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drgeta84 t1_j1hd20e wrote

It actually doesn’t open the sinuses, It gives the feeling that your sinuses are opening from a cooling effect. It’s a trick on the receptors in your nose even if you can’t smell. Actual nasal decongestants have active chemicals and can have added menthol but it’s not required.


przyssawka t1_j1hezwm wrote

I'd like to add to this with: subjective feeling of decongestion is related to perception of airflow, and substances OP mentioned provide an additional "cooling effect" by chemically stimulating the cold receptors. This is interpreted as increased airflow - similarly to how after using a cooling spray on your skin it's suddenly way easier to feel even a slight breeze. There was even a study done on that effect, that proved that menthol alone can increase the subjective feeling of decongestion on par with some actual decongestant with zero increase in nasal flow.

Drugs such as xylometazoline and adrenaline delivered topically will actually affect the size of nasal conchae (turbinates) - with mid concha hanging directly over the maxilary sinus entrance.


everything_in_sync t1_j1ixzqr wrote

Is that why I feel like I can take deeper fresh breathes walking outside on a cold morning after a snowfall?

Would that also mean that the sense5 commercials were accurate and I should skydive during an alaskan winter for optimal freshness?


przyssawka t1_j1izih5 wrote

yes. For the first question at least. Never skydived in winter.

*Subjective* nasal patency (the perception of airflow) and nasal airflow are two completely different things. The study I posted compares effects of different air conditions on the perception of airflow. Cold air (or rather "heat loss by mucosa") was consistently the best way to evoke the feeling of decongestion. None of the conditions improved the actual flow.

This direpacy between the flow and perception can also cause the adverse effect for patients who underwent concha reduction surgery (conchoplasty) or Endoscopic Sinus Surgery, to suffer from "empty nose syndrome", which is the subjective feeling of low nasal patency with optimal airflow.


Feminist_Hugh_Hefner t1_j1jduhc wrote

interesting study.

a minor point, "patency" is the "openness" of the airway, without regard to how it is measured. The authors use "subjective nasal patency" to discuss the reported sensation and just say "airflow" when they are talking about flow measured by rhinomanometry

good find and very interesting points in there, including the lack of understanding on where, exactly, cold sensory areas are located, and the question that menthol may have a direct effect on lowering respiratory drive


Thetakishi t1_j1kc8vc wrote

Thanks for the study. Extremely interesting and partially worrying as I've considered seeing someone about my turbinates, although I have heard about empty nose syndrome before.


ratherenjoysbass t1_j1k6pao wrote

Well cold air will constrict blood vessels which will reduce swelling a bit so that is part of it


kbolser t1_j1jf0sr wrote

Not so much the size of the conchae as these as the scrolls of bone, but the venous plexuses that overly them. Epinephrine (adrenaline) and the like cause the smooth muscle in their walls to constrict making that tissue smaller and opening the passages


przyssawka t1_j1jfngc wrote

Conchae are more than just the scrolls of bone in anatomy. A popular outpatient procedure conchoplasty (also called turbinoplasty) removes (or simply destroys) the mucosal part of conchae usually without touching the bone itself (though "breaking" the conchae is sometime a part of the procedure)


[deleted] t1_j1jgd9p wrote



przyssawka t1_j1jgskg wrote

The confusion may be due to poorly written wikipedia entry on conchae, which is extremely inconsistent:

>Conchae (/ˈkɒnkiː/), also called a nasal turbinate or turbinal,[1][2] is a long, narrow, curled shelf of bone that protrudes into the breathing passage of the nose

followed immediately by:

>Conchae are composed of pseudostratified columnar, ciliated respiratory epithelium with a thick, vascular, and erectile glandular tissue layer.

I'm a head and neck surgeon and I've never heard anyone in the field make a distinction between the mucosa covering the concha and the bony part, mostly because it's the mucosal part that's important for things like FESS procedure (outside of cases of Concha Bullosa).

