Baking soda is one of the most versatile things in our kitchen, yet we often neglect to take advantage of its healing powers. If absorbing odors in your refrigerator and whitening your teeth (and baking, of course) are just about the only uses you can think of for baking soda, read below for all the other things this pantry staple can do for our home and our health.
First, you should know that baking soda actually comes from a mineral called natron. Natron is rich in sodium bicarbonate, a term commonly used for baking soda. In ancient Egypt, the people used natron as a soap, and in later centuries individuals discovered more and more uses for this natural wonder. Many of those uses included taking advantage of its healing powers.
Baking Soda is a Neutralizer
One of baking soda's greatest strengths is as a neutralizer, which means it helps maintain the acid-base balance in the body. The pH value expresses the level of acidity or alkalinity in the body, with 7 being the neutral value. When values go too far in either direction (lower numbers mean higher acidity and higher numbers mean greater alkalinity), human health suffers.
Sodium bicarbonate can help maintain numbers in the neutral zone, which is slightly alkaline in humans, about 7.35 to 7.45. Even though your food choices do not have a dramatic impact on changing the pH of your blood, foods that are alkaline (nearly all fruits and vegetables) are better for your overall health than are acidic foods (e.g., meats, dairy, processed foods), although some acidic foods are much less so than others.
If you eat foods that are highly acidic (e.g., meats, dairy, chocolate, most grains) and don't balance them with those that are more alkaline, then you may find yourself reaching for the bicarbonate! Experts have also uncovered evidence that a more alkaline diet helps prevent kidney stones, improve brain and heart function, supports muscle and bone strength, lowers the risk for type 2 diabetes and colon cancer, and reduces low back pain.
Based on the work of Mark Sircus, AC, OMD, author of "Sodium Bicarbonate – Full Medical Review: Rich Man's Poor Man's Cancer Treatment", 2nd edition: "Excessive acidic pH leads to cellular deterioration which eventually brings on serious health problems such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and heartburn. The fact that the biological life functions best in a non-acidic (alkaline) environment speaks miles about the usefulness of baking soda."
Other Healing Powers of Baking Soda
- Cancer. A study published in the journal Medical Hypotheses noted that the use of oral sodium bicarbonate suppressed the spread of cancer in mice xenografted with human breast cancer. Although this discovery is far from the stage of prescribing baking soda to fight cancer, it does illustrate the anticancer potential of this white powder.
- Kidney disease. Sodium bicarbonate can mediate the toxicity of chemotherapy as well as help preserve kidney function in people who are living with kidney disease. A new study published in Kidney International noted that the use of bicarbonate in patients with chronic kidney disease reduced levels of excreted angiotensinogen, an indicator of kidney disease severity.
- Allergy and chemical sensitivity relief. According to Dr. Eric Chan (in Sircus' book), the use of a sodium bicarbonate IV can stop allergic reactions and consuming a drink that contains baking soda can reduce symptoms of chemical sensitivity. In a recent study published in Paediatric Respiratory Reviews, sodium bicarbonate is listed as one of the treatment options for this acute asthmatic condition in children.
- Ulcers and gastrointestinal problems. According to Dr. Mercola, 1 to 2 teaspoons of baking soda stirred into 8 ounces of water is an effective way to deal with ulcer pain. In addition, a recent study reported that the addition of sodium bicarbonate to omeprazole (a drug used to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease) to treat infants with the disease was highly effective in lowering gastric acidity.
- Sunburn relief. If you stay in the sun too long, add ½ cup of baking soda to lukewarm water in a bathtub and soak. Do not towel dry after getting out of the bathtub; allow your body to air dry.
- Body odor. You can avoid body odor and the nasty chemicals in commercial antiperspirants and deodorants by combining baking soda and water to make a paste. Apply a thin layer (no, it's not invisible!)
- Itchiness. You can rub either dry baking soda or a paste made with water on insect bites, poison ivy, or itchy rashes to reduce the itching.
- Plaque buster. To help eliminate tooth plaque and fight oral bacteria, combine six parts baking soda with one part sea salt and pulse in a blender for 30 seconds. Wet your finger and gently rub the mixture on your gums, both inside and outside, and your teeth. Spit out any excess and let the mixture stay in your mouth for 10 to 15 minutes. Then rinse your mouth thoroughly with water.
- Stuffy nose. If you experience a stuffy nose from the common cold or flu, mix ¼ teaspoon each of salt and baking soda in 8 ounces of warm water. Use a nasal irrigation kit or a bulb syringe to gently inject water into your nostrils. Hold one nostril shut while you squirt the mixture into the other nostril. Let the treated nostril drain and repeat the application another 2 to 3 times. Then do the other nostril.
- Common cold and flu. The jury is still out on this use for baking soda, although there is anecdotal evidence for its use dating back to 1925. That's when the Arm & Hammer Company suggested the following to help prevent or relieve symptoms. The formula: On day 1, take 6 doses of ½ teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of cool water at about every 2 hours; day 2, take 4 doses; and day 3, take 2 doses. Repeat the day 3 dosing until your cold symptoms disappear.
Sodium bicarbonate has been called "one of the most useful substances in the world," and that "no wonder the pharmaceutical companies don't want doctors or anyone else to know much about it." That doesn't mean you should not learn all you can about baking soda and its healing powers and make use of it whenever you can in your life.