Sinus infections are a common occurrence in today’s world. In fact, they are one of the most common reasons for clinical visits in the US each year.
According to the National Health Interview Survey, 14.7% of the individuals who were surveyed reported having had sinusitis in the past year.
Sinus infections, also called rhinosinusitis, are one of the top reasons that antibiotics are prescribed. Many consumers are looking for a natural alternative for treating sinus infections.
This article looks at the scientific research behind the best herbs for sinus infections.
Table of Contents
Sinus Infections: An Overview
A sinus infection occurs when fluid builds up in the sinuses. This fluid buildup creates the perfect environment for microbes to grow. Typically, viruses cause most sinus infections, but bacteria and fungi can cause sinus infections as well.
Sinus infections can also be caused by allergens and various irritants, including animal dander, polluted air, smoke, and dust.
Two symptoms of sinus infections are mucus buildup and inflammation of the sinuses. Thinning mucus, reducing microbe content, and reducing inflammation are the keys to treating sinus infections.
The 8 Best Herbs for Sinus Infections:
Natural herbal remedies may provide an alternative way to treat sinusitis. If used sensibly, these natural medicines may help to not only reduce sinus infection symptoms but prevent them altogether.
These herbs can also help to strengthen the body tissues and organs, which is beneficial to your overall health. Below is a roundup of the best herbs for sinus infections.
Umckaloabo, known scientifically as Pelargonium sidoides, is a South African plant that has been shown to be a helpful herb for sinus infections. This is due to this herb’s antimicrobial effects, which can help to fight against pathogens present in the sinus cavity.
This plant was historically used by indigenous African tribes, including the Zulu people, to treat a variety of health complaints, including upper respiratory tract infections like bronchitis and tuberculosis. This plant is also called South African geranium.
Lab research indicates that this herb is rich in a variety of different phenols and flavonoids, including coumarins, tannins, diterpenes, and proanthocyanidins.
Umckaloabo is commonly used in Germany, where the root has been standardized as an extract known as EPs 7630®.
Lab research shows that umckaloabo has significant antibacterial activity against multiresistant Staphylococcus aureus. It also has been shown to have antiviral effects against seasonal influenza A virus strains (H1N1, H3N2), respiratory syncytial virus, human coronavirus, parainfluenza virus, as well as Coxsackie virus.
A clinical trial involving 103 patients with acute rhinosinusitis compared EPs 7630® (Pelargonium sidoides extract) against a placebo. The EPs 7630® group was found to be effective is reducing sinusitis symptoms. It was also well tolerated by the study participants.
A clinical review concluded that P. sidoides may be an effective treatment for reducing sinus infection symptoms, including headaches and runny nose, for acute sinusitis and the common cold.
Summary:Clinical research indicates that umckaloabo’s antimicrobial properties may be useful in treating sinus infections.
Bromelain is a proteolytic enzyme that comes from pineapple juices and stems. It’s known to have anti-inflammatory properties, as well as mucolytic (mucus dissolving) capabilities.
A trio of double-blind, randomized controlled trials were conducted in the 1960s on patients with sinusitis. The studies used similar protocols of 2 parallel treatment arms comparing bromelain with a placebo, with each group also receiving standard treatment consisting of antibiotics, decongestants, antihistamines, and analgesics. At the end of the studies, the participants noted decreased inflammation and increased ease of breathing.
A literature review showed statistically significant improvement in nasal mucosal inflammation and a reduction in nasal discomfort and breathing difficulty. It should be noted that rates of nasal discharge of mucus were not significantly improved.
A clinical trial involving children with acute sinusitis divided the participants into 3 treatment groups: a bromelain group, bromelain + standard therapy group, and a standard therapy group. The results showed a statistically significant recovery time in the bromelain-alone group as compared with the other treatment groups.
Additionally, bromelain is approved in Germany under the German Commission E as being effective for “acute postoperative and post-traumatic swelling, especially of the nose and paranasal sinuses”. The recommended dosage for bromelain ranges from 500-2000mg per day.
