Do you have strange bumps inside your nose? If so, you may have nasal polyps, or nasal polyposis. Nasal polyps are pretty common, noncancerous growths. (1) In fact, up to 4 percent of the U.S. population suffers from nasal polyps.
Conventional treatments usually include steroids, antihistamines and surgery. Luckily there are many natural home remedies for nasal polyps and many treatments to prevent them from coming back.
What Are Nasal Polyps?
Nasal polyps look kind of like peeled grapes or teardrops. They are growths that line your nasal passages, or sinuses. If nasal polyps get too large, or if there is a group of nasal polyps, they may block your nasal passages and make it hard to breathe. They are soft, painless and noncancerous. (3)
Signs & Symptoms of Nasal Polyps
Nasal polyps are usually classified as either antrochoanal polyps or ethmoidal polyps. Antrochoanal polyps originate in the maxillary sinuses and are not as common. Ethmoidal polyps develop from the ethmoidal sinuses. (4)
When you have nasal polyps, you may feel like you have a head cold. (5) Polyps don’t have any sensation, so you may not even realize you have them!
- Stuffy or blocked nose
- Postnasal drip
- Runny nose
- Facial pain
- Difficulty with sense of smell
- Loss of taste
- Itching around the eyes
- Pain in your upper teeth
- Vocal changes
- Sense of pressure over the forehead and face
Nasal polyps may cause complications because they can block airflow and fluid drainage. They are also a result of chronic inflammation. Potential complications include:
- Obstructive sleep apnea: This serious condition causes you to stop and start breathing frequently.
- Asthma flare-ups: Chronic rhinosinusitis may cause asthma flare-ups.
- Sinus infections: Nasal polyps may make you more likely to get sinus infections. They are associated with inflammation of the lining of your nasal passages and sinuses that lasts more than 12 weeks (chronic rhinosinusitis, also known as chronic sinusitis). However, it’s possible — and even somewhat more likely — to have chronic sinusitis without nasal polyps. (10)
Causes & Risk Factors
What causes nasal polyps? Scientists don’t really know what causes nasal polyps. However, there is some evidence that people who develop polyps have a different immune system response than those who don’t get polyps.
Nasal polyps are linked to allergic rhinitis, asthma, aspirin allergy, sinus infections, acute and chronic infections and cystic fibrosis. (11) They can occur at any age, but are most common in younger-to-middle-aged adults. Men over 40 years old are most likely to develop nasal polyps. (12)
If you go to a doctor, he or she will most likely use a nasal endoscope to view the inside of your nose and sinuses. Your doctor may recommend imaging studies to determine the size and location of polyps deeper in your sinuses. These tests are also used to rule out other problems, such as structural problems or other growths. Your doctor may also recommend allergy tests to find out if allergies are causing inflammation. If your child is diagnosed with nasal polyps, the doctor may recommend testing for cystic fibrosis as this is often the reason for nasal polyps in children. The standard cystic fibrosis test is a noninvasive sweat test. (13)
You may be looking for a nasal polyps treatment miracle, but conventional treatment usually starts with a nasal corticosteroid spray. It may also include a prescription to take prednisone by mouth for one week. (14) Nasonex, fluticasone, Beconase AQ, mometasone and beclamethasone are all nasal steroids that may be prescribed to treat nasal polyps. (15) Other medication, such as antihistamines and decongestants, don’t really help nasal polyps. However, your doctor may recommend antihistamines to control allergies, or antibiotics before your start on a steroid prescription if you have an infection. (16)
If nasal polyps are large and nasal sprays don’t help, then your doctor may recommend surgery. Surgery options include polypectomy, or endoscopic sinus surgery, where the surgeon uses an endoscope to see into the sinuses if the polyps are difficult to reach. (17) Patients are given general anesthesia for nasal polyps surgery. (18) Surgery can help, but surgery complications can include bleeding, infection and polyps returning after treatment. (19)
19 Natural Treatments + Healthy Diet & Lifestyle Changes
Fortunately, there are many natural treatments and home remedies to treat and soothe nasal polyps. These include making healthy dietary and lifestyle changes and using essential oils and supplements. Read on for a wide variety of options you can use to find relief.
