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Finding a good herbalist

Much of what's written in this article is entirely suitable for a person to work through themselves but, especially if things are quite bad, or you just know that you need further help, then there may be a great deal of benefit to you to go to whatever lengths necessary to find a good herbalist to guide you on to a safe and strong treatment program.
Some notes to suggest how you might go about finding such a person are here

Case Histories

I've been in full time practice in Christchurch, New Zealand since 1989. Many people with chronic sinusitis have come in for help over the years and, whilst each case is different and needs an individualised approach, there is also much common ground between people and some general recommendations are discussed below.

Firstly however, from the clinic files, the following cases are shown to demonstrate how different kinds of approaches can be needed to get a good result.


Connor's case is a recent one at the time of writing and I include it first because it shows how sometimes a simple treatment is really all that is needed.

Connor had initially come in with his partner who had some tricky health issues of her own and then later made an appointment to see me by himself. It turned out that he had been experiencing chronic sinusitis for years and, having tried numerous courses of antibiotics, steroidal sprays etc. was now booked to have surgery on his sinuses in less than 2 months' time, something he was keen to avoid if he could!

Connor had no health history of any significance. He was a fit, healthy young man with no signs of immune imbalance, allergy, excess stress etc. therefore I thought that it was highly likely he simply had a stubborn fungal infection in his sinuses that his body was unable to get rid of. Normally we would need to support his general immunity, as shown in the next case, but in this instance, we simply used the following

The prescription

Steam Inhalations -simple method

The dosage was to do a 'simple method' steam inhalation twice daily as described in more detail here. After a few days, or as soon as he felt that his sinuses were opening up, he was to go on to the next step of the sinus rinse with the following formula.

Sinus Formula

Golden Seal 10mls
Myrrh 10mls
Licorice root 5 mls

The dose was to put between 2 to 8 drops (more or less according to his sensitivity to the treatment) of the above formula into a neti-pot with salt water and rinse through the sinuses once daily. More details about this approach are in the general recommendations below

I didn't see Connor again until he came back with his partner approximately 2 months later. He said that his sinuses had started clearing up within a week, he had cancelled the surgery and kept the treatment going for about a month before he felt completely free and clear for the first time in many years!



I first met Julia when she was 24 years old. She did not have any allergy signs as the 3rd and last case below will show but she certainly had indicators for a depressed immune system. As well as chronic sinusitis and recurrent sinus infections she was fatigued all the time, had slow healing from bruises or minor injuries, and frequently suffered from colds and flus. Unlike Connor, her sinus passageways did not sound too blocked whereas her whole respiratory system needed care, so we reserved using the neti-pot for if she wasn't improving and used the following treatment

The prescription

Steam Inhalations - comprehensive method + chamomile

This is a more involved method of doing a steam inhalation that is again written up in detail here

immune Formula

Echinacea 140mls
Astragalus 120mls
Withania root 100mls
Elder berry 60mls
Elder Flower 60mls
Licorice root 60mls

We make our own tinctures from organic dried herbs, so it might be important that you understand that the optimal dose range will vary with different preparations made by different companies or practitioners,

The above liquid extracts were combined into a formula to make 540mls. This will just fit into a 500ml amber pharm round bottle and is enough to last about 4 weeks if taken at the maximum safe and effective dose of 10mls twice a day, which is what we used. You can learn more about any of these great immune system allies in the A-Z found here

Cold & Flu tea

After using the immune formula for a few days. Julia was to go through the arduous, but very effective, method of activating the immune system known as diaphoresis, or 'sweating therapy'. She was to do this treatment once a week over 3 weeks for a total of 3 sessions. The recipe for the cold and flu tea is shown here and the process of the treatment is described in detail here

The work

The first step in the healing journey comes from Nature. We come to a point where we are unable to fix ourselves and then these ancient allies, the herbs, can help us to get well.

The next step is the 'work'. It is what the patient does to help themselves. Underlying all the old ways of healing is an understanding that living organisms have the ability to self-repair, unless something is getting in the way. The 'work' is usually doing something to remove the obstacles that are getting in the way of that innate, self-healing intelligence.

Julia was from the Elephant-Butterfly constitution, an 'EB', (Connor was a Tiger, by the way) and I will say something more about this further on, but why I mention it now is that, like many EBs, she had run her well of energy too dry and needed to stop pushing herself to exercise so much and work so hard in order to get well.

As obvious as it might seem to an outsider, a young person who is getting sick all the time but who is maintaining a heavy work and exercise schedule desperately needs to rest. What makes things trickier is that, like many EBs, Julia used her exercise to destress and, if she didn't do it, she felt a lot worse; tense, irritable, unable to sleep etc.

