Bicarbonate: What is it? Properties, benefits and uses

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Sodium bicarbonate, sodium hydrogen carbonate, bicarbonate of soda or vichy salt, is a compound obtained from the mineral natron.

To obtain it, carbon, sodium, hydrogen and oxygen molecules are combined, the result is a white mineral with a crystalline texture

This salt has the ability to neutralize excess acid in the stomach, which is why it is often used to neutralize hydrochloric acid in the stomach and to treat indigestion.

In the kitchen, in cosmetics, in personal hygiene, but above all in health it has many applications, which we will discover in this article.

What is bicarbonate?

  • Formula: NaHCO₃
  • Molar mass: 84.007 g/mol
  • Density: 2.2 g/cm³
  • IUPAC name: Sodium hydrogen carbonate
  • Soluble in: Water
  • Appearance: White crystalline
  • Density: 2173 kg/m³; 2,173 g/cm³
  • Melting point: 323.15 K (50 °C)
  • Decomposition point: 543.15 K (270 °C)
  • Refractive index (nD): 1.3

Sodium bicarbonate is a white crystalline solid compound obtained from a mineral called natron

Speaking of the geological field, bicarbonate is the white salt that produces the formation of stalactites and stalagmites; but in the world of medicine, which is the one that mainly concerns us, it has multiple applications and benefits.

Acceptance of bicarbonate

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recognizes bicarbonate as a food additive and as an active and safe ingredient that can be used as an antacid and as a treatment against tooth decay.

On the other hand, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review, an independent group of experts comprised of academic researchers and industry scientists, evaluated the scientific data and concluded that baking soda is safe as a cosmetic ingredient

Properties of baking soda

  • It has the power to neutralize acids.
  • It is a good digestive.
  • Because it has a negative pH, the opposite of acid, it is an excellent cleansing agent.
  • It has the power to absorb odors found in the environment and neutralize them.
  • It is used to disinfect and deodorize.
  • It is used as an insecticide.

Medicinal benefits of baking soda

Among the medical applications that sodium bicarbonate receives are the following:

  • Antacid. It is generally used to relieve heartburn and acid indigestion. Scientists often use it in laboratories for its alkalizing properties in the digestive tract.
  • It contributes to relieve itching. In certain cases it can control the itching sensation and pain caused by hives, stings and bites. According to some studies, it can be effective to mitigate the symptoms of sunburn, if combined with ingredients such as cornstarch and oatmeal.
  • To treat urinary problems. A study published by the International Urogynecology Journal indicated that baking soda produces an alkalinization of urine about four weeks after starting to use it.
  • Exfoliant. It is often used to perform the function of an exfoliant, which eliminates dead skin cells and eliminates blackheads and dirt on the skin.

what are the uses of baking soda?

Baking soda has a variety of uses. However, medical assistance should always be sought to avoid adverse effects.

Here are some of the ways it is used:

  • Mosquito bites. It acts as a natural pain reliever whose function is to reduce the irritation and pain caused by insect bites.
  • To improve sore throat. It is used as a remedy to reduce the presence of bacteria that can occur in throat infections.
  • To soften the skin. It helps to improve the appearance of the skin, because if it is mixed with hydrogen peroxide it can soften the effects of skin blemishes
  • Cosmetic products. Its exfoliating properties are used in cosmetic products and anti-acne creams.
  • Muscle relaxant for feet. The combination of warm water and three tablespoons of baking soda to relax the feet is a traditional practice.
  • Deodorant. Its ability to deodorize is embodied in commercial deodorant formats.
  • Hair treatment. It is used to achieve clean and shiny hair
  • Stomach acidity. Either by adding a pinch of the mineral in a glass of natural water or through a pharmacy antacid, it administers the benefit of calming uncomfortable heartburn.

what is the dosage to use it as a medicine?

Sodium bicarbonate of soda comes in tablet and powder form to be taken orally. It is taken 1 to 4 times a day, depending on the condition

If the doctor prescribes it as an antacid, he/she will usually recommend taking it one or two hours after meals, with a large glass of water. It should be noted that it is not advisable to take baking soda on a full stomach.

To use it, it is necessary to dissolve the baking soda powder in at least 4 ounces of water. In this regard, it should be remembered that baking soda should not be used for more than two weeks, unless a health specialist so indicates

Baking soda precautions and side effects

Bicarbonate should be used moderately, since its prolonged consumption may cause systemic alkalosis.

On the other hand, while it is being used, it should not be consumed with milk or other dairy products; and it is not recommended during pregnancy and lactation.

In cases of severe headaches it is better to avoid it. It is also not recommended for those who suffer from hypertension, renal, hepatic or cardiac problems, as well as in patients who have diuretic treatments or diets low in sodium.

Sodium bicarbonate can be poisonous if consumed in large quantities. Therefore, the National Poison Control Center recommends keeping baking soda out of the reach of children.

Finally, it cannot be ingested by people allergic to sodium bicarbonate, those suffering from metabolic or respiratory alkalosis, hypocalcemia, hypochlorhydria, or those who have a tendency to edema formation, appendicitis or intestinal obstruction.

This mineral salt is present in a multitude of medicinal, cosmetic and personal cleansing products. It can do a lot of good to health if used properly and cause harm if abused

German Fuertes Otero
German Fuertes Otero
CEO at M.D. from Stanford Medicine: Stanford, California, US, M.Sc. from University of Cambridge: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, UK and University of Oxford: Oxford, Oxfordshire, UK. PhD at Harvard University Harvard Catalyst: Cambridge, MA, US.

Aunque pueda contener afirmaciones, datos o apuntes procedentes de instituciones o profesionales sanitarios y la información contenida en PharmaSalud esté redactada por profesionales en medicina, recomendamos al lector que cualquier duda relacionada con la salud sea consultada con un profesional del ámbito sanitario.

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