Everybody is familiar with baking soda. To many of us, it is that lowly box inside our refrigerators that’s supposed to absorb bad smelling stuff. Or it is that solitary box in the kitchen shelf that we use for baking our favorite muffins and cakes. At times, we use it as a cleaning agent to scrub off tenacious stains on the kitchen counter or on our precious pots and pans. Surprisingly, there is more to this humble ingredient than we are accustomed to. Although more popularly known as a leavening agent in baked foods, baking soda also has great health and beauty benefits. Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate is an inexpensive purchase that can offer more benefits than we can ever imagine. Here are some of those benefits:
- It’s power-packed with antacid properties.
- It’s a great alkalizing agent.
- It has many antiseptic properties.
- It’s an amazing exfoliator.
- It’s used as a leavening agent in baked goods.
Baking soda in its natural form is called nahcolite. It’s part of the natural mineral natron and in this form, has been used for centuries. Egyptians used natron as a soap because of its cleansing properties. Through the ages, natron has been refined to produce sodium bicarbonate or we know it today as baking soda. It would be safe to assume that most of us have used baking soda in more ways than just as a leavening agent for baking. It’s also being commonly used as:
- a natural deodorant
- a hand cleanser
- teeth whitener
- cleaning agent
While baking soda has these benefits, it has some limitations and precautions, especially when there is a chance of ingesting it. For one, it should be consumed only in small quantities. If taken regularly, baking soda can reduce general body functions by regulating the body’s natural pH levels which can further reduce acid levels. This pH reduction can negatively affect the complete body system’s functioning. Baking soda does have proven benefits and yet it comes at the cheapest price. Read on to learn about this humble ingredient for use at home, in more than one way.
All About Baking Soda
For those who don’t have an inkling as to what baking soda is, except for the obvious that it’s used for baking, there are many questions that they may want to ask. What is baking soda, is it organic, a mineral or a chemical creation? These days, the answers are just fingers away from a keyboard. Google baking soda and one can have all the answers and information about baking soda.
To start with, the chemical name of baking soda is sodium bicarbonate. It’s white and solid, although it can appear as a white powder or as small crystals. The taste is mildly salty. In the US, most of the baking soda comes from Wyoming. Actually, a quarter of the world’s supply comes from this place. The trona ores mined in Wyoming go through a type of chemical process in order to create the baking soda. Trona ores are first heated until they’re turned into soda ash. This ash is further treated using carbon dioxide to get sodium bicarbonate or baking soda. One can just imagine how much baking soda is produced in Wyoming, considering that it supplies the stuff to the whole civilized world!
Not all forms of baking soda are created in the lab. Actually, it has been with us in different forms for the past thousands of years. Egyptians have used a form of baking soda for cleaning. These days, it can still be naturally found from the ground in the form of nahcolite. In this form, there aren’t any chemical reactions, there’s nothing altered or added. Nahcolite is the purest form of baking soda as only Mother Nature has intended it to be. Locate the aisle in the supermarket where you can find baking sodas. Simply read the brand’s labels. It should carry the label “natural baking soda” or that the product has been processed but without chemicals.
Which baking soda to opt for will depend on how one would use it. If it were meant for cleaning the sink, the tub or the toilet bowl, then get the cheaper “created” baking soda. However, if one intends to use it for personal hygiene or for baking, then choose the natural baking soda. It may be more expensive but health-wise, it’s the best choice.
As we have mentioned earlier, baking soda is not just for baking where one can make fluffier baked goods. In fact, baking soda is almost suitable for just about anything. Let’s take a look at the surprising ways why baking soda is good for everyone:
It’s an Excellent Exfoliator
If one rubs some baking soda between his fingers, he will find the texture sort of abrasive. This makes it a great exfoliator as it can help remove dead skin cells on the skin’s surface, thus allowing new cell production. This new layer will give the skin a clean glow. The procedure is simple. Just add some baking soda in water and apply this to the face in circular motions. Do this twice weekly only.
