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Surprising Uses For Vicks Vaporub

When you think of Vicks what comes to mind? Smelly stuff mom rubbed on your chest? Bet you don't know that there are surprising uses for Vicks VapoRub.

Some of the most fascinating medical discoveries happen by accident. Aspirin was originally a pain reliever, plain and simple. But a chance discovery by a family physician in Glendale, California, suggested that it could also prevent heart attacks.

When Aspergum was first introduced in the 1940s, Dr. Lawrence Craven prescribed it for tonsillectomy patients. A few of them suffered post-operative bleeding. Instead of giving up on aspirin, he realized that it could “thin” the blood and started prescribing it for middle-aged men to prevent blood clots in the coronary arteries. Now millions of people take this pain reliever to prevent strokes and heart attacks.

Viagra and Rogaine were also discovered by chance. Both were developed for serious circulatory problems, but their side effects became more significant than the original purpose.

We keep hearing about unconventional uses for Vicks VapoRub. This smelly old salve in its familiar blue bottle has been smeared on chests to relieve congestion for generations.

People have also found it useful for headaches, sore joints, toenail fungus, paper cuts and splinters. But a number of people have used Vicks on critters. We recently received this letter:

“A neighbor girl about three years old came to pick cherries. She had a deer tick behind her ear, swollen and red. I put Vicks VapoRub on it and in a few minutes the tick had let go. My husband had a tick on his leg, and I had one on my ear. With Vicks, both were easy to remove, and the bites never itched or turned red.”

Some people use Vicks on horses:

“When I was a teenager, my friends and I often gathered across the street to watch our elderly neighbor groom his horse. When he came across a worn place-like a saddle sore-he would rub it with Vicks.”

We’ve also heard that Vicks VapoRub is useful under the nostrils of a young stallion training to be a racehorse. The scent interferes with that of the fillies across the field and keeps him focused on the track instead.

We had no idea that Vicks would help this reader:

“What you would recommend to get rid of red scars from kitten scratches? I have a new kitten and needless to say, my hands, arms and legs are scratched all the time.”

Then we heard from another cat lover:

“My kitten Percy enjoyed attacking my feet and legs. We discouraged his behavior using the methods suggested the by the vet, the SPCA animal behaviorist, and many books on the subject, but the behavior continued. The vet was getting very concerned about the condition of my legs.

“In desperation I thought of putting Vicks VapoRub on my feet and legs to turn him away. It worked and the vet has spread the word to other cat lovers.”

If you’d like to read more about using Vicks for insect stings or nail fungus, here is a link to our Guide to Unique Uses for Vicks.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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