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Don't Use WD-40 for Creaky Sore Joints

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Q. I've got a friend who swears by WD-40 for her arthritic knees. Well, I tried it on my painful shoulder, and to my astonishment, it really helped. My question is--can WD-40 do any harm if used frequently?

A. You are not the first reader to confess to using WD-40 metal lubricant on stiff joints. One woman wrote that she buys it by the gallon. She had a hip replacement that aches when the weather is bad. When she rubs on WD-40, she claims, "the pain goes right away."

This is a product designed to lubricate hinges and all sorts of squeaky or sticky metal parts and joints. It is made of petroleum products that might be toxic if applied to the skin. There are, to our knowledge, no scientific studies on either safety or effectiveness for human joints. The company does not make any medical claims for WD-40. Since there is a warning on the label that it could be "harmful or fatal if swallowed," we urge caution.

One woman developed pneumonitis, an inflammation of the lungs, from breathing the spray. A physician told us several years ago that a patient of his developed muscle breakdown after repeatedly applying WD-40 to his joints. He had to be hospitalized.

We also cannot predict what if anything is being absorbed into the blood stream from topical application and whether there might be long-term complications.

Why not use food-based remedies? Visitors to this website have some fascinating stories to share:

"I tried the golden raisins soaked in gin. This was very unusual for me because I abstain from alcohol. I put the raisins in my morning oatmeal along with a variety of nuts, raisins, sunflower seeds and dried cranberries.

"Whoopee! Hic! My knees are nice to me now." A.M.R.


"I am in my early 60s and have been hobbling around like an old man for the last several years after a couple of bad bouts with gout. I have been on an Rx to treat that, along with various other meds for my high cholesterol and blood pressure, etc. I am sure they all contributed to all my aches and pains.

"Several months ago I felt my gout flaring up in my big toe and instead of getting a new Rx to treat this, I researched online and read a lot about how a little concentrated tart cherry juice every day can knock this out almost overnight and for long term treatment as well.

"I had a hard time finding concentrated tart cherry juice but finally found a bottle at a health food store. I took two tablespoons of the stuff before going to bed and woke up the next morning with no pain in my big toe. Then, a couple of days later, I realized that my very creaky and painful bones in my feet, ankle,  knees and hips were not hurting and I was no longer hobbling when I walked.

"Now, several months later, I am still almost virtually pain free - almost to the point that I thought about jogging a little - but then decided I better wait awhile before getting back into that kind of a routine. BUT it is so good to be rid of the daily pain I had and to be able to walk normally again." C.G.


"My sister who has had one hip replaced twice was having days where she could hardly move until mid afternoon because of arthritis pains. I told her about the pectin (Certo) and grape juice. Being the older sister, I didn't think she would listen but she called and said she was starting. I told her don't expect anything overnight; it will take a couple of weeks.

"In the meantime, I had been having 'hippy' type of flare ups so I thought what is good for the goose is good for the gander and went and got my bottle of Welch's grape juice and packet of liquid Certo and off I went.

"I have to tell you BOTH of us are feeling the results.. when my sister told me she was so much better, I was like harrah harrah... she listened. A friend also tried the regimen and is getting results. I drink a glass of Certo and grape juice (6 oz) each morning while my coffee is brewing." Mac


If you find these stories intriguing, you will be very interested in our book, The People's Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies. It has details on these and lots more remedies for the pain and inflammation of arthritis. We have a special sale going on that includes our book, Recipes & Remedies from The People's Pharmacy. Buy Quick & Handy Home Remedies and get 50% off the price of Recipes & Remedies with lots of delicious dishes to combat joint pain and arthritis.

Can you think of a better gift for the holidays? A present that will last for years and years with details on all our favorite home remedies that you have been reading and collecting for years. This is a perfect time to shop for the holidays and get those you love a meaningful present that will help improve their health.

Here's a link to all our publications.

Get a head start on your shopping so you don't feel rushed over the next two weeks. 

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14 Comments

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I, too, read about grape juice and certo on PP. The morning after my first 3 rounds, my joints felt remarkably better. I am most curious as to what the biological action is, but find if I do not have it at least twice a day I have increased discomfort the following day. The action is very immediate for me and, obviously, does not have an extended effect. Just pleased I have it.

I have used a spray of WD-40 to kill termites in the woodwork around my bedroom door. I figured it would stay longer than most insect sprays.
Visible signs of termite activity stopped when I sprayed the area near the floor heavily.

I am a tenant so would not order regular termite treatments from a professional. Those do tend to be costly.

Would I use it externally myself? NO WAY!!!

WD-40 can be used to remove the sticky residue some labels leave on various products. I prefer to use Goo Gone for that now that I discovered that product. Do wash your hands after using either, though.

My husband's Rheumatologist suggested he NOT use WD40 because of DMSO in it which can b harmful with long- term use.

Regarding the use of Pectin (certo) and grape juice. That can get expensive. Powdered pure pectin is available in larger quantities much cheaper via the internet. My wife uses this and grape juice every day with great success.

I have spinal stenosis and deal with a lot of pain in my legs. Shots and meds have been unsuccessful. Do you have a solution? Thanks.

Well; don't poo poo the placebo effect! :)

"Why not use something more natural?" Yikes! I cannot believe you're recommending a substance just because it's more "natural!" There many, many toxins produced by the plant kingdom that are natural. Would you recommend their use because they're naturally produced? The fact that a medicinal substance is synthesized (or processed in some way) by humans does not make it any less safe or effective than a so-called "natural" equivalent if they are chemically identical. Please do not indulge the public's widespread misperception that "natural" must automatically be "better." Doing so is a disservice to the public and promotes scientific illiteracy.

