Self Care for Nasal and Sinus Congestion

Goobers. Phlegm. Cloggy, sticky, slimy, snoggy boogers.

Ayurvedic healing_Nasal and Sinus Congestion.jpg

During the winter and spring, which is kapha time of year, it’s common for all the doshic types to have excess kapha dosha. What does that mean? Those sticky, heavy, wet, dense, slow-moving qualities that cause sinus congestion and mucus in the upper body = excess kapha dosha. Gross. You might think it’s normal to wake up congested during the cold time of year. It’s not! By making changes in your diet and doing a few self-care routines at home, you can breathe freely all winter long. Alandi student Katrina Debs explains how to take care of ourselves when we are experiencing congestion.

From the Ayurvedic perspective, all conditions in the body originate in the digestive tract. We can reduce or increase uncomfortable symptoms by making food choices.  Since we eat 3 times a day, food should be our first medicine. Other remedies may work temporarily, but if a person continues to eat in a mucus-forming way, sinus conditions will continue and may become chronic. 

Diet Suggestions

Never eat when you’re not hungry. This is the most important way to protect your digestive fire (agni in Sanskrit). When you do eat, follow these simple recommendations.

Avoid all mucus-forming foods for at least a few days:

  •  All dairy: milk, yogurt, cheese, cream, sour cream, etc.
  •  Eggs
  •  Nuts and nut butters
  •  Avocado
  •  Sugars and concentrated sweeteners (exception: honey)
  •  Bread, especially those containing wheat & gluten
  •  Chocolate, which is quite mucus-forming
  •  Starches/grains (eat a smaller quantity or avoid completely)
  •  Go easy on the oils. They increase kapha.
  • Moistening, sweet fruits like mango, figs,
  •  Cooling & moist veggies and fruits like sweet potato, zucchini, asparagus, winter squash, mushrooms and all raw foods (they are hard to digest and cooling).

Do eat:

  •  More cooked, spiced vegetables than you usually would. Your plate should be 3/4 vegetables, with only ¼ starches and/or protein foods. If you’re really congested, try a meal of only cooked, spiced veggies. This scrapes the mucus and undigested food from the stomach (which is where it starts before it overflows to the lungs and sinuses) and helps you be properly .
  •  Stick to the more drying/ meats, like white meat chicken & turkey, elk and bison. Avoid the heavy and oily meats like duck, lamb and beef.
  •  Eat more quantity of heating & drying vegetables like carrots, beets, onions, spinach, arugula and sweet red pepper, and a smaller quantity of cooling and drying veggies like cauliflower, broccoli, kale and potatoes.
  •  Heating spices like: oregano, thyme, rosemary, turmeric, cumin, ginger, black pepper, and even the quite heating spices like cayenne and ajwain (if you don’t get easily pitta-provoked).
  • Sour foods like fermented vegetables (kimchi, sauerkraut) and condiments that contain vinegar.

Digestive Remedies

If you’re congested in your head, you’ll find that you’re consistently not hungry for meals, either. This is because the stomach is the first place that fills with mucus. Stimulate your agni by enjoying a cup of fresh ginger tea with lime and honey between meals. Or, slice fresh ginger, sprinkle it with sea salt and lime juice, and eat a few slices 15 minutes before your meal.


Using the neti pot is a wonderful practice for kapha types and those prone to sinus problems but be sure to dry the nose well afterwards with anulom vilom, forward fold, waving palm and rabbit pose.

Read here for home remedies you can use when you are congested.

This piece was written by a student of the Alandi Ayurveda Gurukula in Boulder, Colorado. Learn more about studying ayurveda at our home school, or access your deep wellness with the support of our student practitioners in the Alandi Ayurveda Clinic.