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Author Topic: Vapor rub miracle stuff?  (Read 2649 times)

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Offline SerephinoTopic starter

Vapor rub miracle stuff?
« on: February 15, 2018, 09:10:32 PM »
I find it strange, especially since I'm pretty sure it's mostly petroleum jelly and menthol.  But last time I had sinus problems I was told to smear it on the soles of my feet and put socks on before bed.  I did, and I woke up feeling better.  Last night same thing.  While a hot wash cloth on my face feels pretty good and does help, it seems temporary.  I had the beginnings of a sinus headache last night, and did it again.  Even while I was trying to fall asleep I felt the fluid in my ears drain.  That's been bad enough lately that I can hear my own heartbeat when it's quiet.  But it all drained away.  And no pain in the morning.  No pain now knock on wood.  It seems entirely illogical, but it works!  My question is how?

Offline Oniya

Re: Vapor rub miracle stuff?
« Reply #1 on: February 15, 2018, 09:56:51 PM »
Menthol and camphor (both ingredients in Vicks) have the notable similarity of being 'counter-irritants.'  These are substances that alleviate symptoms in one part of the body by stimulating nerves in a different part (mustard plasters and capsaicin creams work on a similar property, only with a 'heating' mechanic rather than a 'cooling' mechanic).  Info I can find describes it as distracting the body from the targeted symptoms, more or less.  I'm thinking that whatever was keeping the ear-fluid in place - whether it was an inflammation or something else 'pinching' the Eustachian tubes - might have redistributed(?) in response to 'something's happening down in the foot region'.

Offline Kuroneko

Re: Vapor rub miracle stuff?
« Reply #2 on: February 16, 2018, 12:08:52 AM »
Both Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine employ the practice of massage herbal extracts and oils on the feet for beneficial effect elsewhere in the body. In the case of TCM, which is part of the foundational principles of the type of massage I was trained and certified in and used when I had a private practice as a licensed massage therapist, there are energetic meridians (also employed in acupuncture) that have points that affect organ systems, conditions and energies within the body. For example, there is a point between the thumb and index finger that is a key point for treating migraines, despite being located on the Large Intestine meridian. Another point under your nose treats leg cramps, although it's part of the Gall Bladder meridian.

Chemically speaking, camphor and menthol can both be absorbed dermally, i.e. through the skin, and these compounds can be measured in human plasma via gas chromatography. So, the chemicals are being absorbed systemically and can affect the body. You likely also inhaled them, as they both have a strong odor and inhalation is one of the primary methods for the application of camphor and menthol when treating respiratory/sinus related conditions. Inhalation and pulmonary absorption of these chemicals is documented. 

Dermal absorption of camphor, menthol, and methyl salicylate in humans. (methyl salicylate is a chemical in Birch oil and Wintergreen oil. It's what makes Ben Gay smell the way it does. It's also a rubefaciant/counter-irritant) - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15342616

While counter-irritants often do provide 'distraction' by interrupting the pain-reflex arc (as in the case of pain relieving mechanisms, such as cold and heat sensations), they also provide relief of symptoms by increasing blood flow and circulation to the area of application. So, through a combination of point stimulation/massage, inhalation and absorption, relief of your symptoms was likely provided systemically. At least, that's my massage therapist/medical herbalist explanation,  ;)

I'm glad it helped you. Vicks is pretty awesome.

Offline Oniya

Re: Vapor rub miracle stuff?
« Reply #3 on: February 16, 2018, 01:14:34 AM »
While counter-irritants often do provide 'distraction' by interrupting the pain-reflex arc (as in the case of pain relieving mechanisms, such as cold and heat sensations), they also provide relief of symptoms by increasing blood flow and circulation to the area of application.

Increase in blood flow to an area is often a reaction to irritation, though - right?  I know this is part of the mechanism with the heat-based (capsaicin and mustard) treatments.  Blood volume being relatively constant, that would tend to pull blood away from the congested areas, I would think.

(Also, I've used Ben Gay in place of Vicks for nasal and chest congestion, because it was on hand.  Seemed to work decently enough.)

Offline Ket

Re: Vapor rub miracle stuff?
« Reply #4 on: February 16, 2018, 02:16:08 AM »
Because they contain basically the same ingredients, just different concentrates.