Besides, a split second on Google would give you a more obvious reason to warn against the use of WD-40 for joint pain. The product website will tell you that it is made of refined mineral spirits (a petroleum distillate). Petroleum distillates are toxic -- they affect the nervous system and cause headache, dizziness, nausea, and loss of balance and coordination. They can affect the liver and kidneys (from another quick Google search).

Hey -- I am a big fan of your program and your website, but you dropped the ball on this one!

People's Pharmacy response: Well, we did specify that WD-40 is a petroleum product. And we mentioned some of the known toxicity. There is absolutely no reason to use WD-40 on human joints: they aren't metal and they don't rust, so it won't help them, and it can be toxic.

So far as "natural" goes, you are right that there are plenty of poisons in nature. Even some of the medicinal herbs that we frequently recommend can be toxic for some people at some doses. But most of the arthritis remedies we mention in this article are easy to use and not very toxic. Some people get good results from them. And, as with all home remedies (and a great many medications), some people don't.

Bottom line: WD-40 is not a recommended remedy for sore joints.

Good grief, "BLH;" if you are truly a "big fan" of the PP program and website, then you would never criticize them for using the term "something more natural" as if they had absolutely no knowledge that yes, "natural" substances can indeed be toxic. It was just a turn of phrase... And in point of fact, the home remedies discussed (both of which I swear by) are indeed "natural" in every way compared to WD-40!!! So in this case the term was used quite correctly and they did not "drop the ball." Thank you.

Not meaning to be a troll, here, but I think you missed my point. To say that WD-40 is a petroleum product does not communicate the fact that it is overtly dangerous to human health. Vaseline is a petroleum product, and few people consider it toxic (not counting the Environmental Working Group).

As for your use of the term "natural" in your original answer, I think your response reinforces my point that saying a substance is "natural" is not an argument for choosing it over something man-made. Furthermore, man-made chemicals at least have the requirement, in most cases, that a Materials Safety Data Sheet be made available to the public -- as is the case for the petroleum distillates from which WD-40 is made. With medications, at least the FDA makes, however flawed it may be, an effort to establish the safety and efficacy of drugs. Such requirements don't exist for "natural" materials that one can find in herbal remedies.

Your site serves as a source of health information to the public, so I would like to suggest that you have an obligation to be thoughtful in your use of language in this instance. By using the term "natural" as a positive adjective in this context, you're misleading the uninformed public into thinking that it must be automatically better. The public has been brainwashed by those with a profit motive to believe this. We, who know better and are in the business of educating the public, need to push back. May I suggest that you argue that the grape juice- and raisin-based remedies are "food-based" or are "generally known to be nontoxic?"

One last thing -- I've tried both the grape juice and raisin remedies, and they helped. However, I stopped using them when I realized that they may be a problem for my blood sugar (I'm diabetic). So, instead, I take glucosamine supplements. Despite the name, the latest (see the Mayo Clinic site) reports are that glucosamine does not raise the blood sugar and is okay for diabetics. For me, it isn't as good as the grape juice remedy, but I make do.

People's Pharmacy response: Thanks for the reminder that our word choice is important. We'll keep it in mind for future postings.

BLH,

Don't be surprised if your cholesterol is elevated. I found trying the glucosamine supplement caused my cholesterol to go over 200 for the first time. I stopped it and it was back down to my usual ~ 165 at my annual PE. I have read the an increase in cholesterol can be a side effect of the glucosamine supplement.

Thanks for that, Sandra. Fortunately, my LDL cholesterol isn't too bad after years of taking glucosamine. Not great, but not bad. I was dealt a bad genetic hand when it comes to chronic illnesses, and I've learned that the best I can hope for is a tolerable balance of all the side effects of my daily medications, supplements and "remedies."

re: BLH Most readers here are smart enough to understand what the Graedons mean by trying something natural. Anything that has been part of our enviornment the whole time we've been evolving has a greater probability of being beneficial or at least harmless than something concocted in a pharmaceutical lab with patentability as the main goal. BLH gives himself away when he mentions a profit motive. Amost nothing else on Earth creates profits remotely comperable to those of big-pharma. They'll produce self-conducted "research" to prove that any simple, inexpensive, effective remedy is bogus, dangerous, etc. oftentimes such a remedy is a source of some essential nutrient we were lacking which was the cause of our distress. no wonder then, that it "cures" the problem. I suspect BLH feels he is highly educated and doesn't trust the rest of us to use common sense and caution. Sometimes an "education" can be a brainwashing. Having worked with MDs for 35 years, I can attest; believing that you already know everything is a good way to stay ignorant.

Re: Liddell. Well, I could let your comment slide, since it seems more a personal criticism of me than one directed to the issues I raised concerning the assumption that all things "natural" must automatically be better than their synthetic counterparts.

As it happens, I am highly-educated -- have the degrees and student debt to prove it -- and I work as a scientist for the government, critically evaluating the quality of published research in support of health-related regulations. We have to be scrupulously careful about our use of language to make certain we are not misleading the public about the implications of the research we evaluate and synthesize.

Being a government employee, I have no dog in the fight between "natural" remedies vs. pharmaceuticals -- just a pet peeve about sloppy use of the English language. Finally -- a highly-educated person can be wrong sometimes, but that doesn't mean all highly-educated people are wrong.

BLH-The Graedons educate us all very well. We are pleased---we have been educated on the possibilities of some natural herbs being toxic, of some good things causing allergies for some, of being proactive in knowing doses. And so much more.

Just take it easy already.

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