It's similar to the labyrinth of the inner ear. Can mean the petrous part alone but it's commonly used to refer to what it contains as well. Anatomically the whole structure is called a concha and that includes the mucosa.


kbolser t1_j1jhbfk wrote

I need to read up on it more (and I don’t mean Wikipedia). I respect your credentials, but I’m still not convinced from a strictly anatomical perspective


przyssawka t1_j1jhn7i wrote

What you're claiming may be an actual anatomical distinction, I'm just saying from a professional perspective I have never heard any fellow ENT not include the erectile tissue as part of the "concha"


NegativelyMagnetic t1_j1k0pm8 wrote

Yup, I'll just add that there's a lot of ways to clear other breathing issues beyond sinuses

Oxymetazoline is a general long-acting decongestant / vasoconstrictor for general sinuses or stuffy nose; fluticasone is a long acting mild glucocorticoid for allergies and mild asthma by opening up the brancioles in the lungs by reducing inflammation, as well puffers like salbutamol and ipratropium for short term asthma attacks and mildly low spo2 levels (+ used secondary for many issues beyond just asthma attacks)

The issue with methanol by itself is that, while it might alleviate the sensation, if your airway is significantly compromised its not going to do anything about low spo2 levels. But it's great for mild sinuses since it provides a bit of immediate relief. It's very often added to other decongestants that takes longer to start working for the same reason. Another alalogy is how people find it easier to breathe in colder air, especially during hot summer days


DanTacoWizard t1_j1l3bo1 wrote

I see it is a subjective feeling, but my nose is legitimately less stuffy after consuming these substances. How is that so?


iam666 t1_j1kwyle wrote

What is a cold receptor? What stimuli does it measure, and why would a chemical cause it to misfire?


przyssawka t1_j1l46ow wrote

>what is a cold receptor?

Aδ and C nerve fibers have a protein that responds to heat dissipation and triggers the “gentle cooling” effect. That protein is TRPM8 and on top of being activated by cold (due to part of the protein changing shape) it can also be activated by menthol and eucalyptol.

More on that here


iam666 t1_j1l786h wrote

Thanks! It seems obvious in retrospect that protein folding is the mechanism here. Biochem was never my forte.


clericalclass t1_j1hljzq wrote

So why does my nose run when I get a big dolop of Wasabi?


trashcreature t1_j1hmju5 wrote

Wasabi contains allyl isothiocyanate which is an irritant. Your body increases mucus production and secretion in an attempt to protect the nasal tissue and flush the chemical from your nose. Horseradish contains the same chemical.


oldmangrow t1_j1hoxsw wrote

Wasabi, outside of Japan and the immediate area, is colored horseradish.


yeuzinips t1_j1hpv99 wrote

Because real Wasabi is exceedingly difficult to grow in large quantities.


girhen t1_j1i54j1 wrote

Hadn't heard that bit, but I had heard it's super pungent for all of 15 minutes after grating. If it's not super fresh, it's worthless. So super pricy.


mtfellie t1_j1iej1t wrote

The growth thing is true as well, wasabi is very particular about the soil and water. Iirc, most of it is grown on one farm in Japan fed by a stream that runs through and irrigates the soil.


girhen t1_j1iirly wrote

I mean, it's not surprising. I know Vidalia onions only grow properly in one town of the same name in Georgia, USA. The soil quality and onion breed make a very sweet, pungent, and less acidic onion. I tend to use it for more things because it's easier to use and tastes so good.

So one small section of Japan makes sense for similar reasons.


mtfellie t1_j1ijkm7 wrote

Vidalia only grow in that one spot because Vidalia onions are regular sweet onions grown in a sulfur poor environment. The sandy soil of Vidalia, Georgia causes sulfur to run down through the soil into the water table instead of settling near the surface to be used by plant life. This results in low VOSC content in the onions reducing the burn from them. The most notable of these VOSCs is Allicin ,a compound which when exposed to oxygen, acts basically like tear gas to us humans.

Edit: de-shatnerized


Licentiousalsatian t1_j1iqmiv wrote

There's a farm in England too. They're very few and far between but wasabi isn't like balsamic of Modena or cornish pasties. You absolutely can produce wasabi outside of Japan, it's just extremely rare.


quintinza t1_j1irt5v wrote

Jeremy Clarkson managed to fail his way to a semi successful mini crop of Wasabi by planting them next to a stream on his farm. They show it in Season One of Clarksons Farm.


mrchaotica t1_j1iwpod wrote

Watching that made me a little bit inspired to go start a wasabi farm up in the North Georgia mountains. 99% chance I won't, though.


