Neti Salt FAQs - Iodine, Baking Soda & More

If you've studied up on neti salt, you know what to look for when checking labels to verify your salt is safe for nasal irrigation. But like your sinus cavities, the subject of neti salt goes much deeper than meets the eye. (Sorry, I couldn't resist.) Below are some common FAQs about salt for your neti pot.

Why Do I Need Neti Pot Salt Without Iodine? Some people are sensitive to iodine and report a burning sensation in their nasal passages when using iodized salt. One thing we know for sure is that iodine will certainly not HELP the nasal irrigation experience, so it's best avoided. If it's not needed, why put it up there?

Why Does Salt Even Contain Iodine, Anyway? As you probably know from reading Mortons all these years, iodine is a necessary nutrient. But what the labels don't tell you is that iodine deficiency increases the odds of a condition known as hypo-thyroidism.

Of these three salt packages, only one is recommended for use as neti salt. Can you guess which one? You'd have to read the label, but if you guessed the big box to the right, you'd be correct -- because it contains no iodine, anti-caking agents, or other non-neti-friendly things.
Photo Credit: Ok to use with attribution.
Common symptoms of this condition include goiter, extreme fatigue, mental slowing, depression, weight gain, and low basal body temperatures.

Thankfully, iodine in table salt has done a lot to reduce the amount of people who have this condition. But iodine doesn't occur in salt naturally.

Instead, about a century ago, salt producers cooperated with public health officials and made iodized salt available to us at the same price as regular salt. In spite of this, the Salt Institute estimates that only about 70% of the table salt sold in the United States is iodized.

Why Is Pickling Salt More Pure? The reason pickling salt is so pure (and ideal for use as a neti salt) has less to do with health, and more to do with looks. Why? Because those extra ingredients hurt the appearance of vegetables and fruits during the canning process.

For example, iodine can be oxidized by the foods, which will eventually darken them. Technically, this wouldn't hurt anything except the food's appearance, but that was enough for manufacturers to keep canning salt (also known as pickling salt) pure.

But what about anti-caking agents? Well, sure these agents are great to keep the salt flowing freely from your salt-shakers, but these same agents don't dissolve in water. This means, they'd also be unattractive in your jar of home-canned pickles.

When mixing my own neti pot blend, should I add baking soda to my neti pot solultion? The traditional yoga cleansing ritual of jala neti has been practiced for centuries without the addition of baking soda. However, you'll find numerous "recipes" on the Web that suggest adding baking soda along with your neti salt.

Personally, I don't do this because I find that using either pure salt or the specialized neti packets to be safe, effective options. If I felt like I needed baking soda as a buffering agent, I'd probably just go with the premixed neti packets, because most of these offer these buffering agents already included in a handy-dandy packet.

Others might disagree, and I certainly respect their opinion. It's just that I haven't found that I needed the baking soda for comfort (which is usually given as the reason for adding the baking soda), and I don't completely trust that baking soda bundled up for baking is quite as nasal-friendly as the "baking soda" anti-buffering ingredients used by the neti pot pros. (My suspicion might stem from the fact that when it comes to salt, not all salt is equally neti-friendly, so it stands to reason that this could also be true for baking soda.)

Are specialty neti salts worth the extra money? In my opinion, it depends on the salt and the individual. If you're new to the neti experience, these specialty blends or packets might be an ideal place to start.

As mentioned above, "gourmet" neti salts often include buffering agents, which some people find makes the neti experience more comfy. Happily, these specialty packets or salt blends are still relatively inexpensive. A multi-use bundle (meaning a fancy jar, resealable bag, or collection of little packets) can usually purchased for about the price of dinner at a fast-food restaurant. And they'll last you a lot longer than that cheeseburger.

An additonal Point About Specialized Neti Pot Salt: However, this is another time when you'll want to read the labels. You could end up buying plain old pure salt, similar to what you can buy in the grocery aisle, but for several times the price.

But happily, even this is relative. Let's say you buy a small canister of "neti salt" for a few dollars, when you could be buying a big container of pickling salt for half the price. Even assuming you don't mind purchasing more salt than you'll ever use in a year or two, chances are the pickling salt will be more coarse and take longer to dissolve. You'll also need to get your own measuring spoon, which you'll want to reserve only for your nasal irrigation ritual, assuming it gets anywhere near your neti pot – for sanitary reasons, of course.

This may come down to a simple time-money-experience trade-off. As for me personally, I tend to switch back and forth between the Kosher pickling salt and neti packets, depending on how much trouble I'm willing to go to, and whether or not I'm traveling. Those little neti salt packets are super-convenient when you're on the road, even if you may have to explain to airport screeners what that teapot thingie in your luggage is.

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More Sinus Help

Looking for More Neti Pot Information? Here are some books that discuss sinus problems, neti pots, and other paths to better sinus health. Click on the images for more details.

Dr. Josephson's unique five-step program combines traditional and alternative medicine to bring respiratory relief.
Sinus Relief Now: The Ground-Breaking 5-Step Program for Sinus, Allergy, and AsthmaSufferers

Learn how to select over-the-counter drugs that won't do more harm than good, simple exercises that can aid sinus drainage, andhow dietary and lifestyle changes can help relieve sinus and respiratory disease. Sinus Survival: The Holistic Medical Treatment for Allergies, Colds, and Sinusitis

After years of research, interviews, and personal and professional experience, Debra Fulghum Bruce and Murray Grossan, M.D., share cures from the top healthcare specialists and patients. The Sinus Cure: 7 Simple Steps to Relieve Sinusitis and Other Ear, Nose, and Throat Conditions

Get step-by-step instructions on effective home remedies and how to tell if surgery is necessary (Dr. Metson believes it rarely is). It includes the truth about myths and misconceptions as well as what we really know about the relationship between fungi and sinus problems, a controversial area of research. Harvard Medical School Guide to Healing Your Sinuses