without Antibiotics
You’ve seen a human skull?
It has eight hollow cavities in it. Those are your sinuses.
When an infection makes the sensitive tissue that lines the sinuses inflamed, full of mucus, and blocked—bingo!—you get a sinus infection.
It’s amazing what a functional chiropractor can do to re-align your back and neck to help the sinuses drain properly.
Many chiropractors also practice massage, which can also help relax your muscles, improve your circulation, and improve the infection as well.
My aunt is afraid to go to the chiropractor.
She’d rather suffer with debilitating neck pain than try an “alternative.”
Don’t be afraid to try something new. Even if you’re not a chiropractic-type (whatever type that is), a chiropractic adjustment may cure your sinus infection without antibiotics.
Chiropractic care can help you heal from much more than just back pain.
In my mind, going to the chiropractor is a safer, better, and more reasonable option than wiping out your gut flora with toxic medication.
Drilling Down: the Root Causes of Your Sinus Infections
If you’re sick and miserable, don’t read this now.
But once your head has stopped aching and you can breathe and think straight again, we need to talk.
Why do you keep getting sick?
What’s out of alignment in your body and your brain?
Is it stress?
The stress-disease connection is real.
I don’t say that to blame you for your recurring sinus infections, which aren’t your fault.
But stress plays a major role in the immune system.
If you’re stressing out all the time, you can fix that.
We can fix it together.
Make a list of ten things you love to do.
Quick, without any censorship.
My list looks something like this:
- Draw flowers
- Make love
- Take photographs
- Talk to a good friend
- Drink rooibos chai tea, preferably in a beautiful, handmade mug
- Hang out with babies and small children
- Write in my journal
- Dance to really loud pop music
- Be in my garden
- Go outside, preferably on a walk, preferably with my friend Laura
What’s on your list?
Give yourself the space to do at least one stress-relieving activity every day.
If you let yourself slow down and spend time doing things you love, you’ll find you get sick less often.
And you’ll be having a lot more fun.
As Jen Sincero points out in her book, YOU Are a Bad-Ass, it’s important to make time to have fun!
After all, if life isn’t fun sometimes, what’s the point?
Is it what you’re eating?
Eating crappy food-like substances makes us sick.
Eat a diet rich in whole, real, fresh foods.
Eat lots of fresh vegetables and fresh fruits.
Don’t eat packaged crapola.
Equally important, though, is not to stress about food.
Food should bring you good nutrients and also bring you pleasure.
Enjoy what you eat.
But stop with Twinkies and Diet Coke.
Is it how much you’re sleeping?
Another major reason people get recurrent sinus and other infections (and feel depressed) is exhaustion.
Often an infection is the body’s way of telling us to slow down.
Have a friend bring you some old-fashioned chicken soup.
Stay in bed until you’re better.
Once you’re well again, give yourself a bedtime and start practicing the good sleep hygiene Dr. Paul Thomas, MD, and I describe in this book.
Sickness, like pain, is information.
The information those sinus infections may be giving you is that you need to:
- Eat healthy, real, fresh foods
- Get more sleep
Other considerations for beating a sinus infection without antibiotics:
✅ Humming seems to help.
✅ My friends report excellent results using high doses of vitamin C and immune-supporting herbs like echinacea and elderberry syrup (especially locally made—if you live in Southern Oregon I recommend Whistling Duck Farm’s). Echinacea bothers my stomach so I don’t use it.
✅ Grapefruit seed extract is a powerful anti-fungal that cleared up a breast infection for me when nothing else worked. It’s also shown promise as an anti-viral. It tastes awful. I recommend using it in homemade cleaning products, and you can try drinking a few drops in water or freshly made juice two or three times a day at the first sign of a cold or flu. GSE may help you beat your sinus infection without antibiotics.
✅ Don’t ever take Tylenol, for anything. And don’t ever give it to your kids. Tylenol should not be used to beat a sinus infection without antibiotics.
✅ Sip on soup: Old-fashioned chicken soup, like your grandma used to make, is full of health-giving nutrients, deeply comforting, and tremendously healing. Load the soup with fresh organic garlic, onions, carrots, and greens (like kale and spinach), free-range chicken, and fresh spices (thyme, oregano, sage, rosemary, and basil). Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Sip steaming hot throughout the day or as your body desires. You can also buy pre-made bone broth, which naturally minded doctors often recommend.
✅ Some human noses don’t have good air clearance. My father-in-law had labyrinthine nasal passages that didn’t drain right and held in so much infectious material that he needed surgery. But don’t let a doctor talk you into surgery unless it’s necessary. If all else fails, surgery is a reasonable option.
Real-life testimonials from people who’ve treated a sinus infection without antibiotics:
“I once had a sinus infection that made me cry from the pain. I kicked it without antibiotics: Quercetin/bromelain 1000 mg up to 3X a day, same for 4000 mg N-Acetyl cysteine, on an empty stomach. Plus 50,000 IU’s of vitamin D a day for 3 days. Believe it was Dr. Michael Stone, MD, of Stone Medical who put that together for me. It was like a miracle!” ~Lynn Barton
“A nasal spray bottle with filtered water (a one-ounce bottle, filled to half to full), 10-20 drops colloidal silver, 5-10 drops of Lugol’s iodine, and liquid (trace) minerals. Shake and use liberally as needed, at least 4-6 times daily or more if infection is set in or advanced. I have had success with this method numerous times after years of experiencing infections and using neti-pots with probiotics and essential oils that worked for some years, and then I began to experience a lack of results using that method. I’ve also seen some successful results with cayenne pepper (caution, it will burn) or capsicum in myself at least once and heard from several others that it works as well (in a nasal spray bottle). I think different methods work for different people, but it is entirely possible to heal from a severe sinus infection with natural means and completely avoid antibiotics. It may require some patience and persistence if infection has already set in. Drink lots of fluids including hot herbal teas, bone broths, fermented beverages such as kombucha, water kefir, smoothies with raw yogurt and kefir, and beet kvass or other cultured vegetable juices with sea salt. Use immune-boosting herbal tinctures such as echinacea, Wish Garden Kick-Ass Sinus remedy, olive leaf extract and grapefruit seed extract in capsules (3-5 times daily for up to 10 days) in water with sea salt. if infection has already set in, there will be an increased sense of discomfort and burning as the sinus passages are emptied out of pathogenic bacteria, which is part of the process. Iodine is very powerful and can cause this sensation to occur, as can the use of probiotics in the nasal passages.” ~Raine Saunders, Natural Health Content Developer and Editor, and owner of Heal Your Gut With Food
“I spray colliodal silver up my nose. I use a cup of warm previously boiled water with sage tincture or sage infusion warm with sea salt. This is my neti pot. Dip nose in plugging one side and slowly sniff through sinuses, let drain. Repeat on other side. 2 or 3 times a day until it clears.” ~Krystal Wieldt
“Steam tent inhalation. Boil some purified water, add a couple of drops of tea tree oil, throw a towel over your head and breathe in the vapors. Energetically work on surrendering irritation. Easier said than done, I know. These are irritating times.” ~Madeline Eyer