Captain_Kuhl t1_j1iuyfq wrote

There's a Business Insider series on YouTube called So Expensive, and they cover wasabi in one of the episodes. It's pretty good for a filler show while you're not doing anything, sort of like How It's Made, and they'll condense an entire season into a couple hours for one continuous watch.


big_duo3674 t1_j1hq2u4 wrote

It's not that difficult to get grated wasabi root where I am, and I'm in the the US about as far from any oceans as possible. It's true that pretty much everything you'll find in restaurants or in those little packets is just horseradish and mustard seed, but this is the one I usually get, it's sold in quite a few stores nearby


IAmTheAsteroid t1_j1hrpvt wrote

I'm growing a wasabi plant in my home. Gonna be about 3 years until I can harvest it, but then I can start splitting the rhizomes to plant new ones and start my own personal fresh wasabi source!


gaboandro t1_j1ieqxf wrote

Oregon grows a decent amount of Wasabi, you can find the real stuff in just about any supermarket you just have to be looking for it and be willing to pay a premium. The cheap stuff in most people's fridge and your local sushi restaurant is most likely horseradish though


XediDC t1_j1ipmhf wrote

And IMO it's actually milder in intensity, although more complex. I love them both.


walterpeck1 t1_j1ij2bz wrote

Wasabi in Japan is often colored horseradish too. It's just way easier to get the real thing there.


deckertlab t1_j1i4y4q wrote

Not always. They grated it in front of me at a restaurant in CA. However unless you’re at some super high end place, they’re definitely going to make a big thing out if the fact that you’re getting real wasabi. It is certainly not common.


[deleted] t1_j1hwwqx wrote



Sleepwalker109 t1_j1hz04e wrote

He's saying the wasabi paste you buy is usually coloured horseradish, not that a wasabi plant is coloured horseradish


HuntedWolf t1_j1hzdpb wrote

It’s not incorrect, perhaps you’ve misread his comment. He’s saying that most “wasabi” you see is actually just horseradish, unless you’re in Japan. For example I live in the UK and many shops sell packets of sushi with “wasabi” alongside. It’s not wasabi that’s been shipped from Japan, it’s horseradish coloured green.


LaughingBeer t1_j1hz1mu wrote

They are talking about when you buy it in a store or get it at a restaurant, not it's botanical qualities. The container you buy it in or the menu you see it on will call it wasabi, but it will actually be colored horseradish. They do this because the taste is pretty similar and real wasabi is harder to come by as its harder to grow in great quantities.


thisplacemakesmeangr t1_j1hnbb9 wrote

It's convinced it needs to protect the sinuses because the nerves are freaking out. Mucus and tears rinse the insides of your head holes out when the nerves complain enough.


cosumel t1_j1j8x65 wrote

If I can’t breathe through my nose, a spoonful of horseradish opens it up for about 15-20 minutes. It’s can’t be just perception. I go from not being able to breathe to being able to. Afrin does a better job, of course, but it’s addicting.


IshKebab t1_j1jr97w wrote

Yeah I agree. People keep saying "it's just a trick!" but I've definitely been completely blocked and then been able to breathe after using menthol or something similar. You can even hear a click when it unblocks sometimes.

I've been meaning to try it ever since I heard this "it's a myth" thing on Reddit (seemed to start spreading within the last year) but I haven't had an actually blocked nose for ages.


Squid52 t1_j1kkq1n wrote

It makes my nose run. Maybe it just clears the sinuses that way?


QuantumWarrior t1_j1jw4um wrote

If I have a completely blocked nose with no airflow, and get a smell or a mouthful of something strongly mint flavoured/smelling, my nostrils open and allow air to pass again. That's not just an illusion of cold air. Something has to be happening beyond a trick of the temperature sensing nerves.


zestycircus t1_j1j9ofw wrote

Is eucalyptus oil the same?

I grew up in Australia using eucalyptus oil as relief for stuffy noses during colds.

Is this also the same cooling effect,?


churdtzu t1_j1jlqrt wrote

From experience, I'm pretty sure it actually loosens the mucus somehow. Try blowing your nose before and after sniffing and notice the difference


konaya t1_j1jvzy5 wrote

Why does my nose start running when I melt actual menthol crystals and sniff the fumes then? Pretty sure those are the pure menthol, or near as dammit. They're definitely not laced with decongestants on purpose, because they're lab grade crystals meant for perfumeries.


natedogg787 t1_j1jcjf0 wrote

And stretch receptors! Activated stretch receptors in your nose will make it feel as if your nasal cavity is physically opening wider.


EmilyU1F984 t1_j1klmip wrote

This is wrong. Try it yourself. Fully blocked nose. Eat a teaspoon or horseradish, wasabi, whatever. You will be able to suddenly breathe through your running nose for 20 minutes.

Why on earth wouldn‘t the irritants in horseradish not be active chemicals either? There isn‘t some kind of magical knowledge the body has


Ohxih t1_j1kmd3u wrote

>It actually doesn’t open the sinuses, It gives the feeling that your sinuses are opening from a cooling effect

What about garlic?


grandmabc t1_j1k7rj4 wrote

When I eat mustard (the hot English mustard, not the weak hotdog mustard), it always makes my nose run. So what's happening?


dustofdeath t1_j1hz9c7 wrote

Menthol only triggers cold receptors. Same way a cold air would (which may lead to runnier mucus).

