Alternatives for addictive nasal sprays

teryaki(z5B NE OHIO)April 26, 2008

So, I'm currently coming off Afrin nasal spray cold-turkey, and having flashbacks to my childhood asthma attacks as I try to clear the phlegm. First off, do NOT ever let any friends of loved ones use this stuff for a chronic condition. It creates a strong dependency and in isolated cases, has done serious long-term damage to sense of smell and natural nasal drainage.

Secondly, I've still got the now-empty spray bottle, and still have my chronic congestion that keeps me from getting a good night of sleep. So, I'm pondering a safer, herbal alternative. After some searches on commercial "all natural" products, plus my experience with my own garden, I'm considering a chamomile-raspberry leaf mix (soothing + mild astringent), or a more radical dilute capsicum + chamomile + eucalyptus attack.

And yes, I'm already using the nasal strips, and they do help.

I'd love to hear any better-informed thoughts on the subject.

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Afrin and similar products were never meant to be used long-term (there are warnings on the package labels about this).

"Whether a dependence on nasal sprays is a true addiction is arguable, but some doctors point out that, as with drugs of abuse, people who are hooked on nasal decongestants tend to use more and more and to suffer withdrawal symptoms if they try to stop...Doctors call nasal stuffiness and blockage that are caused more by the treatment than the original problem rhinitis medicamentosa, a term coined in 1946. The problem can easily fly under the radar of a standard medical exam, said Dr. Stanley Goldstein, an allergist in Rockville Centre, N.Y.

"Often the patient doesn't mention a nasal decongestant when listing his medications, because it's over-the-counter," Dr. Goldstein said. He says he diagnoses the disorder several times a month in his practice...
Rebound congestion is a risk with decongestants that contain one of two compounds that shrink spongy, swollen nasal membranes by constricting the network of tiny blood vessels within them...Though it is not entirely clear why, the blood vessels in the nasal lining quickly become tolerant to the drugs' shrinking effects. With months of overuse, the sprays choke off blood flow to the nasal membranes and damage them. In some patients with severe cases, Dr. Bhattaharyya said, "the inside of their nose looks like a chemical burn."

While herbal alternatives might help for awhile, you'd think that long-term use of any decongestant would have potential for harmful effects, which is why it's important to get the underlying condition diagnosed first and see what the safest and most effective treatments are.

Here is a link that might be useful: Nasal spray

    Bookmark   April 26, 2008 at 3:25PM
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teryaki(z5B NE OHIO)

Yes, and as soon as I have health insurance I can count on, I'll get that taken care of... But if I was to get diagnosed with sleep apnea now, or anything else serious, it would go down as a pre-existing condition and never be covered and therefore, never treated.

As is, I've been waking up early, alert and refreshed for the first time since I was in junior high.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2008 at 6:31PM
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Look into saline rinses (aka 'neti pot') - simple, safe, cheap, effective. You can make a saline rinse for less than a penny a day, and it can go a long way to improve sinus congestion. You may want to start out with the pre-measured salt packages to get things under control, then switch to your own mix (salt + baking soda).

To get off of the decongestant sprays if you are habituated, switch to an every-other nostril pattern each day. That way, you will not have both nasal passages stopped up by withdraw/rebound.

Here is a link that might be useful: Wikipedia page on Neti Pots

    Bookmark   April 26, 2008 at 9:02PM
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If your condition could be due to allergies, be careful what you use--some people, for example, are allergic to Chamomile.

It is not "herbal," but you could try Nasal Crom or a generic substitute. It is also provided in nasal spray form, but does NOT produce a "rebound" effect the way Afrin and many others do; it is a preventative treatment. After several weeks' use, the nasal passages become more resistant to the effects of histamine produced by the cells in the nasal passages of the nose in response to allergens. The histamine is what causes the swelling.

If your nasal problems are due to colds, a zinc gluconate nasal spray could be of help, as in the Zicam line. I have not had any colds since I started using it a couple of years ago--I use it before bedtime any night that I have been around coughing or sneezing people. It CAN cause a loss of sense of smell, though, so it depends on how severe your problem is. I did catch one bronchial virus after being repeatedly coughed at in close range by someone I couldn't escape, so it will not protect you from everything, but it is quite effective when used the way I do it (the package says to use it "at the first sign of" a cold--I don't wait for that).

Neither of the two things I have mentioned above cause nasal "rebound." Afrin and the other brands that do have given nasal sprays a bad name. It is because of the specific ingredients used in the nasal spray, not the fact of using a spray bottle to get a treatment into the nose.

I'm allergic to a lot of things, and although I am willing to taste and smell many herbs, there aren't many I would feel comfortable using inside my nose. I had breathing problems for years, which only went away when I started using the zinc gluconate and cromylin formulations. I don't think they are pushed much by the drug industry, becuase they work too well, and pharmacies get a good repeat business with the other products. They are usually well hidden in the stores where they are sold, and if you ask for them you have to be very persistent to get helped to find them.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2008 at 1:27AM
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Quercetin and quercetrin are similiar in action to cromolyn - reduces mast cell degranulation (release of histamine). Apples, onions, and other fruits and veggies are good sources.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2008 at 4:33PM
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Antioxidants like quercetin have interesting potential - the problem is this one hasn't been studied much outside the test tube. In the case of quercetin this just-published review in the European Journal of Pharmacology found only a couple of papers regarding treatment of disease in people (which didn't involve treatment of allergies/nasal congestion). They note that effective levels of this compound might only be found in processed supplements - but that might also lead to problems with toxicity.

"Up to date, toxic effects of quercetin could only be observed in vitro (Fig. 9). These effects are most likely associated with the formation of possible toxic products upon oxidation of quercetin during its ROS scavenging activities. The most important oxidation product of quercetin is its ortho-quinone, denoted as QQ. QQ is highly thiol reactive and reacts almost instantaneously with GSH or, in the absence of this thiol, with protein sulfhydryl groups, thereby impairing the function of several critical enzymes. Consequently, during in vivo quercetin supplementation care should be taken of the possible toxicity of its metabolites. Especially in a chronic disorder, when supplementation has to proceed over a much longer time period, the safety, tolerability and efficacy of (long term) quercetin supplementation remain to be established."

Of course, there are numerous beneficial effects of making fruits and vegetables a large part of your diet, so it's a good idea regardless of whether there's any potential for helping nasal congestion.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2008 at 5:22PM
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kriswrite(zone 8)

Look into B5; it can clear the sinuses within 15 min.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2012 at 10:24PM
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