12 surprising and unexpected uses of Vicks VapoRub

Vicks VapoRub is a staple in many homes and has been for over a century. It contains three key active ingredients: eucalyptus oil (a cough suppressant), camphor and menthol (both cough suppressants and topical analgesics). Inactive ingredients include cedar leaf oil, nutmeg oil, petrolatum, thymol (an oil derived from the thyme herb) and turpentine oil. These natural medicines all have uses other than the traditional cough and cold relief, including the relief of pain and itching, as well as antifungal and antimicrobial properties.
Although Vicks VapoRub has traditionally been used topically to relieve coughs and muscle pains, the everyday user knows that there are far more ways to utilize the little blue jar found in bathroom cabinets across the world! From curing fungal nail infections and dandruff to house-training your pets, there are many ways to put this good old-fashioned salve to use.
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1. Soothing cracked heels. Sick of the dry, hardened skin on your heels? Try spreading a generous layer of Vicks VapoRub on your heels and covering your feet with socks. It's best to do this overnight; you can wash it off in the morning. (The upshot is that you'll sleep well. The salve on your feet will also soothe any lingering cough you might have!) Livestrong suggests exfoliating the softened skin every day — a pumice stone works well — and repeating the treatment until the skin is softer. This also works on other areas prone to dry, tough skin, such as the elbows.
2. Healing toenail and fingernail fungus. According to Livestrong, a small clinical trial showed that Vicks VapoRub had a significant effect on the fungus found in many nail infections, with over 80 percent of participants recording either an improvement or cure during the trial period. Use a sterile pad or cotton ball to gently massage the salve into the affected nail and nail bed. Wear socks overnight, and apply twice a day until the fungus clears and the affected nail has grown out.
3. Reducing stretch marks. Many people attest to the effectiveness of Vicks VapoRub in reducing the appearance of their stretch marks. Health n Body Tips suggests applying a layer of Vicks VapoRub and then covering it with plastic wrap and/or a tight pair of leggings to ensure full absorption. Although unproven, the combination of oils, petrolatum and camphor is said to make skin feel softer and reduce the dryness that can make stretch marks stand out. It can be used as a preventative measure, too, with the moisturizing and anti-inflammatory properties of the salve keeping the skin soft and supple.
4. Preventing infection. Even if they don't bleed, little wounds such as paper cuts and splinters can easily get infected if not looked after well. Healthcare Online suggests dabbing a little Vicks VapoRub onto open wounds; the antibacterial properties will keep the wound clean.
5. Curing dandruff. Many people don't know that dandruff is usually caused by an excess of fungus called malassezia, and the antifungal properties of Vicks VapoRub can combat this and stop the scalp from flaking. Natural Home Remedies for Life suggests massaging the salve into your scalp and leaving for 30 minutes. Remember that the petrolatum can be difficult to get out, so be prepared to spend some time shampooing afterward!
6. Soothing and repairing chapped lips. People's Pharmacy recommends gently rubbing Vicks VapoRub into chapped lips. It soothes the discomfort of dry, cracked lips and softens the skin. Be careful not to lick your lips or ingest the VapoRub. It is strictly for external use only.
7. Reducing the appearance of bruises. Bruises are simply blood under the skin, and as your body breaks down the red blood cells and removes them, the bruise disappears. According to People's Pharmacy, medicinal turpentine has long been used as a topical application on bruises, and Vicks VapoRub contains turpentine oil. Be careful not to use it on broken skin, though.
8. Relieving hemorrhoids. According to CRH O'Regan System, sufferers of hemorrhoids can find temporary relief from the pain and itchiness by applying a small amount of Vicks VapoRub to the affected area. It will reduce the swelling and have a pleasant cooling sensation. They warn that it may sting or burn a little at first, so proceed with caution, and only use it externally.
9. Natural insect repellent. For many of us, the smell of Vicks VapoRub reminds us of being tucked up in bed with a hot water bottle and a cup of tea, but insects don't feel the same way! Rub a thin layer of salve onto exposed hands and ankles to stop those pesky insect bites. For use throughout the day, Livestrong suggests rubbing Vicks VapoRub into your pulse points (inner elbows, wrists, neck and inner knees). Your body warmth will keep the scent releasing all day.
10. Training pets. Insects aren't the only things that are deterred by the smell. So are many domestic pets, such as cats and dogs. If your pets are urinating inside or scratching the furniture, you can leave an open jar of Vicks in the area to deter them. My Puppy Club also recommends using plastic wrap or tin foil to protect your furniture and then spreading the Vicks on top.
11. Relieving headaches. The most common remedy is to inhale the vapor to clear the sinuses and relieve pressure, but for other headaches, Natural Cures recommends massaging Vicks VapoRub into your temples. Bonus tip: Menthol vapor is also known to combat nausea, so if you're feeling particularly unwell, you can dab a little under your nose, too.
12. Reducing acne.
Health Ambition has broken down the ingredients in Vicks VapoRub and concluded that the antibacterial properties are useful for combating the acne-causing bacteria, and the menthol helps to transfer the other antimicrobials through the layer of skin to address the infection. Both menthol and camphor also have a cooling effect that reduces inflammation. Dab a little on your acne each night, but be careful to avoid broken skin.
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There you have it! There are so many ways to use this common and relatively inexpensive product. As with any home remedy, you should proceed with caution and seek medical attention when necessary. And a quick reminder: Vicks VapoRub is not suitable for children under 2 years old, but Vicks BabyRub is available for babies of 3 months and over.
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