canker sore
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Canker Sores

Rinsing your mouth with salt water can ease the pain and help you heal faster. Stir a teaspoon of salt into a half-cup or so of water. Swish and spit. Do this several times a day until your canker sores don’t bother you anymore.

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ingrown toenail
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Ingrown Toenail

This is when the edge of your toenail curves down and gets trapped in your skin. It often affects the big toe, and it can really hurt. To ease swelling and tenderness, soak your foot in warm salt water several times a day. Follow with antibiotic ointment and a bandage. See your doctor if it doesn’t improve or gets worse.

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man with runny nose
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Stuffy or Runny Nose

Salt is a proven way to help you breathe easier when you’ve got a cold, the flu, or allergies. A bonus: It’s affordable, too. Look for over-the-counter saline nose sprays at the drugstore. Or use a neti pot to rinse out your nasal passages with salt water.

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psoriasis vs eczema
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Psoriasis and Eczema

Mineral-rich salt water is in places like the Dead Sea in the Middle East and the Blue Lagoon in Iceland. Soaking in water like this helps moisturize the skin and ease redness. And if you have psoriasis or eczema, it can relieve the scaly patches and inflammation. To do this at home, add Dead Sea salts or Epsom salts to your tub and soak for about 15 minutes. Even a cup of plain table salt in your bath water can ease eczema symptoms.

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heartburn concept
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Baking soda is a type of salt, and it’s also a natural antacid. Stir about a teaspoon into a glass of cold water after a meal. If you get heartburn a lot, don’t keep treating it yourself. See a doctor to make sure there’s nothing else going on. And keep in mind that baking soda has sodium in it. If you’re on a low-salt diet, your doctor might want you to try a different type of antacid instead.

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insect bites on leg
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Bug Bites or Stings

A paste made from baking soda and a little bit of water can help with any itching, stinging, or minor swelling. It also helps with rashes from hives, angioedema, or from contact with plants like poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac.

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woman massaging sore throat
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Sore Throat

Gargling with salt water -- about 1/2 teaspoon dissolved in a cup of warm water -- can ease swelling and make a sore, scratchy throat feel better.

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man rubbing tired feet
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Tired Feet

Two cups of Epsom salt dissolved in a gallon of warm water is a common remedy for achy feet. The salt has magnesium, which helps keep your muscles working well. But there’s no proof that you can absorb it through your skin, so it's more likely that the warm water just feels good. But there’s no harm in an Epsom salt soak. 

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woman smelling something bad
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Bad Breath

If your breath isn’t the freshest, a dry mouth and plaque buildup are probably to blame. Baking soda can fight microbes in your mouth and can neutralize bad breath for up to 3 hours. Make a mouthwash with half a teaspoon of baking soda and a cup of water. Swish for a minute 3-4 times per day.

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runner massaging sore calf muscle
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Stop Heat Cramps

If you exercise or do physical work in the heat long enough, you can lose fluid and salt in your sweat. This can cause sharp pains, especially in your arms, belly, and calves. To keep this from happening, you need to take in fluids and salt. You can drink a sports drink or eat a salty food with water. In a pinch, you can make your own sports drink by mixing a teaspoon of salt in a quart of water. 

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cork in a bottle
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Feeling a little irregular? Follow the dosage directions to dissolve some Epsom salt in a glass of water (it’s usually 2-6 teaspoons per day). You can add lemon juice to make it taste better. This will usually help you go in 1/2 hour to 6 hours. 

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discolored teeth
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Teeth Stains

A few studies show that toothpaste with baking soda whitens your teeth better than the kind without it. The soda scrubs away surface stains but won't scratch your pearly whites.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 04/22/2019 Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on April 22, 2019


1) p_saranya / Getty Images

2) Biophoto Associates / Science Source

3) yacobchuk / Getty Images

4) (Left to right)  Lipowski / Thinkstock, -aniaostudio- / Thinkstock

5) Harvinder Singh / Science Source

6) cturtletrax / Getty Images

7) klebercordeiro / Getty Images

8) Manuel-F-O / Getty Images

9) avemario / Thinkstock

10) lzf / Getty Images

11) Jacob Brown / Getty Images

12) coffeekai / Getty Images



Mayo Clinic: “Canker Sore,” “Ingrown toenails,” “Psoriasis,” “Sodium Bicarbonate (Oral Route, Intravenous Route, Subcutaneous Route),” “Insect bites and stings: First aid,” “Cold remedies: What works, what doesn't, what can't hurt,” ”Hives and angioedema,” “Bedsores (pressure ulcers).”

Cleveland Clinic: “Which Is Contagious: Your Canker Sore or Cold Sore?”

American Academy of Dermatology: “Ingrown toenails,” “Treating poison ivy: Ease the itch with tips from dermatologists.”

American Podiatric Medical Association: “What Are Ingrown Toenails?”

Journal of Clinical Otorhinolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery: “Nasal irrigation with different concentrations of saline as an adjunctive treatment in allergic rhinitis: A systematic review and Meta-analysis.”

Seminars in Arthritis and Rheumatism: “Scientific evidence of the therapeutic effects of dead sea treatments: a systematic review.”

JAMA Dermatology: “Saline Spa Water or Combined Water and UV-B for Psoriasis vs Conventional UV-B. Lessons From the Salies de Béarn Randomized Study.”

National Psoriasis Foundation: “Herbal and Natural Remedies.”

U.S. National Library of Medicine: “Magnesium Sulfate,” “How to care for pressure sores,” “EPSOM SALT -- magnesium sulfate granule, for solution.”

Nutrients: “Can Magnesium Enhance Exercise Performance?,” “Myth or Reality -- Transdermal Magnesium?”

Indian Journal of Dental Research: "Sodium bicarbonate: A review and its uses in dentistry.”

International Journal of Dermatology: “Bathing in a magnesium-rich Dead Sea salt solution improves skin barrier function, enhances skin hydration, and reduces inflammation in atopic dry skin.”

National Eczema Association: “Eczema and Bathing.”

Sports Medicine: “The role of sodium in 'heat cramping.' ”

University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics: “Heat cramps.”

The Journal of the American Dental Association: “Baking soda dentifrices and oral health,” “Stain removal and whitening by baking soda dentifrice: A review of literature,” “Baking soda as an abrasive in toothpastes.”

Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on April 22, 2019

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.