Essential Oils & Supplements
1. Tea Tree Oil
Known for its antimicrobial properties, tea tree oil can be effective when used in the nasal passages. Do not use tea tree oil internally.
You may be surprised to learn that eating the fiber-dense core of a pineapple can supply you with an anti-inflammatory immune system-boosting enzyme. Because of its ability to reduce swelling, bromelain helps reduce symptoms of sinus infections. It also protects against allergies and asthma.
Try adding a pineapple core to your smoothie. Or, take bromelain as a daily supplement (300 FIP units) (600 milligram tablet).
Similar to bromelain, magnesium contains anti-inflammatory properties and it also relaxes body tissue, among many important functions. Eat a diet rich in magnesium-dense foods, such as leafy green vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes.
You can also try taking a magnesium supplement; the NIH recommends 400–420 milligrams daily for adults 18 years old and older, with RDAs adjusted for age and, in the case of females, for pregnancy and lactation. (20) You can even soak in a warm bath filled with Epsom salt to absorb magnesium directly through your skin.
Drinking a cup of tea made from this herb each day can soothe nasal polyps. Goldenseal has both antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. Continuous use of goldenseal should not exceed three weeks and it should not be consumed by pregnant or lactating women.
What do salmon, cocoa and chickpeas have in common? They’re all great sources of zinc. Essential to bodily function as a trace element, a small amount of zinc is needed each day for the body to function optimally. Zinc is often taken over-the-counter (OTC) to help fight colds, and it may be helpful in treating chronic sinusitis, and by extension, nasal polyps. (21)
Try eating protein-rich foods since they contain the highest amounts of naturally-occurring zinc. Examples include: lamb, chicken, turkey, yogurt, cashews and eggs, among several others. You can also supplement with zinc; teenagers 14 years old and up and adults should take 8–13 milligrams, depending on sex and, for females, whether or not one is pregnant or lactating. (22)
Research has shown strong evidence that probiotics can boost the immune system. In fact, a study published in Science Translation Medicine demonstrated that an individual’s microbiome can impact their sinus health. (23)
To boost the probiotics in your system, eat sour and probiotic-rich foods. It’s also important to feed the probiotics in your system with good high-quality, high-fiber foods, such as chia seeds and sweet potatoes. A quick way to boost your probiotic intake is to take a daily probiotic supplement.
Many studies have noted that curcumin has profound healing properties, with benefits equal to, or better than, many pharmaceutical medications. What is curcumin? It’s the renowned healing compound found in turmeric, a powerful herb.
Turmeric is useful for treating nasal polyps and sinus infections because it is one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory compounds in the world. You can add turmeric to your diet by using it as a cooking spice (it’s commonly used in curries). You can also sprinkle it in a smoothie. Turmeric is also available as a supplement.
8. Cayenne Pepper
Do you enjoy a little spicy heat in your food? If so, be sure to mix cayenne pepper into your recipes because this pepper’s benefits are effective for many health concerns. These little red chili peppers contain vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin E, potassium, beta carotene, manganese and flavonoids, which provide antioxidants. How’s that for eating your multivitamins?
The vitamin A in cayenne pepper helps reduce inflammation, preventing inflamed nasal passages, and it also prevents allergies. The vitamin C and antioxidants help boost the immune system.
Dried or powdered cayenne pepper can be added to meat, pasta, eggs, nuts and vegetables for a spicy kick. It also can be added to sauces and drinks and used as a pickling spice.
9. Apple Cider Vinegar
Known for its many health-supporting properties, apple cider vinegar helps to break up mucus, making it a great remedy for relieving seasonal allergies. It’s filled with vitamins and boosts probiotic action, making it a useful cold remedy as well.
Mix 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar into a glass of water and drink three times per day for cold and allergy relief.
Dietary Changes: Eat an Immune System-Boosting Diet
With its antiviral and antifungal properties, garlic can help relieve the common cold and other infections. Allicin is the key compound found in garlic that gives it its ability to kill micro-organisms.