Wasabi triggers increased mucus production that could lead to runnier mucus, clearing up some congestion.

None actually reduce the swelling to open up sinuses.


EntrepreneurLoud497 t1_j1jys9c wrote

We have cold receptors? I thought we perceived cold as heat leaving our body ...


EntrepreneurLoud497 t1_j1jz23e wrote

"Warm receptors will turn up their signal rate when they feel warmth—or heat transfer into the body. Cooling—or heat transfer out of the body—results in a decreased signal rate. Cold receptors, on the other hand, increase their firing rate during cooling and decrease it during warming" Yap two different receptors for different purposes... the more you learn :O


Thetakishi t1_j1kchpe wrote

I mean that's the physical reason that's happening (or menthol etc is tricking them), but we call them cold recepting because relative to base temperature, they (the neurons) fire more when it's colder compared to heat sensing which fire more with heat (or spicy like capsaicin and some other compounds). I'm actually unsure (fairly confident there is) if there is multiple subtypes of each.

edit: just noticed the other reply was to yourself, sorry!


Thetakishi t1_j1kcn83 wrote

Are you sure menthol doesn't cause the sinuses to reflexively contract? Actually wondering.


Dez2011 t1_j1kpr4z wrote

You are correct. The veins in the sinuses swell causing the feeling of a stuffy nose. Menthol and those vicks sinus smelly sticks cause the veins to contract, making room for more airflow to move through. I recently remembered the vicks sticks my grandmother used when I was a kid and looked it up to see how they worked since you don't actually inhale any fluid/medication.


dustofdeath t1_j1kdq1p wrote

If you get too strong of a dose, sure you might close the sinus spinxter (?) muscle on instinct.

But that "cool" effect of guns, toothpastes etc is just triggering the receptors with false signals.


[deleted] t1_j1hnnld wrote



Thetakishi t1_j1kdx5z wrote

Consrictors cause your airway to actually open up but they usually have fast rebound effects. Dilators will cause mucus to run which may clear out your sinuses, but its likely psychological as your sinuses would technically be more clogged.


Ashmedai t1_j1hsffv wrote

While I could not find the link to an actual study, it looks like Kaiser Permanente conducted some kind of study that shows that Wasabi does not in fact cause sinuses to open.

Similarly, there are apparently several studies showing that menthol has no such effect.


F0sh t1_j1k80tr wrote

There's a lot of wrong information in this thread, and I wonder if some of it is due to confusion about what sinuses are. They are not your nostrils: when you have a stuffy nose that's, well, your nose. If you have sinus issues, that's a separate thing; they are basically hollow spaces in your facial bones. They are lined with epithelium which can become swollen, and they can fill with fluid - these are sinus problems, specifically.

I know nothing about whether any of these substances affects sinuses.

However, I do know that they do affect your nasal passages, so the top-voted comment which says they don't is wrong (even though it's talking about sinuses as well as the nose). Menthol in particular is vasoactive and, in the nose, it acts as a vasoconstrictor. (Presumably the cold receptors are acting as they would if they detected actual cold - but this is complicated. Read more here) Your stuffy nose is primarily the result of your nasal lining swelling. With the blood vessels constricted, the swelling decreases and more air can pass through your nose, so you can breathe more easily. This is why menthol is an active ingredient in some decongestants.


Cryten0 t1_j1kbn3l wrote

This paper appears to line up with the other comments about menthol that you dismissed. Where the actions provokes a response and blood flow making people more aware of airflow and acting as a cooling effect on the nasal passages. But not doing anything to ease congestion (physically), instead helping with the patient side of the equation by stimulating nerves.


AccreditedMaven t1_j1jleee wrote

Ginger and menthol work differently than wasabi. Wasabi, horseradish snd hot mustard are constrictors of sinus tissue.. The pain you feel if you eat a large dollop of freshly mixed wasabi is tissue contraction - the opposite of swelling.. The contraction effect generally lasts about an hour or two during which you perceive being less congested.

Go Geri’s good for upset stomach and nausea; thru use preserved ginger on oncology floors to help with chemo side effects..

Fun fact: wasabi also works against early colon cancer cells


19-tiny-little-worms t1_j1jooxx wrote

“Wasabi also works against early colon cancer cells”

If you think I’m falling for that again you got another thing coming. I still feel the burn when I do lunges


[deleted] t1_j1hpv2x wrote



[deleted] t1_j1hr26t wrote