Summary:Clinical human trials show that bromelain, a proteolytic enzyme derived from pineapple, may work to alleviate various symptoms of sinus infections.
Cineole, known scientifically as 1,8-cineole, is a plant chemical that’s found in many plant-based essential oils. It is commonly found in eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) and in magnolia flower buds (Flos magnoliae), a popular traditional Chinese medicine herb.
Lab-based research indicates that cineole may be one of the best herbs for sinus infections. It has been shown to improve mucus clearance, block inflammation, and reduce pain perception.
A randomized, double-blind trial compared cineole with placebo in 152 patients with rhinosinusitis. The researchers found an improvement in nasal secretion and a reduction in headaches and nasal obstruction in the cineole group. Mild side effects were noted in the cineole group, including heartburn and exanthema (rash). The investigators noted that cineole may serve as a helpful natural therapy during the first 4 days of sinusitis, but antibiotics should be used if sinus infection symptoms continue.
Another randomized, double-blinded controlled study compared cineole against a herbal formula (that included 5 different ingredients) in individuals with viral rhinosinusitis. One hundred and fifty patients (75 patients in each treatment group) were given either 600mg of cineole daily or the herbal combination formula, which consisted of 12mg Gentianae radix, 36mg Primulae Xos cum calycibus, 36mg Ramicis herba, 36mg Sambuci Xos, and 36mg Verbenae herba. The researchers discovered that the cineole group was more effective in treating viral rhinosinusitis.
Summary:Clinical research has found that cineole, a plant chemical found in magnolia flowers and eucalyptus, may help sinus infections by inhibiting inflammation, reducing pain, and clearing mucus buildup.
4. Manuka Honey
Manuka honey is a special honey that comes from New Zealand and Australia. Compared to typical honey, manuka is special in that it’s a monofloral honey, which means that it’s made solely from pollen that comes from the tea tree bush (Leptospermum scoparium).
Tea tree has strong antimicrobial properties and these properties are carried over into manuka honey. Thus, manuka has potent antibacterial activity, which is attributed to its high concentration of methylglyoxal, hyperosmolarity, hydrogen peroxide, and low pH.
On lab-based study discovered that manuka honey has bactericidal activity against biofilms formed by Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus. It’s antibacterial effects were found to be higher than commonly used antibiotics. It’s thought that these antibacterial properties may have implications for treating chronic rhinosinusitis.
A clinical trial looked at the impact of manuka honey in individuals with allergic fungal sinusitis. In this study, 34 patients were topically treated with manuka honey in one nostril daily for 30 days. The participants reported improvements in sinus health at the end of the study.
Summary:Clinical studies show that manuka honey may improve sinus health due to its antibacterial activity.
5. Sinupret® (Herbal Blend)
Sinupret® is a brand name herbal supplement blend that’s commonly used in Germany (and throughout the world) for respiratory infections.
The Sinupret® formula consists of Gentian (Gentiana radix), Primula flower (Primula flos) Sorrel (Rumex herba), Elder Flower (Sambucus flos), and Verbena (Verbena herba).
This formula is approved by the German Commission E for the treatment of acute and chronic inflammation of the sinuses.
A clinical trial involving 589 individuals with acute viral rhinosinusitis found that Sinupret® helped to significantly reduce sinus infection symptoms compared to placebo.
Another clinical trial found that Sinuopret® extract helped to reduce sinusitis symptoms by 2 days as compared to placebo.
A multicenter, comparative study involving 292 children with acute rhinosinusitis contrast the impact of taking Sinupret® alongside standard medical therapies versus standard therapies alone. The researchers found that taking Sinupret® (alongside standard medical therapies) had a clinically significant impact on the reduction of rhinorrhea, nasal congestion, and post-nasal drip.
Finally, a clinical review found that Sinupret® may be a helpful add-on therapy for individuals with sinusitis.
Summary:Human clinical research has found that sinus infection symptoms may be alleviated by using Sinupret®, an herbal formula of Gentian, Primula flower, Sorrel, Elder Flower, and Verbena.
