Bicarbonate of soda, more commonly known as baking soda, is a white crystalline chemical compound found in the mineral nahcolite. The most common medical uses of this substance include the treatment of acid indigestion and heartburn, scar prevention, decreasing the itch associated with allergic reactions, and easing sore throat or mouth ulcer pain. Although generally considered safe, there may be some risks associated with baking soda. This is particularly true if someone is using certain prescription medications or has a medical condition.
Nahcolite is commonly found in areas where mineral springs are currently or were once located. Beds of this mineral were created thousands of years ago when lakes or other bodies of water evaporated quickly. Today, nahcolite is mined by dissolving and reconstituting the mineral.
Using bicarbonate of soda as an antacid is probably the most common medical use. When stomach acids move up the esophagus, many people experience a burning sensation known as heartburn. This may occur at any time of the day or night. Antacids are alkaline and neutralize stomach acids that are responsible for the pain. Baking soda, which eases symptoms for about two hours, should be taken with food or right before going to bed if heartburn is a problem at night. The usual dose is 1 teaspoon (4.6 g) baking soda to 4 fluid ounces (118 ml) of warm water.
If someone is accidentally scalded, baking soda may be helpful until medical assistance can be obtained. As a first aid treatment, water and baking soda are mixed to form a thick paste and generously applied to the injured area.
The itching associated with insect bites may be lessened by this compound as well. Its anti-inflammatory effects may also reduce the itch of poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac. Mixing one part water with three parts bicarbonate of soda makes a paste that may be applied to the bite or rash.
This mineral may help decrease sore throat and mouth ulcer pain. Its antibacterial properties are said to clean the mouth, stop the growth of bacteria, and may help to prevent infections. At the first sign of sore throat or mouth ulcer, alternative medical practitioners generally suggest gargling with 1 teaspoon (4.6 g) dissolved in 8 ounces (236.5 milliliters) of warm water. This may be repeated every four hours as needed.
Certain drugs interact with baking soda, and the compound may prevent or significantly decrease the amount of medication absorbed. Some of these medications include iron, lithium, aspirin, diabetic drugs, tetracycline, benzodiazepines, and ketoconazole. Many medical professionals advise patients to take their medications and sodium bicarbonate at least one hour apart.
Sodium bicarbonate is safe for most people. Two exceptions are those suffering from high blood pressure or heart disease, who should not use it. Individuals on salt-restricted diets may want to avoid it as well. Even though it is thought to be safe to take during pregnancy, pregnant women who often experience water retention, or edema, should consult with a healthcare provider before self-medicating with this mineral.