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Will Vicks VapoRub Ease Facial Pain?

One reader found that applying a few dabs of Vicks to the forehead can ease facial pain. The essential oils in this remedy have analgesic activity.

We have been fascinated to hear lately from readers who have found unusual remedies. We have been writing for years about the possibility that soap can alleviate nighttime leg cramps.  We were surprised, however, to learn that some people have been using soap against laryngospasm or esophageal stricture. One reader decided to try a peculiar variant of this remedy to ease facial pain.

Can Vicks Ease Facial Pain?

Q. I have been very interested in the messages about using soap containing limonene to help with cramp-like pain. I have been plagued with such pain on my face.

I did research on products that contain limonene. Vicks VapoRub is one. I have been using that around my eyebrows and forehead and it helps relieve pain.

A. We are fascinated by your report. That could help explain why Vicks VapoRub is considered helpful for soothing sore muscles. A chemist who specializes in volatile compounds reported to us that the soaps people find useful against leg cramps usually contain limonene in their fragrance. This compound from essential oils has analgesic effects (Inflammation, April 2017). Research suggests that this may be because it inhibits the transmission of pain sensations by overwhelming certain transient receptor potential channels (TRPA1) (European Journal of Pain, Aug. 2016).

Limonene may not be the only relevant constituent of Vicks. It also contains camphor and thymol, the essential oil of thyme. Carvacrol, a component of both camphor and thyme oils, also has pain-relieving properties (International Journal of Molecular Sciences, Dec. 9, 2017).

Will Vicks Affect Facial Coloration?

We should offer one word of caution: dermatologists have reported one case of skin depigmentation (vitiligo) triggered by the application of Vicks VapoRub (Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, Nov. 2008).  Be alert for any changes in skin tone where you are applying the Vicks.

Anyone who would like to learn about other ways to utilize this common but extremely versatile product may be interested in our Guide to Unique Uses for Vicks. If you have discovered other ways to use Vicks for pain relief, please let us know by adding a comment.

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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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