Garlic can be taken as a supplement, or it can be added to some of your favorite recipes. Try adding a clove of garlic to your favorite chicken or potato dish.
Although they may make you cry, onions are filled with antioxidants that help protect against inflammation, which makes them a great choice if you suffer from asthma or respiratory infections. Onions come in different varieties. Sweet onions may taste the best, but yellow and red onions contain a higher percentage of beneficial compounds, particularly quercetin.
12. Greens and Cabbage Family Vegetables
Eating foods high in vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium and beta-carotene is crucial to an immune system-boosting diet. A great way to get these nutrients is through eating greens and cabbage family vegetables, such as broccoli. These foods include spinach, carrots, sweet potatoes, apricots, mango, melon, winter squash and kale. They are great sources of anti-oxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties.
For a delicious immune system health boost, try cooking a recipe that includes greens, garlic and onions, such as my sautéed kale recipe.
13. Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids
How are wild-caught salmon and flaxseed related? They’re both great sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are important compounds the body can’t make on its own. Omega-3 foods have many benefits including the ability to boost the immune system and to protect against inflammation. These properties are both key in fighting sinus infections and nasal polyps.
14. Avoid Alcohol
According to a study published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice, alcohol may irritate your lungs and sinus problems, including nasal polyps. (24) Research also demonstrates that alcohol can aggravate symptoms in patients with rhinitis. (25)
15. Avoid Food Allergens
Eliminating food allergens from your diet can help prevent nasal polyps. If you have allergies to dairy, wheat, eggs, yeast, soy or gluten, be sure to remove these foods from your diet to lessen inflammation and allergic reactions.
If you suspect you have a food allergy but you’re unsure, you may want to try an elimination diet. This is a short-term eating plan that eliminates certain foods that may be causing allergies or digestive problems and then reintroduces them one at a time to figure out which foods are causing the allergic reaction.
16. Steam Inhalation or Humidifier
Humidifying the air in your home can help moisten your airway and sinuses. It can also help thin mucus and prevent blockage and inflammation of the breathing passages. (26)
In addition to using a humidifier, you can also try inhaling the steam of boiling water to open and moisten the nasal passages and airway. You can also add a few drops of essential oils to the water for an added therapeutic effect.
An easy way to try steam inhalation is to place hot water in a pan or bowl and set it on a table. Next, pull a chair to the table and sit with your head a few inches over the bowl with a towel draped over your head to create a tent as you breathe deeply. Be careful not to burn yourself.
17. Nasal Irrigation (27)
Nasal irrigation, or flushing your sinuses with warm, salty water, can help to clear nasal congestion, providing relief from colds, allergies and sinus infections. Using a Neti pot is a great way to do this. The Neti pot originated in Ayurvedic medicine. In fact, “Neti” means “nasal cleansing” in Sanskrit. Neti pots are widely available, and can be purchased in stores or online.
Along with nasal irrigation and steam inhalation, simply drinking plenty of water and staying hydrated moistens your your nasal passages and thins mucus.
19. Deep Breathing Exercises
Not only can you ease stress and lower your blood pressure with deep breathing, but you can also improve COPD symptoms. There are a variety of deep breathing exercises you can try. These exercises can strengthen lung capacity and help keep the breathing passages clear.
Nasal polyps and chronic sinusitis symptoms can be similar to other conditions like the common cold. Be sure to see your doctor if your symptoms drag out for more than 10 days. Call 911 or go directly to the emergency room if you have any of these symptoms: (28)
- Serious trouble breathing
- Sudden worsening of your symptoms
- Double vision, reduce vision or limited ability to move your eyes
- Sever swelling around your eyes
- Increasingly severe headache accompanied by high fever or inability to move your head forward
- Be sure to eat an immune system-boosting diet.
- Avoid foods that cause inflammation.
- Eat anti-inflammatory foods and supplements.
- Hydrate and use steam inhalation to open and clear your sinuses.
- If you develop serious symptoms, call 911 or go to the emergency room immediately.
- In most cases, nasal polyps aren’t dangerous; they can just cause discomfort and irritation.