6. Kan Jang® (Andrographis & Eleuthero Blend)
Andrographis and eleuthero are thought to be beneficial herbs for sinusitis. In fact, this blend may be some of the best herbs for sinus infections.
A trademarked extract called Kan Jang®, which is sold in Scandinavia, is made with a specialized extract form of andrographis (Andrographis paniculata) and eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus).
A clinical trial involving 185 people looked at the impact of Kan Jang® on upper respiratory tract infections, including sinusitis. The researchers discovered that Kan Jang® helped to reduce the number of symptoms, including headaches, cough, and runny nose, as compared to the control group. The researchers noted that the herbal combination formula was well tolerated.
Additionally, a recently completed quadruple-blinded clinical trial showed that Kan Jang® extract helped to significantly improve the recovery rate of individuals with upper respiratory tract infections (including sinusitis). The researchers found that this herbal blend reduced the number of sick leave days by over 21% compared to the placebo. They also noted that Kan Jang® had a strong anti-inflammatory effect.
Summary:Clinical trials note that the use of the andrographis & eleuthero herbal blend, Ken Jang®, may help reduce the symptoms of sinus infections.
7. Esberitox® (Herbal Blend)
Esberitox® is a dietary supplement that contains a blend of White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis), Wild Indigo (Baptisia tinctoria), and two forms of Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea and Echinacea pallida). The blend has been shown to be a helpful supplement for sinusitis.
A double-blind, placebo-controlled study involving 91 adults showed that Esberitox® helped to reduce the duration of upper respiratory tract infection. The researchers also found that a higher dose (19mg of extract, three times daily) was more effective.
Another clinical trial with 90 patients with acute rhinosinusitis compared (1) Esberitox (3 tablets 3 times per day) and doxycycline, (2) Sinupret® (5 tablets twice per day) and doxycycline, and (3) doxycycline alone and found that both groups with combination therapies had significantly better results.
Summary:Human clinical trials have found that Esberitox®, an herbal blend of White Cedar, Wild Indigo, and Echinacea, may be useful in treating sinusitis.
8. Myrtol® 300 (Herbal Blend)
Myrtol® 300 is another herbal blend formula that has been shown to help individuals who struggle with sinusitis. It is a blend of distilled essential oils of Eucalyptus, Sweet Orange, Lemon, and Myrtle.
Lab-based studies show that this blend works to stop inflammation at a cellular level (by inhibiting 5-lipoxygenase activity).
A double-blind clinical trial involving 330 individuals with acute sinusitis was enrolled in one of 3 arms: (1) Myrtol® 300 extract (300 mg/d), (2) other unidentified essential oil, or (3) placebo. The Myrtol® 300 and the other essential oil groups were superior to the placebo based on reducing symptoms (including headache, nasal secretion, nasal obstruction, etc…). The researchers reported that the essential oil groups had a handful of moderate adverse effects – some individuals had a difficult time digesting the essential oils.
Summary:Human clinical research has found that Myrtol® 300, an herbal blend of Eucalyptus, Sweet Orange, Lemon, and Myrtle, may reduce symptoms of acute sinusitis.
Types of Sinus Infections:
There are 4 primary classifications for sinusitis.
1. Acute rhinosinusitis
Sudden onset, lasting less than 4 weeks with complete resolution.
2. Subacute rhinosinusitis
A continuum of acute rhinosinusitis but less than 12 weeks.
3. Recurrent acute rhinosinusitis
Four or more episodes of acute, lasting at least 7 days each, in any 1-year period.
4. Chronic rhinosinusitis
Signs of sinusitis symptoms extending 12 weeks or longer.
The effects of the above herbs are well documented and they may be a safe alternative for those who suffer from sinus infections.
Clinical research and traditional usage indicate that these herbal alternatives may be a natural way to reduce the symptoms of sinus infections.
If you’ve been looking to add natural remedies to your diet that may help with reducing sinus infections, consider trying these herbs!
As always, make sure to consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet or adding a new supplement.