Baking Soda: A Miracle in Your Kitchen
7/22/2014
Sara Thyr, ND
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
by: Sara Thyr, ND

Section: Seasonal Health


Sara Thyr, ND

Dr. Sara Thyr is a licensed naturopathic doctor practicing in Petaluma, California. She graduated from Bastyr University, Kenmore, Washington, from both their naturopathic medicine and midwifery programs. She has served as the president of the New Hampshire Association of Naturopathic Physicians, as well as on the board of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. Dr. Thyr is passionate about how our environment and nutrition impacts our health, and leads detoxification groups twice/year. Her free time is full of fun with her husband, Geoffrey Smith, her two cats, permaculture, gardening, tennis and running. For more information visit www.drthyr.com/.
When I met Natasha Juliana 6 years ago, she was putting together a book on greening your life–environmentally friendly ways to deal with just about everything in your household and beyond. She was the first person to extol the virtues of baking soda as cleaning agent to me. I was an easy sell–I can’t even walk down that cleaning product aisle in the grocery store, I’m so sensitive to all the chemical smells. I was happy to learn that between baking soda and vinegar, you really don’t need much more to give your home a good green clean. Bonus–baking soda is fantastic for more than just a scrub.
 
A Little History
Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate (commonly called sodium bicarb) has been around for hundreds of years and has about as many uses. It is a white, crystalline powder with a sort of salty, alkaline taste. Found naturally in rock deposits, called natron, it was used as a cleaning mineral by ancient Egyptians. Sodium bicarbonate was developed by chemists in the 1700’s and the first factory to mass produce it was created by bakers in 1846.1
 
Baking
Baking is certainly the most well known use. It is why most of us have it in our kitchens. As a leavening agent, it reacts with acids and releases carbon dioxide2 which helps pancakes, breads and cakes to rise when exposed to heat.
 
Personal Care Uses
While a nicely risen cake may seem miraculous, the true amazing ability of baking soda is its anti-odor agent. When I host detox workshop groups, I always try to help people find new “cleaner” products that don’t contain many of the toxic chemicals that much of the personal hygiene industry seems so attached to. Baking soda is top on my list!
 
While you can purchase some deodorants that don’t have much of the objectionable stuff in them, these deodorants don’t work universally. By which I mean, some people will be ok with using them and some will not. I’ve tried dozens of deodorants over the years and have encouraged my husband to do the same (he’s a tougher sell) and nothing works like baking soda.
 
...10-pound or so bag of baking soda...I sort of laughed...who could ever use that much? I may have to rethink that. You really cannot have too much!

Today, you can find baking soda deodorant and it is now available in the classically shaped application container for those who are attached to that. But what works best, and is most cost effective, is to simply sprinkle the powder directly to underarms. We have a little shaker that we got at the hardware store that is easy to refill and we just keep on the counter of the bathroom. Everyone I’ve talked to who uses this reports amazing results: no break-through stink, even after athletic events.
 
One day, way back before my husband and I were regular users, after we had been working in the yard, my husband was sitting on the deck relaxing. He had his arms thrown back over his head. The aroma was daunting. I ran and grabbed the baking soda from the kitchen and just tossed some on to the affected parts. Voila! All gone! He could keep his arms up as long as he liked.
 
Toothpaste (certainly another personal care product ripe with chemicals I’d prefer not to consume) is another popular use for baking soda. It has excellent whitening effects, and helps to eliminate plaque. It is used by natural health pioneer Edgar Cayce in his Ipsab tooth powder. Many people make their own toothpaste using recipes found online, such as the Wellness Mama blog. You can also just sprinkle a little regular baking soda on your toothbrush and use it au natural.
 
Baking soda can also be used as shampoo (with vinegar a fine conditioner). You can make a solution and just keep it in the shower for bathing and shampooing. Play with different concentrations and see what you like.
 
Cleaning
You can use that baking soda in the shower to scrub it down when you have an extra few moments. Baking soda is a wonderful scrubber. Warning: be careful if using on aluminum as it can deteriorate the coating and make it more reactive. But for the kitchen and bathroom sinks, it is unbeatable. And since it absorbs odors as well, it makes sense to clean many areas of the house as you can with it.
 
A small amount in the wash will help to eliminate odors from workout clothes. And sprinkling a little of the powder into your sneakers will eliminate that odor from your locker. I keep a little shaker at the gym and after applying as deodorant I shake a little in my shoes so they smell fresh and lovely for my next tennis match.
 
First Aid
Baking soda can be mixed with water and taken as an antacid. It is one of the ingredients in gripe water given to infants for colic. It may also be applied to the skin to reduce irritation from exposure to rash-giving plants like poison ivy and poison oak. Some have even found it helpful for removing splinters.3
 
A while back my husband and I were at Costco and saw a huge 10-pound or so bag of baking soda. I sort of laughed–who could ever use that much? I may have to rethink that. You really can’t have too much!

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