7 Spicy Foods That Help Fight Congestion and Sinus Headache Pain

Variety of spicy foods

The Spruce Eats / Bailey Mariner

Your head is pounding and it feels like you have a bunch of cotton stuffed inside of it. You can’t seem to take a deep breath, the sense of smell and taste has completely left your body, and you are downright miserable. Whether these symptoms are brought on by seasonal allergies or by a cold or flu, the suffering is the same. 

Many people experience sinus headaches, sinus infections, and nasal congestion. A common trigger of these symptoms is the heating and cooling systems, and the reason is that it tends to dry out the air in the house. Adding a humidifier does help, but sometimes it isn’t enough. When your body is dealing with these uncomfortable and painful symptoms, you may prefer to skip the nasal sprays and go for a more natural approach. (Of course, it is always wise to consult your physician if you are unsure or experiencing a good deal of discomfort.) 

Natural homeopathy for sinus headaches and congestion always involves spicy foods. Often times a sinus headache and congestion will leave our taste buds in a dormant state. By adding some spiciness to our meals, or drinks, it can help awaken our taste buds so that at least meal time will give our bodies a bit of relief from the misery that sinus infection, headache, and congestion put us through. It is advised to avoid sweets if possible (with the exception of a little bit of honey) because they can make you more mucousy and also exacerbate the pain. It also goes without mention that staying well hydrated is very important.

The foods and ingredients in this slideshow are not a permanent cure; they offer more temporary relief. But if you’ve suffered from the awful pain and congestion that comes with sinus problems, then you’ll be quite thankful even with the temporary relief. 

  • 01 of 07


    Studio shot of fresh ginger
    Tetra Images / Getty Images

    This fragrant and citrusy rhizome is used throughout Asia as a spice and for its medicinal qualities. It is either boiled with water to make a warm tea or cooked alongside other foods. The root is revered for its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Additionally, it is believed that consuming ginger helps ward off and aid our bodies in fighting the cold or flu. Chinese medicine recommends the consumption of ginger to help ease a cough. A popular tea (with Indian origins) made with ginger, lemon, and honey is believed to help decongest sinuses. Make sure to place your nose above the cup of tea to allow the warmth and steam to help relax and decongest the membranes. Ginger’s painkilling properties will also give your body some relief from the aches caused by the congestions and headaches.

  • 02 of 07


    red radish bunch

     juliedeshales / Getty Images

    No matter the color variety of the radish, they all act as a natural decongestant and also contain antiviral and antibacterial properties. Because they are rich in Vitamin C, they are said to aid in healing a common cold or flu. 

    Grab a few raw radishes to munch on or add them to salsa or as a topping for soup, tacos, sandwiches, or whatever you're eating at the moment. 

  • 03 of 07


    Planting Horseradish In The Herbal Garden
    CasarsaGuru / Getty Images

    Horseradish always offers amazing relief and it is one of the more powerful natural decongestants. Eat horseradish, and you will instantly feel a tingling sensation in your nasal area and within moments the mucus in your nose will begin to loosen.

    A great way to eat horseradish is on top of broiled pork chops or in a beet and horseradish salad. Wasabi, the green-colored horseradish root from Japan best known as a sushi condiment should offer relief too. This zesty seared tuna in wasabi sauce recipe uses wasabi paste and is definitely worth a try. 

  • 04 of 07

    Raw Garlic

    Fresh garlic
    Tetra Images/Getty Images

    There is an active ingredient in garlic called allyl thiosulfonate that is believed to offer (temporary) relief from congestion. Eat raw garlic and you'll feel its piquantness coat your tastebuds (and maybe make your eyes water too). However, odds are that you'll find that you can breathe a bit better after eating raw garlic. 

    Eating raw garlic is going to have the drawback of that unpleasant garlic breath, but mixing it into your salad or even a dressing can help a bit with that. 

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    Raw Onions

    Many Onions
    Types of Onions. Renphoto/Getty Images

    Onions are pungent and spicy in a different way than chilies, but they’ll make your eyes water and in so help to drain your stuffed sinuses. Onions contain natural antihistamine properties that aid in reducing congestion and inflammation. Brown are the most pungent, then the white variety, and red onions are sweeter than the previous two. 

    A fantastic way of reaping the benefits of the raw onion is to peel and slice or chop them and so allowing them to make your eyes water. If you have contact lenses remove them and put on your glasses otherwise your eyes won't water. Now that the onions are ready, toss into a salad or a fresh pico de gallo salsa, or add them to your sandwiches. 

  • 06 of 07

    Spicy Mustard

    Pots of mustard, including Dijon, German, Sweet, American, Beaujolais and Bordeaux mustards

    The Spruce / David Murray

    Another lovely and delicious condiment to release congestion is mustard—the spicier the better. The European varieties have the richest and most pungent flavors. 

    Grab a teaspoon and just eat it off the spoon, or smear a generous layer on top of toast or crackers. It's also great in a ​slow-roasted chicken marinade.

  • 07 of 07


    Westend61/Getty Images

    Chilies are the spiciest on the list and also the most effective. Chilies contain capsaicin which is a natural pain reliever. Additionally, the reaction or bodies have: a runny nose and watery eyes will all help release the blocked mucous and open the blocked nasal airways that are causing the pain.

    It's a no-brainer consuming chilies to decongest. We can eat them raw, out of a jar (like Jalapeños or hot sauce), mix them into salsa, sprinkle chili flakes over food, add chilies to curries, soups, pulled pork, sauces, dressings, and much more. Just take a look through the recipes here and find the many delicious ways to add a kick to your meals and find relief from the pain.