It’s a Natural Antacid and Alkalizing Agent
Acid reflux is becoming one of the more annoying disorders these days, especially affecting older people. This is a condition where the stomach acid flows from the stomach back into the esophagus. This action will definitely irritate the esophagus causing the heartburn, a burning sensation that can occur between the abdomen and the throat. Baking soda here will act as a neutralizer against the stomach acid. This will relieve the many symptoms of acid reflux and some other stomach related problems.
Baking soda can act as a natural alkalizing agent as well. Being a non-toxic chemical, it can be used to reduce the effects of acid and inflammations in the body. It’s also used in treating many other ailments. Baking soda is the best natural remedy in the balancing of the body’s pH level which can improve overall health. If one has excess acids in the body, this can lead to various ailments like osteoporosis, arthritis, and others.
It Can Help Relieve Cold and Flu
Colds and flu are the most common illnesses, affecting people of any age all over the world. A natural way of preventing these illnesses is through good health care and a healthy diet. Choose foods that are rich in nutrients, including vitamins and minerals. If one ever contracts either flu or colds, he can use baking soda as a relief provider through a nasal wash. Making a nasal wash solution is very simple. Just mix some lukewarm water, some salt, and baking soda. This solution can help in cleaning and getting rid of nose mucus. Repeat this wash 2-3 times a day.
It Can Help Enhance Exercise
When one exercises or involves himself in strenuous activities, the body will release lactic acid which has a tendency to accumulate in the joints and muscles. This accumulation will cause muscle fatigue and joint stiffness. One can avoid these discomforts from happening by simply drinking baking soda diluted in water.
Helps Reduce Itching and Swelling
Baking soda has anti-itching properties. It’s an anti-pruritic agent which many uses to treat several skin conditions. Just make a paste by mixing water and baking soda, then applying this paste to the affected skin.
Being stung by bees or wasps could be an unpleasant experience, what with the accompanying swelling and pain. Again, baking soda can come to the rescue. Make a paste of baking soda and water and apply this paste on the stung area to reduce the swelling and relieve the pain.
It Gives the Kidneys a Boost
Since baking soda is an alkaline substance, it can be used to reduce acid levels in the body. This action can help in keeping pH levels in check. A study stated that the rate of kidney function decline was significantly reduced in patients who were treated with baking soda as against those patients who were not.
Another health benefit of baking soda is providing relief for those who have kidney stones. This is another common ailment that affects many and some of these cases can be attributed to genetics. There are different types of kidney stones including cystine stones, calcium stones, uric acid stones, and more. Usually, the smaller kidney stones can pass out through the urethra with a considerable amount of pain involved. However, the bigger ones can cause really severe pain. Baking soda can help in decreasing the formation of stones by removing the material that causes kidney stone formation.
It Helps One Maintain Fresh Breath
There can be several reasons why people have bad breath, the most common of which is the presence of bacteria in their mouths. Baking soda has been used for years as an instant solution to this unpleasant condition. Simply mix a teaspoon of salt with baking soda in water. This has been proven to work effectively in the restoration and maintenance of fresh breath. Just gargle the solution every morning to ensure that those bacteria feeding on food remnants in the mouth are completely eliminated.
It’s an Excellent Alternative to Deodorant
Read the labels on almost all antiperspirant deodorant brands and you will find that they contain some type of paraben and aluminum as the active ingredients, even when these components aren’t for ideal use. Aluminum may have a link to cancer development, however, a majority of users are not aware of this, blindly using their antiperspirants every day.
Baking soda could be a healthy alternative. As a matter of fact, some brands use it now as the active ingredient in their products. It’s true that baking soda doesn’t have an artificial scent that can make other products appealing but it’s effective in eliminating odors and in reducing the presence of bacteria in sweat. It’s these bacteria that causes perspiration and its offensive odor. If the baking soda can get rid of odors, then use it. It’s as simple as that. Start by doing some tests at home. Just dust some baking soda on the armpits on the weekend and observe. If one is pleased with the results, it’s time to switch from relatively expensive roll-ons to a cheap but effective alternative.
