7 Natural Decongestants To Clear Your Sinuses & Stuffy Noses

Everyone has been congested at times, whether from a common cold, allergies, sinusitis (the inflammation of your sinuses), large adenoids, or other causes. 

Congestion is more commonly referred to as having a stuffy or blocked nose when you feel fullness in your nose and face. 

If you’re congested, you can’t breathe out of your nose as easily – if at all.

There are plenty of over-the-counter and prescription medications for congestion, but what if you want to treat congestion naturally? 

We’ll review some natural decongestants in this article to give you some ideas on how to naturally unclog your nose and get rid of congestion.

1) Steam

Steam occurs when water is heated to around 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Steam can help loosen up mucus and open your airways by dilating your nasal passages (warmth usually dilates while cold constricts).

One of the easiest ways to use steam as a natural decongestant is by taking a warm shower. 

You can also heat a pot of water and drape a towel over your head to direct the steam directly into your airway – just be careful not to accidentally burn yourself!

There are also products specifically meant to produce steam for inhalation to help with congestion and unblock your nose. 

Some people like to add essential oils to the hot water (we’ll get to essential oils soon) to further amplify the benefits.

2) Saline rinse

Saline rinses are sprayed into your nostrils so that the solution comes in contact with the mucus that is causing congestion. 

Saline contains salt, which causes water to be drawn into your nasal passages (the water helps to even out the increased salt concentration), which helps thin the mucus. 

When mucus is thinned out from saline rinses, it’s easier to get rid of when you blow your nose. 

Be sure to stay hydrated as an added way to thin mucus and help expel it, which helps ease congestion and help clogged noses.

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3) Humidifiers

Similar to how saline rinse can help thin mucus and ease congestion, moisture helps thin mucus as well. 

The air you breathe might be humid or dry, depending on your climate and living situation. For instance, if you’re inside a heated building most of the day in the winter, the air is dry from the process of heating systems keeping the building warm, and the cold air outside is drier, too.

Using a humidifier is an easy way to boost the moisture (humidity) in the air to help treat nasal congestion and clear your sinuses.

Humidifiers are machines that create steam from water, and they can produce both warm and cool mists of water.

4) Essential oils

Certain essential oils may have properties that help fight congestion naturally. Some of the essential oils commonly included in blends marketed for promoting respiratory health and clear airways include:


One study concluded that eucalyptus was more effective than a placebo in relieving coughs from causes like upper respiratory tract infections (which can cause congestion). 

Eucalyptus is found in Vicks VapoRub, a popular natural remedy for congestion.


Peppermint contains menthol, which is a chemical compound that gives mint its cooling sensation. Menthol is found in over-the-counter products to fight congestion, but is it effective?

One study concluded that there isn’t evidence to support menthol’s effectiveness as a decongestant but that menthol creates a sensation of increased airflow because of its cooling effects.

Whether peppermint is effective or not, using peppermint oil is considered safe and is usually a pleasant experience, so it’s worth a try!

5) Head elevation

This is one of the easiest things you can do – elevate your head to allow gravity to help congestion. 

You’ve probably experienced worsening congestion when you lie down to try to rest. Staying upright, whether in a seated or semi-reclined position or elevating your head with pillows, helps gravity allow mucus to drain away from your airways, which can ease congestion.

6) Neti pot

Neti pots are a bit more intense to use than humidifiers and taking a warm shower, but many people swear by them for easing congestion and unclogging their noses. 

Neti pots use distilled or sterile water, as well as saline solutions, to ensure you don’t get any bacteria deep in your sinuses.

Water is inhaled through your nose on one side and drains out the other, which helps loosen and break up mucus to get rid of congestion. 

This is a form of nasal saline irrigation and has some evidence that it can be effective.

7) Spicy foods

Spicy foods contain capsaicin, a chemical compound that is a chemical irritant and gives spicy foods their kick. 

According to a small study of 46 people with non-allergy sinusitis (inflammation of the sinuses), capsaicin spray significantly improved symptoms as soon as ten minutes after application.

Another way to get capsaicin is by eating spicy foods, which hasn’t been studied but anecdotally might help. 

Jalapeno peppers and other spicy peppers in the Capsicum annuum family all contain capsicum in varying levels.

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Does Vicks help with a stuffy nose?

Vicks VapoRub is a topical ointment that has been around since the early 1900s and has been rebranded as VapoCream.

It contains some of the ingredients we mentioned in our list, such as eucalyptus and menthol, and is marketed as being effective at reducing chest congestion (congestion that creates the coughing reflex).

According to a study of 138 children, Vicks was more effective at reducing symptoms of congestion compared to no treatment. 

Like peppermint oil, the menthol in Vicks can create a sensation of increased airflow, which might help ease self-reported symptoms of stuffiness.


  • Congestion (stuffy nose) is caused by increased mucus blocking the flow of air through your nose.
  • Some natural decongestants include the use of warm steam, saline rinses (including Neti pots), humidifiers, certain essential oils, and head elevation. 
  • Some individuals self-report relief from nose stuffiness with products like Vicks VapoRub (VapoCream), although scientific evidence supporting its efficacy is limited.
  • Some of these natural decongestants don’t have strong evidence supporting their efficacy, but they are generally considered safe to try.

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  1. Her L, Kanjanasilp J, Chaiyakunapruk N, Sawangjit R. Efficacy and Safety of Eucalyptus for Relieving Cough: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. J Integr Complement Med. 2022 Mar;28(3):218-226. doi: 10.1089/jicm.2021.0226. Epub 2022 Jan 17. PMID: 35294302.
  2. Eccles R, Jones AS. The effect of menthol on nasal resistance to air flow. J Laryngol Otol. 1983 Aug;97(8):705-9. doi: 10.1017/s002221510009486x. PMID: 6886530.
  3. Chumpitazi BP, Kearns GL, Shulman RJ. Review article: the physiological effects and safety of peppermint oil and its efficacy in irritable bowel syndrome and other functional disorders. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2018 Mar;47(6):738-752. doi: 10.1111/apt.14519. Epub 2018 Jan 26. PMID: 29372567; PMCID: PMC5814329.
  4. Bernstein JA, Davis BP, Picard JK, Cooper JP, Zheng S, Levin LS. A randomized, double-blind, parallel trial comparing capsaicin nasal spray with placebo in subjects with a significant component of nonallergic rhinitis. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2011 Aug;107(2):171-8. doi: 10.1016/j.anai.2011.05.016. Epub 2011 Jun 29. PMID: 21802026; PMCID: PMC8209653.
  5. Paul IM, Beiler JS, King TS, Clapp ER, Vallati J, Berlin CM Jr. Vapor rub, petrolatum, and no treatment for children with nocturnal cough and cold symptoms. Pediatrics. 2010 Dec;126(6):1092-9. doi: 10.1542/peds.2010-1601. Epub 2010 Nov 8. PMID: 21059712; PMCID: PMC3600823.

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