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Baking Soda: Good for Practically Everything!

Most of us think baking soda is just something for baking or to keep in the back of the fridge to absorb odors. But that would be a gross underestimation of the powers of this amazing, low-cost natural remedy - powers that include benefits for daily hygiene (e.g., dental care), digestive issues, kidney problems, urinary tract infections, itchy skin relief, arthritis, not to mention cleaning fruits and veggies, removing greasy stains, banishing mildew, brightening colors in the washing machine, unclogging drains, and on and on and on.

What is baking soda?

Baking soda is 100% sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3), an alkaline substance which comes from the natural mineral natron, which is mined around the world, especially in California, Colorado, Botswana and Kenya. It's basically ground up rock which is why, as long as it stays cool and dry, it can last indefinitely, a fact appreciated by countless cultures who used it since ancient times for cleaning and healing. When mixed with acid in liquid, sodium bicarbonate causes a chemical reaction that produces carbon dioxide gas bubbles - which is what makes baked goods rise. Because of its alkalinity, baking soda also has a neutralizing effect which is why it can quickly soothe an upset stomach or cover a bad smell.

Some baking soda brands are labeled "aluminum-free," but that is an unnecessary marketing ploy trading on confusion between baking soda and baking powder. Some baking powders can contain aluminum, but baking soda is naturally aluminum-free, even the standard supermarket brands.

Warnings: As with many natural remedies, less is more. Too much baking soda can cause acid rebound (increased acid production), so use in small amounts, as suggested. Avoid: taking more than 3 1/2 teaspoons in a day; taking more than 1 1/2 teaspoons in a day if you're over 60 years old; taking the maximum dosage for more than 2 weeks; taking the dosage when you're overly full to avoid possible stomach injury; drinking baking soda solution too quickly, as it can lead to increased diarrhea and gas. Also, you'll want to make sure the baking soda is completely dissolved in at least 4 ounces of water, and sipped slowly.

Here's just a smattering of things baking soda can do for you:

Health Care

Calm indigestion: Add 1/4 teaspoon baking soda to a glass of water to neutralize stomach acid. Best taken about an hour after eating. Of course, acid is not the only cause of all indigestion, so if symptoms don't improve in a week or 2, you might consult with your medical professional. Don't' take baking soda within 2 hours of pharmaceutical medications, as the lower stomach acid can slow the rate of absorption or change the way the meds work. Generally, baking soda is not recommended for indigestion in children under 6. More also is not better. Consuming too much baking soda can imbalance the stomach environment and cause an increase in acid production

Kidney disease. A daily dose of baking soda can help people whose kidneys cannot remove enough acid from the blood. 1/4 teaspoon in a glass of water should suffice and be well tolerated. Research has found that this significantly slowed the progression of the disease and that there were less patients who developed end-stage renal disease (ESRD).

Anti-fungal and antibacterial. Baking soda has been shown to kill bacteria, such as that associated with tooth decay. It's also effective against various fungal groups, such as yeasts, dermatophytes and molds that cause skin and nail infections.

Treat Colds and flu. A time-tested remedy to speed up healing: Day 1 - take 6 doses of 1/2 teaspoon baking soda in a glass of cool water, at about 2 hour intervals. Day 2 - Take 4 doses of the same, at the same intervals. Day 3 - Take 2 doses of the same amount in a glass of cool water in the morning and evening. After that, take 1/2 teaspoon in cool water in the morning until the symptoms are gone.

Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs). A 2017 scientific study observed positive effects of baking soda on females with lower urinary tract symptoms who also had acidic urine pH levels lower than 6. Dissolve 1 teaspoon baking soda into 8 ounces pure water. Drink this first thing in the morning for a week. Continue this every other week until symptoms are gone.

Avoid C-sections. Studies have shown that, in about 20% of cases, drinking a solution of baking soda and water can help pregnant women who are having a slow or difficult labor to avoid C-sections. Apparently, this neutralizes acid in the womb and could mean the difference between life and death in developing countries or cases where C-section is not an option.

Rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases. Recent research funded by National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that drinking a solution of water and baking soda appears to prime your immune system against inflammation and may be "a really safe way to treat inflammatory disease." More studies are underway.

Possible cancer prevention. When the pH is too acidic, unhealthy organisms can proliferate and over time damage tissues and organs, weaken immune function. Thus, baking soda can reduce the acidity (i.e., raise pH) of cancerous tissue without affecting the pH balance of healthy tissues and blood. Studies have found oral doses to be effective in animal models of metastatic breast cancer, but more study is underway.

Body Care

Healthy mouth. Brushing your teeth daily with a powder containing 7 parts baking soda,1 part unrefined salt (e.g. Himalayan), protects against tooth decay, keeps gums healthy and can help whiten teeth. Actress Julia Roberts recently credited her healthy smile to the fact that she's been brushing with baking soda for years.

