The People's Perspective on Medicine

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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I have been eating Vick’s and putting it up my nose from the time I was a little girl up until now and I am 56years old. It stops a cough much quicker and longer than cough medicine while soothing the throat at the same time!

When I was in second grade my teacher would take a teaspoon a day right in front of us. Didn’t seem to hurt her, and she was older. I wish someone would have asked her why she did the Vicks then.

So can eating it hurt u and if so how?

Yes, my parents gave us a spoon full of Vick’s vapor rub to swallow for our cold. It did help, however, I believe God protected us because our parent did the best they could do.

As a kid used to have it mixed with brown sugar, worked like a hot damn to stop coughs.

My parents gave me a teaspoon of vaporub to eat back in the 70’s when i was sick. In doing research on alternative health remedies it appears that there are tons of “old school remedies” that are no longer used, yet our society is filled with kids and high rates of ashma, allergies etc.

One ingredient in vicks vaporub is Turpentine, which was used to cure a host of illnesses back in the early 40’s and 50’s. However there are different methods to destilling turpentine so any used medicinally needs to be “100% Pure Gum Spirits of Turpentine”. Turpentine is sap from a pine tree, its the method of destilling it that makes the variation on which version is better for medicine.

i have not tried it yet, but there is a method for cleaning intestinal parasites, candida, worms etc by Dr. Jennifer Daniels. I didn’t die eatig vicks vaporub so I am beginning to believe the old methods worked better than our current methods.

Hello I know of someone who eats Vicks Vapor rub along with their favorite dark chocolate. How dangerous is it, the person is addicted to it. Can you help that person?

This is a terrible idea. Camphor (one of the ingredients in Vicks) can be harmful if taken internally.

Vicks Vapo Rub was used by my mom and her mom to cure sore throat. If your mom easts it you should take her to the doctor and let them tell he how she is possibly harming herself. We just used it for colds but it was used in the throat which I now question. if your mom has been eating for a while perhaps it is not as harmful as is thought.

My mom eats it every week, I tell not to but she keeps doing it. I have warned her not to because it has toxic things, but she still eats it! I think that is an addition already, she said she needs to eat it. I don’t know what to do!! Guys please help me. Tell me what to to please I’m still very young, help me!!!

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