Hypertonic Saline: Why It's Better than Better Than Isotonic Solutions

Sinus Facts: Why Hypertonic Saline Solutions Are Better Than Isotonic


As you may or may not already know, using a saline rinse is beneficial for keeping your sinuses in good condition, particularly during the dry and cold winter months. Saline as the ability to reduce the thickness of mucus and works like a humidifier by keeping your sinus secretions fluid and moving. It helps to remove particles and germs that may be the root cause of sinus inflammation and irritation. Using a saline rinse daily can even help prevent inflammation, since it flushes out lingering pathogens that can often aggravate the sinuses. However, not all saline rinses are considered equal. We recommend hypertonic solutions over isotonic solutions and here’s a few reasons why:

A Saltier Saline

Hypertonic solutions provide a saltier saline than isotonic solutions. This higher concentration of salt tends to make it more effective at killing lingering bacteria from your sinuses. Salt aids in the diffusing of water from the bacteria, causing it to become shriveled and eventually die in a process called osmosis. It’s ultimately the salt content in the saline that really gives hypertonic solution a leg up in terms of healing properties.

A Better Decongestant

What if your saline had the ability to decongest and really clean your sinuses? Hypertonic solutions are definitely a more powerful decongestant when it comes to rinsing out your nasal passage. Think of the higher salt content as the “scrubbing bubbles” of the saline world! Scientific evidence has proven that when the salt comes in contact with your sinuses, it draws out the mucus and fluid more effectively than an isotonic saline would. Since hypertonic solutions are stronger than isotonic, they should be your go-to, particularly if your sinuses are more swollen than normal.

Increased Ciliary Beat Frequency

Your ciliary beat frequency plays a huge role in your sinus health. It’s your airways first line of defense whenever your nasal passages become inflamed. Hypertonic saline solutions actually have the ability to increase your ciliary beat frequency, which promotes healing at a faster rate than using an isotonic saline solution would. By improving your ciliary beat frequency, you are helping your body to naturally defend itself, while also flushing out what’s lingering in your nasal passage, making it a win-win for your sinuses!

Make Your Own Hypertonic Saline Solution

Here’s the recipe we recommend for a hypertonic saline solution for irrigating your sinuses:

  • 1 liter (quart) of bottled water (distilled is preferred); boiled tap water is also acceptable
  • 2-3 heaping teaspoons of sea salt or Kosher salt. DO NOT USE TABLE SALT AS IT CONTAINS MANY ADDITIVES
  • 1 teaspoon of Arm and Hammer Baking soda (pure bicarbonate)

The nose should be irrigated 2 to 3 times per day with a bulb syringe (nasal aspirators or ear wax bulb syringes are available at the pharmacy), lavage bottle, neti pot or water pik with special nasal irrigator tip.

Leaning forward over the sink or in the shower, gently pump the saltwater into one nostril; it usually exits the opposite nostril. Aim the stream of saline as though you are trying to squirt the back of your head, NOT the top of your head.

It is also acceptable to breathe the saltwater directly into the nose or to use the saltwater as a mist from a nasal spray bottle.

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