Her 'work' was to take a break from strenuous exercise until she was fully recovered and to find alternate ways to relax and unwind until then. Gentle exercise, e.g. walking was ok, but she also needed to take up some activities to help her to relax as EBs are generally people who 'relax by doing'.

Julia responded extremely well to the treatment, but it took her a long time to become completely well. I last saw her approximately 6 months after we started, and she had been finally able to go back to her jogging and gym-going without any adverse effects. Which, given each time she had tried to push herself earlier that she has started to get sick, we both took as proof that she was now properly well.

Her sinusitis had responded quickly to the treatment program and was hardly an issue even by the second time we met, however I am sure that if she had not patiently built up her immune system that her condition would have returned.



I first met Florence (or 'Flo') when she was 38 years old. She was a 'Bear' constitution and her main reason for coming was her severe and chronic sinusitis, but she also had a significant history of asthma throughout her life and eczema as a child.

We used a similar treatment plan to both of the above cases. Steam inhalations followed by sinus rinses with the sinus formula. Immune boosting herbs and sweating therapy, all of it.

The reason I add her case here is that I am sure that for her, and for many other people who suffer from sinusitis, it was essential that we addressed her food intolerances for there to be a cure.

In Flo's case we used the food detective kit to shed some light on what she was reacting to and, as the notes show, she had multiple, strong reactions to eggs, dairy, gluten, soy and tree-nuts. It is not small thing to have to remove so many foods from the diet and it is to her great credit that she did 'the work' so diligently for the 3 months that are typically required to properly turn things around in this area.

The great benefit of it all in Flo's case, as with so many others, is that not only do their sinuses clear up and they can breathe, taste food, smell flowers and enjoy life so much more, but her general health, her energy and her asthma all dramatically improved to the point of her becoming drug-free.

Taking allergens out of the diet is hard work but, when it is truly necessary, it is a life-changing thing to do. More about this important process in a detailed article here


Constitutions & the Healing Cycle


I've mentioned some of the constitutions in the case histories above. This ancient way of understanding our differences, according to how we are naturally either hotter or cooler, and at the same time dryer or damper, underpins much of the approach to what kinds of foods, herbs etc, will best help a person.

Anyone, from any of the constitutions, can get sinusitis however, the damper constitutions, Tigers or Bears, are much more likely to get profuse and runny mucus with it whereas the dryer constitutions, Eagles or Elephant-Butterflies, are more likely to get harder to shift, thicker and more stuck mucus in the sinuses. There are no hard and fast rules about this, 'whatever works' is the best guide, but it might be useful to note that neti-pots can be especially helpful for the dryer constitutions because of how stuck the condition can become in their cases.

If you, or someone you care for, are having troubles in this area, you can learn more about the general subject of the constitutions starting here, and then work out which constitution you or they are by going here

The Cycle of Healing

After getting a sense of whether a person is naturally cooler or hotter, dryer or damper, the next level of knowledge to take the kind of personal approach that can be essential to a great result is to look into the healing cycle.

This is a fascinating subject in itself and understanding it can give great insight into what needs to be done to treat the cause and help healing happen naturally. There are four stages in the cycle; cleansing, activation, nourishment and rest. To learn more about the cycle of healing read here

This chart can be seen in more detail in a PDF found here


General Recommendations

Steam Inhalations

There are few things that you can say are going to be right for anyone, but I believe that everyone who gets sinusitis should do steam inhalations. Whether it is the simple method that takes no more than a few breaths over half a cup of freshly boiled water and some drops of oils or the more involved traditional technique, regularly doing steam inhalations will help the body clean and disinfect the mucus membranes of the sinuses and lower down. They can only help and some detailed notes on the technique and ingredients that have been seen to work well are again linked here

Olbas oil: widely available around the world


Sinus rinse

Consistent medical research shows that the great majority of sinus infections are primarily caused by fungi and that nearly everyone who has chronic sinusitis has excess fungal overgrowth in their sinus passageways (a short article that reports more on this is found here). This is the reason why so many people who take recurrent courses of antibiotics never get well. Antibiotics do nothing against fungal infections. They may clear up secondary bacterial infections and so ease the problem temporarily but, unless the underlying fungal infection is cleared up, the problem will always return.

