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Aging

The Truth About Mouth Taping — and Other Wacky Folk Remedies, According to an MD

Wouldn't it be great if inexpensive folk remedies really worked? A doc weighs in with some good news.

We’ve all heard about — or tried! — folk remedies. And some of them work: Chicken soup, we’re looking at you and your uncanny ability to make us feel better when we’re sniffling and sneezing! Others, not so much: Soothing a burn with butter turns out NOT to be a great idea.

But folk remedies — whether they’re passed down by family members or shared on the internet — abound. So we asked Cindy Geyer, MD, a functional medicine physician at The UltraWellness Center, to weigh in on whether common folk remedies are worth trying. Read on for her answers.

Does mouth taping help with sleep problems?

Q: Lately I haven’t been sleeping well and often wake up with a sore throat and dry mouth. When I researched my symptoms, I read that tongue exercises or using some kind of mouth tape can help. I love the idea of a natural sleep solution, but do these methods really work?

A: It sounds like you’re breathing through your mouth at night, which is causing you to snore. The strategies you mention are forms of orofacial myofunctional therapy exercises that put an end to snoring by firming the loose tissues in the throat and mouth that vibrate while you breathe. And they work! Myofunctional therapy has been shown to decrease the severity of snoring caused by sleep apnea.

Mouth-taping is a good place to start. It involves using a special tape to hold your lips together while you sleep to prevent mouth breathing. To try it, cut five pieces of micropore tape to 3 to 4 inches long. Apply three pieces vertically across your lips from the bottom of your nose to underneath your chin, then one piece across the top of the vertical tape strips and another along the bottom. (Wait until after you’ve attached the tape to apply any facial moisturizers, so the tape stays in place.) It can take a week or so to get used to the tape, but it will make a difference.

And to strengthen and firm your tongue, throat, and jaw, thereby eliminating snoring, I suggest practicing this exercise twice daily. To do: Try to touch your tongue to your nose and hold for 10 seconds, then relax. Next, try to touch your tongue to your chin and hold for 10 seconds, then relax. Repeat, moving your tongue toward your left ear, then your right ear. Finally, playing a tongue-strengthening-game (Soundly app, free in the App Store) for 15 minutes nightly can also help. (Click through for learn about one woman’s experience with mouth tape for sleep and to learn if mouth tape stops snoring.)

Can drinking baking soda ease arthritis pain?

Q: I love gardening, but when my osteoarthritis flares up, working with my hands is tough. I read that drinking baking soda can help. Is this true?

A: The science is new, but a study in The Journal of Immunology found that consuming 12 teaspoon of baking soda mixed in 8 ounces of water daily can reduce inflammation, thereby easing pain for up to four hours. How it works: Sodium bicarbonate in baking soda tells the mesothelial cells surrounding our tissues and organs that there’s no need to mount an inflammatory response — basically, to chill out. But the daily dose, while small, packs 629 milligrams of sodium, so it’s best to take only when you have an arthritis flare and should be balanced with a low-sodium diet. A brand to try: Bob’s Red Mill Baking soda, which doesn’t contain added chemicals.

If you’re worried about sodium, try supplementing with 1,000 milligrams of curcumin a day, which has been shown to ease pain and swelling in arthritis sufferers.

Can toothpaste heal a cold sore?

Q: It never fails: If I have a big event coming up, I get a cold sore on my lip. I read that a mix of toothpaste and salt gets rid of them. True?

A: Thank you for having the courage to talk about cold sores, as up to 80 percent of people experience them! Toothpaste and salt is one of the folk remedies that happens to be an excellent cure for the problem: Salt is one of nature’s best antiviral compounds, and sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), a common ingredient in toothpaste, also has potent antiviral effects. I suggest applying a paste made from equal parts non-gel toothpaste and salt to help dry the wound and prevent further infection. The mixture is safe to apply at the first sign of a tingle or to a mature sore. Just do a patch test on your arm since some people have an itchy skin reaction to SLS — even if they don’t react while brushing.

To prevent future sores, ask your doctor about supplementing daily with 1 gram of L-lysine (at drugstores). This amino acid stops herpes cells from multiplying.

Can these seeds lift my mood?

Q: I tend to get a bit blue when the seasons change, so my friend suggested I try “ear seeds.” She says they help her manage mild depression, but they seem a little out-there. Do they really work?

A: Yes! Ear seeds are a DIY form of acupuncture. Instead of needles, a round, smooth seed is affixed to a piece of adhesive tape and placed in the ear to stimulate acupressure points. Called auriculotherapy, the practice, like acupuncture, is based on the premise that good health requires flow of energy through body-wide meridians. Stimulating acupressure points in the ear can clear energy blockages to improve health. The effect is so powerful that even professional acupuncturists use ear seeds — those on our staff use them to calm their cravings!

I advise ear seeds for patients who don’t like needles or can’t get to an acupuncturist, and I like the easy-to-use kits from EarSeeds.com. You can keep the seeds in for up to a week, take a day off, then apply a new set. You should start feeling better in a couple of weeks. (Click through to learn more about ear seeding for weight loss.)

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

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