Misconceptions About Common ‘Natural’ Treatments

This post is about dispelling some common beliefs about everyday ‘treatments’ that people believe to be effective and/or safe, specifically focusing on Vaseline, Vicks VapoRub, and the use of cranberry juice to treat urinary tract infections.

Vaseline – During the drying conditions of winter, beware of VASELINE. Vaseline (the trademark name for Petroleum Jelly) is not something that you want to be putting on your, or your children’s, skin. It is made from petroleum, a leftover residue created during the refinery of crude oil, and it doesn’t actually moisturize, which is how the companies that sell it as hydrating make money. Because it feels wet, people believe it to be working as such, when, in reality, it is drying, causing people to depend on it, using it over and over. It has no healing or restorative qualities and is toxic if ingested. Why put something like this on your or your child’s skin when there are safe options that are sustainable, healing and restorative, such as virgin coconut and olive oils? In fact, according to Best Health Magazine, ” A study that was published in Pediatrics in 2000 found that extremely-low-birth-weight infants treated with petroleum jelly were more likely to develop systemic candidiasis; it created a warm, moist place for fungi to grow. “Sometimes you want the skin to breathe more,” says Celeste Lutrario,vice-president of research and development for Burt’s Bees, which does not use petrolatum in its products. She says petrolatum is an occlusive barrier, locking in moisture—but it does not allow moisture to be absorbed from the atmos­phere. For example, lip balms with petrolatum and other petrochemicals can be less moisturizing than those with emollients that enable moisture exchange, contends Lutrario” (Peters).

More about Petroleum Jelly (Vaseline): http://www.care2.com/greenliving/petroleum-jelly-on-your-face.html

Cranberry Juice for Bladder Infections – Cranberry itself can be very helpful for bladder infections – in the form of a pill or unsweetened cranberry juice. Drinking regular cranberry juice is not effective as it contains A LOT of sugar. The sugar only exacerbates the issue and suppresses the immune system, possibly making the infection worse.

Vicks VapoRub – Firstly, many parents don’t realize that most doctors do not recommend the use of Vicks for children under 2. One reason is because it contains camphor, which is linked to causing seizures. In 2009, Dr. Bruce Rubin, of the pediatrics department of Wake Forest University School of Medicine, led a study on the ointment, where it was found to increase mucus and inflammation in young children.

“Some of the ingredients in Vicks, notably the menthol, trick the brain into thinking that it is easier to breathe by triggering a cold sensation, which is processed as indicating more airflow,” he said. “Vicks may make you feel better but it can’t help you breathe better”(CBS).

“”This may be of little physiologic consequence in older children and adults, but in infants and small children, this potentially can lead to respiratory distress,” the study’s authors concluded” (CBS).

Rubin said he recommends never putting Vicks in or under the nose of anyone, regardless of age. Parents should also follow the directions and not use Vicks or similar generic products on children under two, he advised.

“On Dec. 18, 2008, Health Canada said children under six years old shouldn’t be treated with cough and cold medication, citing reports of misuse, overdose and rare side-effects”(CBS).

“The best treatments for congestion are saline (salt water), gentle suction with a rubber bulb, warm drinks or chicken soup, and time, the researchers said, noting if a child is struggling to breathe, then it’s a medical emergency”(CBS).

Here is a link for a homemade, natural Vapor-Rub: Wellness Mama


Avoid Applying Vicks VapoRub to Babies, Pediatricians Say. CBS News. January 13, 2009. Web. January 19, 2013.

Peters, Diane. The Truth about Petroleum. Best Health Magazine. October 2009. Web. December 30, 2012.

About Raising Natural Kids

A mother of two looking to raise awareness about the everyday issues that parents face, focusing on raising children holistically.
This entry was posted in Toxic Chemicals Around Children. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Misconceptions About Common ‘Natural’ Treatments

  1. Menthol is a main constituent found in peppermint essential oil as well. Aromatherapy guidelines do not recommend peppermint essential oil for use with children under 5yo. for several reasons. It can actually increase mucous production and can literally ‘take the breath away’ from a small child. Eucalyptus is a much better choice for children and respiratory issues. Always research your essential oils and safe % recommendations from a reputable source (sometimes several is a good idea) before making any homemade recipe…just because someone has used it, does not make it safe. Also, vicks vapor rub is a stimulant and will keep infants and small children awake.

    • Rachel says:

      Hi Tiffany, I left a comment down below a little ways and directed it to you and another lady and was hoping you might be able to respond. Thanks for your time, Rachel.

  2. Lan says:

    Hello Tiffany! Could you please post the source that says to limit the use of peppermint EO with children under 5? Thanks!
    It is mentioned frequently in the book “Smart Medicine for a Healthier Child” and I didn’t see the mentioning of age.
    I alternate between peppermint oil, thyme oil and eucalyptus oil mixed with LOTS of coconut oil to rub on my 3YO’s chest, back and feet when she’s sick.

    • Hello! Thyme also deserves an extra bit of consideration when used (with adults and definitely not with children). A great book to get…particularly if you do alot with essential oils is Robert Tisserands (Reknown International Aromatherapy expert and chemist) Essential Oil Safety. This will explain a lot and is worth the $. I think he is also coming out with an updated version. Here is one article…http://takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/explore-healing-practices/aromatherapy/are-essential-oils-safe. Never use more than 1% with children under 12 (of any essential oil…and there are many that should not be used at all with children). Infants (under 2) an even smaller % and really only a handful of eo’s should be used…if at all). And really, as a general rule, never more than 2% is ever needed (even for an adult). Essential oils are very potent…and very different from infusions. They are amazing but deserve quite a bit of knowledge and experience before use. Aromaweb, NAHA (National Association of Holistic Aromatherapists) and the Alliance of International Aromatherapists provide a lot of helpful information as well. If you are interested in education I highly recommend Aromahead and Aromatic Wisdom. You can also follow my page Grateful Garden for helpful hints. Young Living and DoTerra promote a lot of very unsafe use of essential oils and create a lot of confusion (PS…no such thing as therapeutic grade as there are no standards set by a governing body…quality, pure…yes…therapeutic, no.). But chemistry does not lie. Hope this helps! When it’s safe…it makes it that much more enjoyable!