Vicks: Camphor (synthetic)   4.8%   
Eucalyptus oil   1.2%   
Menthol   2.6%

Bengay: Original contains 18.3% methyl salicylate and 16% menthol
Bengay: Muscle Pain/Ultra Strength contains 30% methyl salicylate, 10% menthol, and 4% camphor

Fun Fact: Bengay can be used to remove chewing gum from clothing because the methyl salicylate serves to diffuse the gum base.

I use Amish Origins, which is pretty much the same thing as well. Menthol, Camphor, Pine Needle, Eucalyptus, and Wintergreen (Methyl salicylate) in a Petrolatum base.





Offline SerephinoTopic starter

Re: Vapor rub miracle stuff?
« Reply #5 on: February 16, 2018, 11:03:12 AM »
Interesting.  I have heard of reflexology, where a massage to a certain part of the foot can benefit an organ system.  It's kinda cool.

Offline Kuroneko

Re: Vapor rub miracle stuff?
« Reply #6 on: February 16, 2018, 11:04:11 PM »
Increase in blood flow to an area is often a reaction to irritation, though - right?  I know this is part of the mechanism with the heat-based (capsaicin and mustard) treatments.  Blood volume being relatively constant, that would tend to pull blood away from the congested areas, I would think.

(Also, I've used Ben Gay in place of Vicks for nasal and chest congestion, because it was on hand.  Seemed to work decently enough.)

Yes, that's definitely one reaction to the introduction of an irritant on the skin. Counterirritants also work by producing an inflammatory reaction and that involves the lymphatic and immune systems as well. However, 'fluid' in the ears as a result of sinus pressure is unlikely to be blood unless there's infection present, so the draw of it in one part of the body because of irritation probably wouldn't have that effect. This link has a good discussion of various types of counterirritants and topical analgesics, neurological, circulatory, and thermal - https://www.academyofclinicalmassage.com/clarifying-effects-topical-analgesics/

Ayurveda really isn't my area of expertise, though I've taken a couple of continuing ed courses in it. There are some comparisons/similarities between it and TCM. Marma points are very like points on the TCM meridians, and like Reflexology, there is a body map of the feet that corresponds to various organ systems and body locations. There's an AV technique of massaging ghee with a few drops of Lavender oil mixed into it on the bottom of the feet and then sleeping with socks on to relieve insomnia and calm restless children. A fellow LMT friend swore by it.

Since my practice was in shiatsu, a type of acupressure, I rely on working pressure points on the face for sinus congestion, with or without liniments or oils. I'm personally more of a fan of evergreen oils over products with methyl salicylate. I really hate that Wintergreen smell. But all of these compounds - camphor, menthol, pines, eucalyptus, firs, cedars, wintergreen, birch (containing methyl salicylate) have a decongestant effect via inhalation.

Offline Oniya

Re: Vapor rub miracle stuff?
« Reply #7 on: February 16, 2018, 11:11:13 PM »
I wasn't thinking blood in the ear - I was thinking some kind of swelling (lymphatic or otherwise) in the surrounding tissues causing the sinus fluids to stay there instead of draining.  Really just spitballing, since the subject intrigues me, but I've got no training at all - more of a 'Grandma swore by this, and I've had a good track record with it.'

Offline Kuroneko

Re: Vapor rub miracle stuff?
« Reply #8 on: February 16, 2018, 11:24:26 PM »
I wasn't thinking blood in the ear - I was thinking some kind of swelling (lymphatic or otherwise) in the surrounding tissues causing the sinus fluids to stay there instead of draining.  Really just spitballing, since the subject intrigues me, but I've got no training at all - more of a 'Grandma swore by this, and I've had a good track record with it.'


Ohhhh, deerrrrp. Sorry, long day. I cannot brain; I has the dumb.

There are lots of things that can cause sinus pressure and referred sensations in the ears; irritation from allergens, build up of fluids, swollen tissues, etc. - even weather changes (my downfall). If the auditory tube that drains into the throat is compromised in some way (including swelling), it can definitely prevent fluid from draining from the ear.

In the vein of 'grandma always did it and it works for me,' my mom always put buttermilk on a sunburn, and I still do it from time to time.
« Last Edit: February 16, 2018, 11:25:30 PM by Kuroneko »

Offline Oniya

Re: Vapor rub miracle stuff?
« Reply #9 on: February 16, 2018, 11:33:52 PM »
In the vein of 'grandma always did it and it works for me,' my mom always put buttermilk on a sunburn, and I still do it from time to time.

