If you have a cough, you may be inclined to rub Vick's VapoRub on your chest. However, did you know that it may also work when rubbed on your feet?
As Joe Graedon, M.S. of the People's Pharmacy explains, Vicks may work to suppress a cough when applied to the feet, because the soles of the feet are full of sensory nerves. When Vicks is applied to the feet, the sensory nerves are stimulated and a message is sent to the spinal cord and up to the brain to calm the cough. Graeden offers the caveat that his explanation is only a theory. To date, there are no scientific studies proving why (or if) Vicks works when applied to the feet, though countless people on the People's Pharmacy and elsewhere on the Internet swear by the home remedy.
Graedon's theory follows the logic of Spirituality Health, which claims, "a foot massage can work wonders for a cough." According to the website, massaging the entire foot with warm sesame oil, beginning around the ball of the foot and working your way from the heels to the toes, can be a powerful defense against a cold and a cough.
The science behind Spirituality Health and Graedon's claims lie in the practice of reflexology, in which pressure is applied to targeted pressure points in the feet to treat symptoms elsewhere in the body. Reflexology and Health identifies the pads below the toes and the area directly under the ball of the foot as spaces that, when massaged, can suppress a cough. To learn how to use reflexology to treat a cough and other cold symptoms, watch the YouTube video below.
Although many people have had success treating a cough by rubbing Vicks on the feet, just as many people have debunked the home remedy. In an article for Parents Magazine, for example, Dr. Satya D. Narisety says Vicks works because the scent of menthol tricks the brain into thinking the nasal and upper airways are open. In order for this deception to work, you have to be able to smell the menthol. According to Dr. Narisety then, Vicks on the feet only works when you can smell the menthol and is made more effective when the scent is made stronger by being placed closer to the nose. This is why it is conventionally recommended to rub Vicks on the chest, where the scent is detectable at a safe distance from the nose and mouth.
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