      • Lan says:

        Hmmm thanks, I’ll look into the sources you provided. I didn’t start using thyme oil until a natural health practitioner in Switzerland, where we lived last year, recommended it to me.

      • Thyme oil and thyme essential oil are two very different things…incredible differences in potencies. Not to mention that there are several chemotypes of thyme (as well as regions) that change their characteristics quite a bit. Thyme oil is usually an infusion of oil and the herb. Thyme essential oil is distilled from a significant amount of the herb, leaving a very concentrated amount of essential oil in 1 drop. I hope this has been helpful!

  3. mama E says:

    so, peppermint e.o. use for fever reduction, your saying is not recommended for kids? i;ve read alot of parents use peppermint on the spine to bring fever down…what would be a safe good homemade rub for congestion? (as now, i just put a few drops of eucalyptus on my 2yo pillow at bedtime, which works great for us, but did not work well for a friend of mine- her son coughed a storm…)

    • The crazy thing is…you can find an aromatherapist to suit whatever theories you have, pretty much. Some are more chemistry based (constituents do not lie), some teach downright dangerous practices. There is a fairly large division in the aromatherapy community and a huge general misunderstanding of essential oils and their potential dangers as well as benefits floating around. My theory has always been better safe than sorry and if an essential oil works fabulously at 1%…why put extra work on the liver and kidneys? Especially for a child. It’s just unnecessary. A helpful hint…You can even dilute your eucalyptus in water and just spray the pillows. No need for more than about 20d per 4oz water. It won’t stain your sheets and will work marvelously…plus it goes a lot further. I prefer eucalyptus for all of my 4 children (under 12). It is a febrifuge (brings fever down), immune stimulant and helps them relax and breathe better. Just be certain to keep it away from your children as eucalyptus eo can be toxic, even fatal if swallowed. For a 2yo, no more than 5d per ounce carrier oil is needed and it will keep nicely for a year (assuming your essential oil and carrier oil are fresh and pure. The purity of the essential oils can make all the difference between effective and aggravating…maybe what happened to your friend? Best of luck!

  4. I have to laugh – we did all the “wrong” things and our kids turned out just fine. They are now 39 and 36 years old! (Also each has two healthy children)… in other words, don’t freak out. Vicks Vapo Rub won’t kill anyone!

  5. Kelly says:

    I’m all about being safe with the oils and am so glad to see safety discussed here! I use them with my whole family, including my two little ones. Luckily, it only takes a tiny amount of an essential oil to be useful.

    It is true there is no governing body, so one must be sure to get pure oils (no synthetics, fillers, pesticides, etc). And because there is no “governing body” official definition of “therapeutic”, I personally feel most comfortable going with a company whose entire mission is to create oils that are pure enough that they can be used with total confidence of safety, and who has every liter of oils tested for purity and potency by an independent third party lab.

    Unfortunately there are oils on the market that are adulterated and are not safe to use internally or on children (check the label – if it’s not labeled as safe to take internally, it’s not safe on your body either, as it will enter the bloodstream).

    Likewise there are many FDA approved products (Vicks, for example, above) which are truly not safe or healthy for the body. Also, things like BPA, pthalates, Red#40 in your baby Tylonel, and on and on and on.

    We do have to be vigilant what we put on our babies and ourselves. Thanks for the article and all the info on this site!

    • Rachel says:

      Hi Kelly, I realize I am entering this conversation several months after the fact, but I just saw this post. I entered a comment below and wanted your input on it. Thanks, Rachel.

  6. Jessica says:

    I am thankful to have read this post, but even more thankful on comments from Tiffany above. My husband’s family was telling me about being careful with essential oils like clove, peppermint, etc. on my child. I feel guilty now b/c I was using the Theives oil from YL and some peppermint on my 2 year old after reading a book on YL oils. Now I feel I did not research enough and may have applied to liberally. I am going to get the book Tiffany recommended above. Thanks!

  7. Thank you. It is an amazing journey, to switch your home from OTC remedies to natural, organic, and toxic free solutions. It isn’t just what goes in our mouths, it is also what we put on our children’s skin, and hair. They are exposed to so much more, than I ever was as a chilld. I am hungry for information, and I am constantly searching and reading. Thank you, to all who have a love of educating others. Ultimately it is up to each of us, to do our own research, on what is best for our families. It is nice to have these articles to know what direction to go in. If anyone is looking for toxic free, organic children’s products, check out the company that I use. http://www.mommysclub.com/michelecaronna

  8. Rachel says:

    To Kelly and Tiffany, you talk about finding the right company and getting a quality EO, so what do you recommend? I have also heard that YL and DoTerra are not the best to get EO’s from but how can you be confident that you are getting a quality product and where to get it from? Many companies claim “purity” but how can you be sure that you are getting the right stuff for your family? I’m a busy mom and don’t have time to dig deep into all the research needed to find out who is actually being truthful and offering a guiltily EO. I have just recently heard of the benefits of EO and would like to get some for my family but I want to make sure that I am getting the right ones and using them in the right way. I will look into the book that Tiffany recommended. Thanks for all this info.

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