It’s Great for Bites and Stings from Insects
Bug bites are annoying. They tend to make one scratch until it leaves a big red mark on the skin. At times, the bites can lead to swelling and that just makes it worse. But no need to worry too much, baking soda is here to save the day. Simply make a baking soda paste and apply this to the affected area. Let it dry, then wash it with clean water. For some fancier concoction with more benefits, one can combine the baking soda with cornstarch and oatmeal. This combo is a boon for the itchy skin as it could give you that much-needed relief. A word of advice though, daily application is not good for the skin.
Those who have more sensitive skin to insect bites and stings like bees and mosquitoes may tend to break in large, red rashes at the contact area. The soda paste can still remedy their situation. Apply the paste on the affected area. This will minimize the redness, at the same time can also soothe itching. Leave the paste overnight for best results. In the morning, observe the effects of the paste. It may leave one pleasantly surprised.
It Also Works as an Emollient
Emollient is a preparation that softens the skin and baking soda also has this property. Emollients are usually applied to the soles of the feet and the insides of the hand to get that soothed and smooth skin. Make the preparation by mixing baking soda with a little water to create a mixture with a fairly thick consistency. Rub this paste in circular motions on the desired areas, leave it there for half an hour then wash it off.
It Increases Energy
Baking soda mixed with lemon juice will not only revitalize the body but will also help in the fight against chronic illnesses. Preparing the mixture is simple. Just add a teaspoon of baking soda to the juice of one lemon in water and let stand overnight. Drink the concoction early the next morning. This will maintain the energy level for the whole day. Be warned though that if one is suffering from high blood pressure or have some type of kidney disease, daily consumption of baking soda isn’t recommended.
It May Help Soothe Some Skin Issues
One may be a sun lover but he never wants to experience sunburn. This is especially true for those who have stayed in intense sun’s heat. Sunburn can be excruciatingly painful. It can take days or even weeks to completely heal. Baking soda will not speed up the healing process of sunburn but it can certainly help because it has a soothing effect on the tender and painful sunburned areas. Prepare a warm bath, add some baking soda in it, and let it sit there for some time. If the person has any psoriasis flare-ups, the bath can help as well. After the bath, there is no need to rinse it off because it can serve as a protective layer of the skin.
Baking soda can also act as an anti-inflammatory agent and using it can work wonders in soothing irritated skin. Just mix one part baking soda with three parts water and apply directly to the affected area. Let stand for a few minutes then wash it off with cold water. If the itch occurs on the entire body, just prepare a bath, add a tablespoon of baking soda, and soak in the bath for ten minutes. Do this every day until the skin is completely healed.
It Can Help Ease Urinary Tract Infections
Urinary tract infection or UTI is an infection in any of the parts of the urinary tract. This includes the urethra, the kidneys, and the bladder. When confronted with UTI, people would generally resort to antibiotics without knowing that these can weaken the body, not to mention the side effects. How about trying baking soda for a change? Apparently, baking soda can neutralize the acids in a person’s urine and will help in detoxifying the kidneys. These actions can stop the infection from getting worse. In lukewarm water, add a teaspoon of baking soda then drink this on an empty stomach. If one sees no improvements, consult with a medical professional immediately.
It Can Help Hasten the Healing of Mouth Ulcers
Mouth ulcers or canker sores are tiny pesky sores that form on the gum lines which are tender as raw openings in one’s mucus linings. These tiny pests can be extremely painful and it can take days for them to heal if one doesn’t use anything to speed-up their departure. Well, almost nothing. Applying a simple paste of baking soda on the sores can significantly hasten the healing time because the baking soda paste can minimize bacterial contamination. This type of contamination can make the lesions more painful, wider, and can even lengthen the healing period. The applied baking soda paste can kill bacteria and will protect the delicate membranes in the mouth from further trauma. Apply the paste several times throughout the day. Saliva will gradually wash the paste away.
It Can Be Used for Diaper Chafing or Diaper Rash
Babies will always be exposed to diaper rashes. Even adults are no exception because they can suffer chafing between their legs. Both conditions can cause a lot of pain but relief can be obtained by a simple baking soda paste which one can make at home. Many of the OTC remedies already contain baking soda as one of the active ingredients. This is evident by the remedy’s gritty texture. Just apply the paste on the affected areas overnight. In the morning, the person will feel as good as new.
