Alkalol Nasal Wash is an alkaline saline solution and nasal wash formulated with essential oils, aromatics, salts, and herbal extracts, and designed to flush nasal passages of mucus, dirt and allergens. It is also sold as an oral rinse.
Recommend this product?
Though many people think of Alkalol as a modern sinus remedy with an oddball name, it was actually invented back in 1896 by a Massachusetts pharmacist, James P. Whitters, who had been experimenting with various herbs and oil essences in an effort to find a soothing, essentially alcohol-free nasal wash that gave greater relief than standard salt-water solutions. Still made in Massachusetts, Alkalol is one of the oldest over-the-counter pharmaceutical products sold in the United States.
Alkalol contains a blend of natural decongestant and anti-inflammatory oils, aromatics, and herbal extracts. These include menthol, eucalyptus, thymol, camphor, benzoin, and the oils of wintergreen, spearmint, pine, and cinnamon. Some of the ingredients, like oils of cinnamon, pine, and spearmint, have antiseptic properties, killing germs and inhibiting the growth of mold and fungi. Others, like oil of wintergreen, have decongestant, analgesic (pain relief), and anti-inflammatory effects (these shrink blood vessels in swollen nasal membranes, improving breathing). Menthol and camphor are also found in other common nasal sprays and rubs; their benefit is debatable, though they do provide a cooling sensation and a pleasant aroma. Finally, the product includes a hypertonic mixture of salts, which work much like saltwater irrigation to dissolve mucous and clean nasal cilia (hairs) and restore their free movement in order to intercept pollens before they can enter the body and cause an allergic reaction. Despite its name, Alkalol is essentially alcohol-free, containing only 2/100ths of 1% Alcohol.
Product Application and Usage
While Alkalol is also marketed as an oral rinse, my only experience with this product is for use as a nasal wash or irrigant.
I came to this product late, after trying just about every other remedy for severe allergic reactions during the late spring. For most of the year, I have found nasal saltwater irrigation using an electrically-powered nasal irrigator sufficient to treat my allergies and reduce nasal congestion. However, in the spring my allergic reaction to the amounts of pollen in the air goes ballistic. In these conditions I have been forced to stay more or less indoors, but always constantly on steady diet of antihistamines and nasal decongestants. One of the first casualties is sleep, which is reduced to four to six hours on most nights, always in intervals of two hours or less. Waking up constantly throughout the night is not my idea of sound rest.
My trips to the doctor netted me a variety of OTC and prescription antihistamines, none of which proved capable of suppressing my allergic symptoms for very long. In fact, their effect seemed to rapidly wear off with only a couple of weeks of use, forcing me to alternate various antihistamines, some of which make me quite drowsy, while others seem to actually exacerbate nasal drip and coughing.
When late spring arrives I now reach for the bottle of Alkalol instead of the antihistamines and decongestants. Alkalol is designed to open clogged nasal passages and flush them clean, providing relief from symptoms of seasonal allergies, colds, and chronic congestion. My own experience with Alkalol is limited to use for treatment of severe allergy symptoms.
The standard Alkalol ‘kit’ consists of 16 oz bottle of Alkalol and a nasal ‘cup’ designed to pour the Alkalol into the nose. I’ve found the nasal cup to be of little or no use, particularly when my nasal passages are blocked, so I purchase the standard 16 oz. bottle reviewed here.
I’ve found the most effective way clean the sinuses is to introduce the irrigating liquid under gentle, positive pressure. The easiest way to do this is to use a large nasal syringe, such as the Nasaline Nasal Irrigator. Designed by a team of Swedish ENT specialists, this device has a special tip that fits the nostril and allows the Alkalol to be introduced to the nasal passages even if they are partially blocked. After filling the syringe with Alkalol, lean over a sink, keeping your mouth open, and gently press the plunger, which propels the irrigant into the nostril, though the sinuses, and out the other nostril. When finished, blow your nose several times while leaning over to clean everything out. That's it. You many need to blow your nose a few times in the next hour or so until all the irrigant is removed.
A typical mistake when using this product is to use it at room temperature (cold). Any cold liquid – even water - introduced to the nasal passages will excite the gag reflex and make it difficult or impossible to get the irrigant into the sinuses where it can do some good. To solve this, warm the Alkalol in a small cookpot to about 90 degrees (enough to fill the Nasaline irrigator twice), then fill the syringe and inject it into one nostril. Repeat for the other nostril. Another method, if you have really hot tap water, is to fill the plastic syringe with Alkalol, then run the fillled syringe under the hot water tap until it is warmed to around 90 degrees, or just under body temperature. Either way, this makes irrigation far more pleasant and easier to accomplish.
A warning here: Alkalol is strong stuff! Even when warmed, the overwhelming majority of first-time users find it intolerable when used at full strength. The best practice is to dilute its strength with warm salt water solution to half or even quarter strength. After a while, you will be able to tolerate stronger doses.
While the manufacturer states that Alkalol can be used in electrically powered nasal irrigators, most of these aren’t designed for such use. I prefer not to use it in mine, as not all of the product can be pumped into the nostrils (small amounts will remain in the pump and lines). This is somewhat wasteful, and will require extra cleaning of the irrigator to remove the residual Alkalol.
Why do I go through all this during allergy season? Well, instead of going around sleep-deprived and stuffed with antihistamines and/or decongestants (often impatiently waiting the minimum four hours before I can take another dose and get more relief), I now work drug-free and sleep much better, with only the occasional cough. The ability breathe freely throughout my sinuses for several hours at a time is, in a word, marvelous.
Alkalol is strong medicine. Although the company states it is formulated to be used “as often as needed as a nasal wash”, I wouldn’t want to use it on a daily basis year round, or every time I felt a bit of sinus pressure. For most of the year, I have found standard saltwater irrigation sufficient to relieve my allergy symptoms. But for the terrible late spring season, I need this stuff with the funny name.
©2011 Glen Johnson
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