Stuffy nose, or nasal congestion, typically occurs when the tissues lining the nasal passages become swollen due to inflamed blood vessels. Colds and flu, allergies or irritants such as tobacco smoke can all cause a stuffy nose, which may or may not include mucus discharge. While nasal congestion may cause discomfort in adults and older children, the condition can cause serious health problems for infants. Consult a doctor immediately if a child under two years old experiences nasal congestion. Otherwise, home remedies can usually provide relief from a stuffy nose until the illness or allergy passes.
Eucalyptus oil, a common ingredient in over-the-counter chest rubs and decongestants, helps clear the nasal passages when inhaled. Andrea Candee, author of "Gentle Healing for Baby and Child," recommends making your own eucalyptus oil inhaler. Fill a small plastic vial with cotton, add two or three drops of eucalyptus oil and then secure the cap on the vial. Anytime you have trouble breathing, open the vial and inhale deeply a few times. You can also use eucalyptus oil in many other ways to help alleviate a stuffy nose. Try putting three or four drops in a vaporizer or adding 10 to 15 drops to a hot, steamy bath. Remember to breathe deeply while bathing for the best results.
Cayenne pepper can significantly reduce nasal congestion, according to Asa Hershoff in his book "Herbal Remedies." The herb decreases inflammation of the nasal passages through its anti-inflammatory action, reduces irritation and dries mucus discharge. Make a cayenne tea by combining ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper powder with 1 cup of boiling water. Stir well and sip as needed to alleviate a stuffy nose. The tea has a spicy taste, so make sure you can handle the heat before consuming a large portion. You can also sniff a pinch of cayenne pepper, which works almost instantly even in severe cases, but causes a significant burning sensation for several minutes.
Herbalists often use ginger root to treat colds and their symptoms, including stuffy nose and chest congestion. In his book "Alternative Cures," former editor-in-chief of Prevention Health Books, Bill Gottlieb, recommends drinking ginger tea to help combat nasal congestion. Make ginger tea by boiling a 5-inch piece of fresh ginger root in 2 cups of water for about 10 minutes. Remove the ginger root from the liquid, sweeten the tea with honey and lemon if desired and drink a cup every two to three hours until your stuffy nose subsides.
Horseradish root provides a serious congestion-busting blast, according to the Reader's Digest Association in the book "1,801 Home Remedies: Trustworthy Treatments for Everyday Health Problems." Horseradish clears the sinuses, improves circulation to the nasal passages and promotes the discharge of mucus. For the best results, grate a fresh horseradish root and eat about 1/2 tbsp. whenever you need to relieve a stuffy nose. You can also purchase a commercially available jar of grated horseradish and eat up to 1/2 tbsp. at a time. To avoid stomach irritation, do not use this remedy on an empty stomach.