Other Surprising Health Benefits of Baking Soda
Simple as it may be, baking soda truly has a lot of health benefits. The good news is that it’s commonly found in most households. It’s an odorless substance with a salty taste and usually comes in the form of a white-colored powder. Here are some other health benefits of this wonderful substance:
Useful in the treatment of gout and other types of joint problems. When there are increased levels of uric acid in a person’s blood and urine, this may be the cause of pain and some types of chronic diseases such as gout and arthritis. Baking soda can help neutralize any excess acid and, therefore, can serve as a very effective remedy for such conditions.
Helps reduce acidity. Baking soda also has antacid properties which means that it can help relieve issues like severe acidity, heartburn, and indigestion. It can help relieve the symptoms of peptic ulcer disease as well. Because of the alkaline properties of the substance, it’s also beneficial for reducing the acidity in the blood and urine.
Minimizes the effects of metabolic acidosis. Baking soda can also be beneficial in minimizing the effects and the chance of metabolic acidosis in different health problems such as cardiovascular disorders, diabetes, and more. Also, baking soda may provide relief for those suffering from renal tubular acidosis.
Aids in the treatment of intoxication. This substance may also be very useful in treating different intoxications like poisoning caused by salicylates, methyl alcohol, and others.
Enhances sprint performance. Research suggests that taking baking soda may prove beneficial in the enhancement of sprint performance, especially during prolonged exercise activities.
May treat calluses. When there’s too much friction and pressure on one’s skin, it may cause calluses. Even though calluses don’t cause much pain, they can be irritating. Fortunately, one can get rid of his calluses by making a mixture of lemon juice and baking soda. This mixture can help the calluses relax, alleviate them, and reduce any discomfort caused by them.
Other Surprising Beauty Benefits of Baking Soda
Aside from health benefits, baking soda can be beneficial beauty-wise. Although these applications aren’t as common, they do exist. People can also use this affordable kitchen staple as a DIY alternative to a lot of costly spa treatments. Check these out:
Acne prevention. Baking soda can help reduce skin inflammation and it also reduces the risk of developing pimples and acne. It has antibacterial properties which can help prevent any breakouts.
Beneficial for dark lips. Baking soda is a popular and effective cleansing agent which is why it can be beneficial for dark lips too. All a person needs to do is mix honey and baking soda together then apply it on the lips for a couple of minutes before rinsing it off.
Effective teeth whitener. Not a lot of people may know this but baking soda can also serve as a toothpaste with whitening properties. It can help eliminate plaque because of its abrasive nature. It can also help get rid of discoloration thanks to its alkalinity.
Dry shampoo. Dry shampoo is becoming more and more popular these days mainly because of its convenience. However, store-bought products can be quite expensive and if a person uses this frequently, he may have to spend a lot. Fortunately, one can use baking soda as a cheaper alternative to dry shampoo. Just apply a pinch of the powder to the roots then massage it into the scalp. This can help tame oily hair whenever the person needs a quick and effective solution.
Nail scrub. When one leaves nail polish on the nails for too long, this may result in her nails getting a yellowish tint. Again, baking soda can come to the rescue for this issue. One can deal with yellowish nails by combining a couple of drops of peroxide with just a pinch of baking soda. Then apply the mixture to the nails using a cotton ball. Try not too much of the baking soda or the peroxide since they’re both quite potent.
Feet exfoliator. Take a basin and fill it with warm water then add a couple of tablespoons of the baking soda to it. Then soak one’s feet into the basis for an effective and relaxing way to soften and exfoliate them. To make it even better, one can add a few drops of his favorite essential oil and allow his feet to soak in the warm water for up to 20 minutes. After soaking, one can scrub away any of the rough areas using a paste that’s made out of baking soda and some water. Talk about a full treatment!
Soothes razor burn. Razor burn is never fun for anyone. It’s especially painful and not to mention unsightly when one has razor burn on her bikini line. To soothe the sensitive skin, use a mixture of water and baking soda. Apply the mixture on the skin and let it dry. After that, rinse it off using cool water. Men can use this remedy too either for a pre or post-shave treatment on the face. They just have to be careful not to get any of the mixture into their eyes as it may have adverse effects.
