Debunking 5 Home Remedy Myths

There are many circulating myths surrounding folklore remedies that can bring more harm than good. These are what you should know before trying.

Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 22nd Nov 2021.

Debunking 5 Home Remedy Myths

While some home treatments, such as cornstarch and water for a bee sting, are effective, other do-it-yourself health methods may be dangerous. For instance, do you truly believe you should be cleaning your colon from the comfort of your own home? Alternatively, how about eliminating wax from your ear with a lighted candle held inches from your head?

Don't believe everything you hear about home remedies. Your health is something that has to be taken seriously. Experts discuss five home cures that should not be tried at home with WebMD, explain what works better, and when professional assistance from your health care provider is required.

Ear Candling

Jennifer Smullen, MD, teacher of otology and laryngology at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston, tells WedMD that ear wax is a natural lubricant for the ear. “It prevents infections by waterproofing the ear and having an acidic pH."

Why would you want to eliminate earwax when it has so many health benefits?

While it’s not common, some individuals do get a wax buildup in their ears, which causes irritation and decreased hearing, according to Smullen. This is where ear candling comes in. It’s advertised as a simple at-home remedy for individuals with this issue, and it includes putting a candle-shaped beeswax cone in the ear, lighting it, and removing the cone — along with ear wax and other impurities — when the wick burns down.

Unfortunately, igniting a flame inches from your ear is difficult and even dangerous.

“Ear candling can really cause hearing loss," adds Smullen. “I’ve had to treat ear candling side effects such as burns in the ear canal and on the eardrum."

Instead of playing with fire, Smullen recommends wiping excess wax from the outer portion of the ear using a tissue wrapped around your finger.

If it doesn’t work, get professional assistance from your general family doctor or an ear, nose, and throat specialist. There are over-the-counter ear drops available, but before putting anything in your ear, seek a doctor consultation.

Smullen reminds us that putting a Q-Tip in the ear canal is a bad idea since it may rupture the eardrum.

Whiskey For A Teething Baby

When a baby begins to teethe, he or she will often cry, prompting parents to try everything, even alcohol, to get junior to stop. While the old wives’ tale may give a ray of hope after three hours of continuous screaming, think again; the liquor cupboard is not the place to go.

“First and foremost, children should not consume alcohol," says Stanley Alexander, DMD, head of the Tufts University School of Dental Medicine’s paediatric dentistry department tells WedMD. “Second, when the teeth emerge, alcohol has no significant numbing effect on the gums."

So, instead of reaching for the whiskey bottle, go for the freezer.

“The greatest thing you can do is put a teething toy in the freezer and offer it to the kid," Alexander suggests. “The cold action will both relax and numb the gums."

Use a sugarless ice pop with adult supervision if the kid is old enough.

“Teething has been a source of worry for parents for ages," Alexander adds. It may induce excessive salivation, irritation, and sleep disturbances. Consult a doctor if your child’s symptoms are severe.

Adults should follow the same rule: if you have a toothache or gum soreness, alcohol will not assist. Instead, the discomfort may be caused by a deep cavity in the tooth or a gum infection, necessitating a visit to the dentist.

Butter For A Burn

While you may believe that butter makes everything better, keep in mind that this rule only applies to food and not burns.

“Butter might offer modest value for a burn by having a slight cooling effect," Robert Sheridan, MD, a surgeon in the burn units of Massachusetts General Hospital and Shriner’s Hospital for Children tells WedMD. “However, it tends to melt due to body heat and there is a risk of infection because it’s not sterile."

Sheridan suggests an over-the-counter antibiotic burn treatment for mild to moderate first-degree burns and second-degree burns that are confined to an area no bigger than 3 inches in diameter. Apply it gently to the burnt skin and cover it to keep it clean. Ibuprofen or acetaminophen may also be used to relieve discomfort.

According to Sheridan, cool tap water may also assist, but only for the first minute after you’ve been burnt. Any longer than that, and the harm will be irreversible. Run the burn under water for at least five minutes if you’re near a faucet.

Other burn no-nos: Toothpaste is a popular home cure that Sheridan often hears about in the burn unit, but it provides no benefit other than a small cooling effect, and it has the same infection risks. Also, although applying ice to a burn may seem like a good idea, it doesn’t help and may even make things worse.

“A severe enough burn may result in a lack of feeling surrounding the area," Sheridan adds. “So, since you can’t determine whether it hurts, ice may exacerbate the issue by causing frostbite to burn."

When should you seek assistance? If you have concerns about a burn, a fever, moderate to severe pain, or no discomfort at all as a consequence of a third-degree burn, or if the site is becoming more red.

Colloidal Silver

Colloidal silver is thought by some to help cure a variety of infections and diseases, thanks to hype and optimism propagated via word of mouth and the Internet.

“People believe that by boosting the immune system, colloidal silver can treat fungal infections, tuberculosis, HIV, herpes, and even cancer," Ted Epperly, MD, president-elect of the American Academy of Family Physicians tells WebMD.

Unfortunately for proponents of colloidal silver, they are mistaken, and the repercussions of their error may be costly.

According to Epperly, “one of the most well-known adverse effects of colloidal silver is that it tints a person’s skin a greyish shade of blue."

Colloidal silver affects not just the skin, but also the kidneys, stomach, and brain, as well as the neurological system. Silver is really deposited in the cells of these organs, potentially triggering cell death and organ failure.

“Colloidal silver’s effects are toxic and cumulative," adds Epperly. “Worse, they’re irreversible."

Epperly advises people to disregard the hype and instead seek medical advice on how to manage infections and diseases properly.

Home Colon Cleansing

“We hear a lot about the toxic effects of colon contents on the body," Robert Siegel, MD, an American College of Gastroenterology fellow tells WedMD. “However, that is a fallacy."

That’s when colon cleaning solutions for home use come in handy. People are told that their colons are full of toxic waste and that the only way to get rid of it is to use herbs, probiotics, special diets, enemas, or laxatives.

The colon is, in reality, a waste receptacle, as Siegel explains. Its purpose is to allow faeces to flow naturally out of the body.

Attempting to cleanse your colon from the comfort of your own home may cause dehydration and salt depletion by disrupting your body’s electrolyte balance. Colon cleaning on a regular basis may cause anaemia, starvation, and heart failure over time.

Rather than cleansing the colon on your own, start by increasing your fibre intake by eating more fruits and vegetables or by taking a daily fibre supplement (38 grammes for males and 25 grammes for women 50 and younger).

If you’re still constipated and uncomfortable, Siegel suggests seeing your general primary doctor or a gastroenterologist.

After all, not everything you find on the Internet that claims to be traditionally remedial can be fully trusted. Sometimes, it can even mess with your health more if you fail to consult your doctor. As the saying goes, health is wealth, consult your medical professional before deciding what is best for your condition.


Referenced on 17/6/2021

  2. Stanley Alexander, DMD, chairman, department of pediatric dentistry, Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, Boston.
  3. Ted Epperly, MD, president-elect, American Academy of Family Physicians; chairman and program director, Family Medicine Residency, Boise, Idaho.
  4. Robert Sheridan, MD, surgeon, Massachusetts General Hospital and Shriner’s Hospital for Children, Boston.
  5. Robert Siegel, MD, FACG, assistant clinical professor of medicine, Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA.
  6. Jennifer Smullen, MD, instructor, otology and laryngology, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Boston.

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