Teeth whitener. Just brushing teeth daily with baking soda (as above) will help whiten teeth. But for an extra umph - no more than once a week - rub a paste of baking soda and water onto your teeth. Let sit for 5 minutes and then rinse your mouth well. This will naturally whiten and also kill bacteria without harsh chemicals.

Insect bites and stings. Not to be used everyday on skin, baking soda can soothe redness, itching and stinging. Make a past of 1 part baking soda: 3 parts water. This is also effective for poison ivy and rashes. Can be applied 3 times a day until the bite dissipates.

Natural deodorant. Mix 1 teaspoon baking soda with enough water to make a milky paste. Rub it under your underarms or on your feet. Sprinkle baking soda in your shoes for a natural deodorizer.

Face exfoliator. To remove dry skin, mix 1 teaspoon baking soda with a half cup of water. Rub it on your face in circular motion, then rinse. Best done infrequently, perhaps once or twice a month, so as not to upset the pH balance of your skin.

Hand softener. To scrub away dirt and odors, mix baking soda with warm water and rub it on your hands. This leaves hand clean and soft. The ancient Egyptians used baking soda for soap, so it would seem they valued soft hands, too!

Itchy skin relief. To reduce discomfort from sunburn, allergic rashes, poison ivy or poison oak, mix a teaspoon baking soda with water to create a paste. Apply to all itchy areas and leave on for several minutes before rinsing. This can be done a few times a day as needed.

Sunburn relief. Soak in a warm (not hot) bath with a half cup of baking soda mixed in. Let your skin air dry rather than toweling off the excess baking soda. Or you can add a mix of baking soda and water to a cool compress and apply to the sunburn directly.

Splinter removal. Add a tablespoon baking soda to a small glass of water, then soak the affected area twice a day. After a couple days of this, many splinters will come out on their own, or with a little nudging

Foot soak. Put 3 tablespoons baking soda into a tub of warm water for an invigorating foot soak.

Detox bath. Add baking soda and apple cider vinegar to your bath for soaking away aching muscles and detoxing. Bonus: it cleans the tub and drain! Caveat: baking soda baths are generally very safe. However, because dissolved sodium bicarbonate can be absorbed by the skin, there are some groups of people who should avoid these baths, such as people who have high blood pressure, diabetes, serious infections or open wounds, are prone to fainting, pregnant or nursing, allergic to baking soda, or under the influence of pharmaceutical drugs or alcohol.

Home Care

Control odors. Most bad smells come from the presence of strong acids. Sodium bicarbonate changes the pH balance which is why putting an open box of baking soda in the 'fridge is a good idea. You can also sprinkle it over layers of garbage in the trash to remove unpleasant smells.

Remove pesticides residues from produce. Studies have shown this works better than Clorox bleach, which is often recommended! Because baking soda is very alkaline, the pesticides degrade faster so that they are easier to remove by washing. Add a teaspoon to water, rub the paste on the produce, rinse. Or, simply sprinkle baking soda on a vegetable brush, rub and rinse.

Brush and comb cleaner. Create a paste by mixing 2 teaspoons baking soda and 1 cup water. Coat your brushes and combs with the paste and then rinse thoroughly.

Kitchen scrub. Sprinkle baking soda on hard to clean surfaces in the kitchen. Use a wet rag or sponge to scrub. You can add a few drops of lemon, lavender or peppermint essential oil for natural fragrance.

Pots and pans. Let them soak in a teaspoon or so baking soda with water for 15-20 minutes. This should make them come clean with minimal elbow grease.

Carpet cleaner. Instead of commercial carpet cleaners that can contain chemicals harmful to pets and/or children, sprinkle baking soda on the carpet. Let sit for 15 -20 minutes before vacuuming.

Laundry booster. Just add 1 cup to each load of laundry to enhance whiteness or brightness, or as a fabric softener.

Silver polish. No need for toxic silver polish! Fill your kitchen sink with hot water, mix in a few tablespoons of baking soda. Wrap the silver pieces in aluminum foil and let soak until clean. Check after several minutes; more tarnished silverware will take longer. Just rinse off. This uses electrolytic action instead of chemical-polish abrasion, removing the tarnish from oxidized silver without removing any of the underlying metal.

Drain cleaner. Place about a tablespoon of baking soda in the drain. Pour vinegar over it so that the mixtures fizzes up nicely. Let sit about 15 minutes, then rinse gently with a cup of hot water. Do again if not completely clear. You will be surprised how effective this is. Who needs Draino?

Fire extinguisher. If you experience a small grease fire in your kitchen, pour some baking soda on it to quickly extinguish the flames.


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