Baking soda, scientifically known as sodium bicarbonate, isn’t just for making your baked goods rise. It has all sorts of health benefits. But I’m guessing most of you aren’t really even sure what this stuff is! So let’s get into it.
Baking soda comes from a crystalline mineral called nahcolite. Interestingly, this mineral can only be found in half a dozen places in the world. It is only mined in the U.S. in one valley in the Colorado mountains. Much like coal miners, these folks bore down into the ground and pull out about 100,000 tons of nahcolite every year.
It is then subjected to the Solvay process, a chemical reaction in which nahcolite is combined with sodium carbonate and calcium carbonate to make soda ash. At this point, soda ash might be used to make glass, paper, soap or as a water treatment supplement. To get to baking soda, the ash is then heated to remove ammonia and you’ve got baking soda!
How it can be used to boost your health
Some of you might have heard how you can brush your teeth with baking soda. It’s true! Baking soda is mildly abrasive–but not too much–just enough to be helpful in removing food particles and plaque. Plus, it has antibacterial properties that help fight gingivitis and bad breath. And even further, baking soda helps whiten teeth.
Baking soda is also a moderate alkaline compound, with a 9 on the pH scale. As a result, professional athletes have been known to “soda dope,” which means they take a baking soda capsule to fight the production and buildup of lactic acid in their muscles that results from intense activity. Now, you may not be a pro distance runner and not be in the market for some performance-enhancing tips. But it is known that cancer cannot grow or survive in alkaline environments – credit to Nobel Prize-winning Otto Warburg for that one – so occasionally consuming baking soda to keep your internal environment slightly alkaline couldn’t hurt. However, as a warning, if you are prone to yeast infections, alkalizing foods can often exacerbate that problem.
As an odor neutralizer, baking soda has all sorts of applications. Mix it with a bit of water and apply to your armpits for an all-natural, non-toxic deodorant. Or you can wash your hands with it as well.
Baking soda can be used as an anti-itch remedy. You can either apply the dry powder directly to the affected area or you can make a paste with a bit of water. Very effective for mild to moderate itch from things like bug bites or poison ivy.
Perhaps baking soda’s most famous health application is as a remedy for digestive issues. Because of its alkaline nature, baking soda is great for neutralizing stomach acids, and therefore is very effective against heartburn, indigestion and ulcers. In fact, this remedy is so old is was a running gag for silent film-icon and comedian, Groucho Marx, who worked “bicarbonate of soda” into a few jokes across different films throughout his career.
Similar to why it is effective for oral care, the slight abrasiveness of baking soda can help to exfoliate your skin and give you that youthful glowing sheen. Add a few tablespoons to a foot soak, or put 1/2 cup or so in your bath and have a nice, hot soak. Taking a bath with baking soda also helps to lessen the effects of a sunburn. For best results, let yourself dry off without a towel so the baking soda stays on your skin for as long as possible.
Surprising what can help you with all sorts of little health concerns and what little tips and tricks you can glean from things that have probably been sitting in your cupboard for months.