Consequently, we need a method that will reliably treat a fungal infection and for this, the herbs Golden Seal and Myrrh are two of the best available in all of nature. They have potent, antimicrobial actions and have properties that are able to break down the 'bio-film' of the fungi so that the immune system can get at it and get rid of it. The Licorice root is there to keep the other herbs in solution and to make them a little gentler on these very delicate surfaces of the body.

Dosage and method of delivery are always critical to get right for achieving success in herbal medicine and this area is no exception. It is very important to understand that different people will have different levels of tolerance to these potent herbs and that anyone who uses them must start at the lower end of the dose range and only slowly increase as their body gets used to the treatment.

I always say to start at just two drops of the sinus formula in a neti-pot of warm salt water*. As the person gets used to the treatment and they can feel that they are tolerating it well, you slowly increase by 1 drop to a maximum of 8 drops (many people feel most comfortable at around 4 or 5 drops of the formula but it has also been seen that plenty of people can take the whole 8 drops with no discomfort either)

*The amount of salt to use is typically around 1/4 of a metric tsp that should easily mix into to the warm water that has been already poured into the neti-pot. Especially if condition is a chronic and inflammatory one, I think it can be of further benefit to add approximately one-eighth of a metric tsp of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) to the salt water to help alkalise the delicate sinus tissues.

Neti-pots are easily obtained online, they are a little harder to use than the more popular syringes, but it just takes a little practice to get the technique right and I believe they deliver a superior result because of the way the more passive pressure reaches into the tissues to let the rinse get deeper into the sinus cavities.


Using a neti-pot when the sinuses are too blocked will be too painful and may cause an unhelpful increase in inflammation. If there is any concern that the sinuses may be quite blocked up then always start by doing steam inhalations for at least a few days before going on to the neti-pot as this should loosen up and clean the passageways enough to make it safe to use.

It is ok for there to be a slight discomfort, but it should be easily tolerated and it should not last for any length of time after the treatment. If there is strong pain or discomfort, then go back to only using steam inhalations or decrease the dose of the herbal formula. This is the formula again.

Sinus Formula

Golden Seal 10mls
Myrrh 10mls
Licorice root 5 mls

an example of one of the many 'neti-pots' readily available online


Allergy Tea

The Allergy tea is my front-line treatment for anyone who gets hay-fever and, by virtue of it helping a person to be less sensitive to pollens and allergens in their environment, I have found it to be of much help to many who get sinusitis as well and It can be generally recommended to try drinking one or two cups of this tea a day. Ingredients in the tea help us to be less reactive to airborne irritants and, at the same time, to clear the sinus passageways.

15gms Nettles                               
15gms Elder flower      
10gms Sage leaf            
10gms Eyebright           
2.5gms Peppermint  

The amounts shown above will make a small jar with enough tea that will be enough for dozens of doses. You could make a larger or smaller amount by simply increasing or decreasing all the herbs by the same proportions e.g. half or two times the amount for each one. Dosage instructions are found here


Rule out Food Intolerance

A lot, and I really mean a lot, of people who get chronic sinusitis have an undiagnosed food allergy or intolerance at the root of it. If there is any history of eczema or asthma at any time in their health history then this almost should be assumed to be a part of the problem.

If they frequently suffer from bloating, indigestion or disturbed bowel function then it should at least be suspected. Likewise, if the person themselves feels that they are reacting adversely to something they are eating, it is always wise to listen to what the body is trying to tell us.

Sometimes, the only way to know for sure is to remove one of the most common offenders (namely gluten or dairy products) and then re-introduce them after 7-10 days to see what difference it makes. This process, other forms of testing and other matters in this important subject are described in detail in the article again linked here


Build Immunity

As shown in the case of Julia above, many people who suffer from chronic sinusitis have a lowered immune system at the root of the issue. We all are exposed to fungi, and bacteria, and viruses, all the time. The reason why one person gets sick and another doesn't usually comes back to how healthy their immune systems are.

The reason why food intolerance can be such an issue is only partly because it can cause a person to hypersecrete mucus, the bigger part of the reason is that having to constantly react things in the diet can badly impair the immune system's ability to muster up the energy to fight the real bad guys - i.e. the microbial infections that are trying to get a foot-hold in the body.

Chronic tiredness, frequent colds or other infections and slow healing from wounds or bruises are the classic signs that the immune system needs support.

If any of these are happening alongside the sinusitis, then it should be assumed that a deeper program of immune treatment will be needed for a lasting cure. The best of what has been seen to reliably help is written up in detail in the article on immunity found here

Echinacea angustifolia

Please understand that I cannot personally advise you without seeing you in my clinic.
This living 'book' is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!



© 2011 R.J.Whelan Ltd