• Anal itching
• Athlete’s foot
• Bad breath
• Bladder infections
• Body odor
• Canker sores
• Diaper rash
• Foot and underarm odor
• Healthy teeth
• Poison ivy/oak
• Sore throat
• Stings and bites
Baking soda is without question the hardest working multitasker on your pantry shelf. It’s an essential baking ingredient—it’s what makes cakes, cookies, and other treats rise. It’s also an effective and “green” household cleaner and a deodorizer that dc-stinks cat pans, garbage cans, refrigerator interiors, and other smelly things—even feet and underarms. And as it turns out, baking soda is also a gentle, fast-acting remedy for a plethora of annoying health conditions, from diaper rash to sunburn pain.
what’s in it?
Baking soda is a mildly alkaline salt that reacts easily with acids, releasing carbon dioxide and creating effervescence. Most baking soda—that is, sodium bicarbonate—is derived from soda ash that occurs naturally as an ore called trona. Trona is mined in the Green River Basin in Wyoming.
what science says
Good old-fashioned baking soda has recently captured the attention of kidney disease researchers. This cheap pantry item may slow the decline of kidney function in some people who have advanced chronic kidney disease. When people with advanced kidney disease took a small daily dose of baking soda in addition to their usual care, kidney function declined about two-thirds slower than it did in patients who didn’t take baking soda. Kidney disease progressed rapidly in just 9 percent of people who took baking soda, compared to 45 percent of people who didn’t take it. The people taking baking soda were also less likely to develop end-stage renal disease, a life-threatening condition that causes people to require dialysis. However, critics of the 2009 study take its results with a grain of salt. Here’s why: The treatment wasn’t compared to a placebo, and the researchers knew which patients were getting the baking soda and which weren’t.
neutralize acid, soothe the itch
Baking soda’s ability to take the itch and sting out of a variety of skin problems comes from its alkaline nature. Chemicals with pH values of 6 and lower are acids. Those with a pH of 8 or above are alkaline. (Water, which conies in at 7, is neutral.) With a pH of 9, baking soda is alkaline enough to take the edge off potentially harsh acids. This is how it eases heartburn, by neutralizing the stomach acid (hydrochloric acid) that causes heartburn’s uncomfortable burning sensation.
That action also comes into play for relieving the itch and sting of bug bites, poison ivy, and poison oak. The same holds true for diaper rash: Baking soda lessens itching and helps irritated skin heal more quickly.
a box full of healing
Because baking soda lowers the bacteria-friendly acidic environment inside the bladder, it can be a useful home remedy for easing the discomfort of bladder infections. As a gargle for sore throats, it reduces pain-causing acids, and mixed with a little water as a tooth polish, it whitens teeth and combats the acids that gnaw away at tooth enamel. And it has the advantage of being less abrasive than most toothpaste. The baking soda paste will also help fight acne:
Rubbing a blackhead gently with the paste for two to three minutes will loosen it. A dusting of baking soda under the arms or on the feet serves as an inexpensive deodorant.
Good to Know
Baking soda meets standards as a safe food additive and can be used freely, with two critical caveats. First, anyone on a sodium-restricted diet should consult a physician before taking it internally, because it could increase sodium levels. Second, because baking soda contains sodium, don’t use it regularly if you have high blood pressure or heart failure.
Find baking soda in the baking supply aisle of the supermarket. Store it in a cool, dry pantry. Since it’s a very stable compound, baking soda has an almost limitless shelf life. For topical use, it can be mixed with water to form a paste, but it must be totally dissolved before it is taken internally.