Storing and Using Baking Soda
Fortunately, baking soda has a fairly long shelf-life so one can stock up on it for future use. With such stocks, a person may never run out of baking soda for cooking. He can add a little baking soda when cooking foods like lentils and beans because the addition will speed up cooking time. Adding a little baking soda to onions will make them brown faster. Baking soda can play first-aid roles when there are accidents or injuries at home. This makes it more important to stock up on the stuff. Some home uses of baking soda:
- Kept in the closets and refrigerators as an absorber of bad odors.
- Put some in shoe boxes as fresheners.
- One can use baking soda sachets in shoes too.
- Used for cleaning pans, blenders, and eliminating burned foods.
- Fish and other odors can be neutralized.
- Cleans enamels and china cookware.
- Can remove coffee stains.
Precautionary Measures When Using Baking Soda
Here are some physical and chemical properties of baking soda:
- It’s a soluble powder that’s white in color and is often crystalline but can also come in the form of a fine powder.
- It’s odorless and non-combustible.
- It can react with acids in order to release heat and carbon dioxide.
Baking soda is a very versatile compound which can serve various purposes. It’s a common household item that’s used in cooking, deodorizing, cleaning, and much more. On the medical side, the compound can be used to treat minor medical issues like insect bites and sunburn. In the workplace, the compound is used in fire extinguishers. In an agricultural setting, it’s used to fight off fungal growth in farms. We don’t really classify sodium bicarbonate as a harmful and dangerous chemical but exposure to excessive amounts can result in serious adverse effects on health and these can include:
- Sneezing and coughing when exposed to high concentrations through inhalation.
- Gastrointestinal irritations may occur if a person has ingested large amounts.
- Mild irritations, minimum pains, and slight redness may be experienced through eye contact.
- In its dry form, the compound poses no threat. It’s a non-irritant to intact skin. However, it can cause irritations if the skin is damaged and there is moisture present.
To avoid these side effects, consider these safety precautions for handling baking soda:
- For the respiratory system, if there is no control on baking soda dust in the workplace, employees should at least wear dust masks or respirators approved as safe by a certification organization to protect them against the chemical.
- In case the person inhales the baking soda, he should be removed from exposure and taken to a place where he can breathe fresh air. If there should be any difficulties in breathing, seek medical attention.
- If the person ingests it, he should drink plenty of water. In case discomfort should continue, seek medical attention.
- For the skin, protective apparel like gloves and overalls must be worn at all times.
- In case of skin contact, wash the skin with plenty of water and soap. Then seek medical help for any irritations.
- For the eyes, chemical safety goggles must be used in the workplace in case there’s risk of exposure. There should also be an area where workers can wash their hands. Should the chemical get into the worker’s eyes, it might cause some mild or moderate irritations. In case of such, some sort of first aid should be administered.
- In case of eye contact, flush the eyes with plenty of water. Again, seek medical help if any irritations should happen.
We can always assume that baking soda is relatively safe compared to other types of chemicals. Still, unnecessary exposure must be avoided. In case this happens, one should take the following steps:
- Sodium bicarbonate can always be recovered then re-used in case of spills unless of course, there is contamination. At home, one can vacuum or do wet-sweeping to avoid any dispersing dust.
- Baking soda should be stored in a container that should be tightly closed and kept in a cool and dry area that’s well-ventilated. It should not be close to any excessive heat or moisture or acids.
Baking soda is one of the most versatile chemicals that can be used almost everywhere and in almost everything. This chemical is a star when it comes to demolishing odors, tile grout, and dirt. It can remove even the toughest stains in appliances like the oven and the microwave. It can eliminate foul odors in the fridge, the closets, and cabinets.
In addition to being a household helper, baking soda also has various health benefits. It has been used in the treatment of heartburns, can soothe and hasten the healing of canker sores, can be used to brush and even whiten the teeth.
One of the best things about baking soda is its very inexpensive price and is available in almost all grocery and drugstores. So next time one goes shopping, stock up on plenty of baking soda. After all, it also has a long shelf-life.