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Don’t Swallow Vicks for Sore Throat

Don’t Swallow Vicks for Sore Throat

Q. When I was a kid in the early 1960s, if I had a sore throat Mom would put a glob of Vicks VapoRub on the back of my tongue and tell me to swallow it.

I understand now that it’s for external use only. Was this dangerous? Has the formula changed since then? I honestly can’t remember if it helped get rid of the sore throat, but I do remember the horrible taste.

A. We’re not aware of any change in the Vicks VapoRub formula. It contains camphor, eucalyptus oil, menthol, cedarleaf oil, nutmeg oil, thymol and turpentine oil along with petrolatum (petroleum jelly). Camphor is somewhat toxic when ingested, which is why the makers of Vicks warn that it is for external use only.

Some visitors recall a home-made remedy for sore throats and coughs. While some found onion syrup delicious, others hated it. Others have had success with thyme tea, with or without star anise. Turmeric in warm milk is another favorite, and sage tea has some enthusiasts. Remember that a sore throat that lasts or is accompanied by a high fever deserves medical attention. 

You can learn more about home remedies for sore throats and other problems through our book, The Peoples Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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