Peanut butter for hiccups.  Basil tea for migraines.  Ginger ale for nausea (the real stuff, not artificial, of course).  We used vinegar for sunburns, which I remember because it smelled like dyeing Easter eggs, so there might be something about the mild acidity that's involved.

Offline Kuroneko

Re: Vapor rub miracle stuff?
« Reply #10 on: February 17, 2018, 12:29:26 AM »
Peanut butter for hiccups.  Basil tea for migraines.  Ginger ale for nausea (the real stuff, not artificial, of course).  We used vinegar for sunburns, which I remember because it smelled like dyeing Easter eggs, so there might be something about the mild acidity that's involved.

I haven't heard the peanut butter for hiccups before, but all of the rest are traditional herbal uses ;)

Offline The Dark Raven

Re: Vapor rub miracle stuff?
« Reply #11 on: February 17, 2018, 12:36:46 AM »
I haven't heard the peanut butter for hiccups before, but all of the rest are traditional herbal uses ;)

It kinda has the benefit of blocking the air for a bit and resorting your diaphragm while your brain is overloaded with "wait, can't breathe."

Offline Kuroneko

Re: Vapor rub miracle stuff?
« Reply #12 on: February 17, 2018, 12:44:36 AM »
It kinda has the benefit of blocking the air for a bit and resorting your diaphragm while your brain is overloaded with "wait, can't breathe."

I imagined that must be how it helped, lol.

Offline Oniya

Re: Vapor rub miracle stuff?
« Reply #13 on: February 17, 2018, 12:45:40 AM »
It kinda has the benefit of blocking the air for a bit and resorting your diaphragm while your brain is overloaded with "wait, can't breathe."

I heard something-something about stimulating the vagus nerve.  I've sometimes been able to find actual research that says 'Oh, this compound found in this plant has this effect and has been purified into this medication' with the traditional (or as my husband calls it 'witchy-woman') remedies.  Latest one I heard was from the Urgent Care doctor who told me that celery (of all things) is helpful for high blood pressure.

Offline Kuroneko

Re: Vapor rub miracle stuff?
« Reply #14 on: February 17, 2018, 11:42:56 AM »
Celery actually is great for high BP. You can take as an extract called NBP, but it's better in whole food form. It relaxes the tissues of the arterial walls to increase blood flow, which reduces blood pressure. The plant has a very low sodium content and a high water content, and by eating it you also get fiber, potassium and magnesium to help regulate BP as well.

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Re: Vapor rub miracle stuff?
« Reply #15 on: February 17, 2018, 05:17:42 PM »
I tried it (soles of the feet with socks on) to help with my nasal congestion and I wasn't able to determine any difference in my drainage over say using the stuff in the traditional manner (rubbing it on the chest and inhaling the vapors it exudes). I'm not sure if it this same treatment would empty out the nasal sinuses over the temporal ones though, maybe it would only really help if you had ear sinuses issues.

Offline The Dark Raven

Re: Vapor rub miracle stuff?
« Reply #16 on: February 19, 2018, 12:09:20 AM »
I tried it (soles of the feet with socks on) to help with my nasal congestion and I wasn't able to determine any difference in my drainage over say using the stuff in the traditional manner (rubbing it on the chest and inhaling the vapors it exudes). I'm not sure if it this same treatment would empty out the nasal sinuses over the temporal ones though, maybe it would only really help if you had ear sinuses issues.

Usually helps me best if I am also well hydrated when I do the Vicks thing....otherwise all the camphor just dries me out.

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Re: Vapor rub miracle stuff?
« Reply #17 on: February 19, 2018, 08:57:58 AM »
Usually helps me best if I am also well hydrated when I do the Vicks thing....otherwise all the camphor just dries me out.
Not an issue with me. I pretty much drink two cups of coffee in the morning and water the rest of the day.

Offline SerephinoTopic starter

Re: Vapor rub miracle stuff?
« Reply #18 on: February 19, 2018, 09:09:29 PM »
I'm guilty of drinking too much soda, and am probably not well enough hydrated, so I don't know.  I just know that for me it works wonders on sinus pain.  When the person told me this I had the absolute worst sinus headache of my life.  Of course, I should add she also had me wrap my feet in aluminum foil before I put them in the socks.  Sounds crazy I know, but the pain I was in was a big motivator to try anything.  Ibuprofen didn't even touch it.  But I did it and the next morning the pain was gone.