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Medical Myths

The Martha Stewart Show, July 2007

Have you ever wondered if there's any medical truth behind commonly-held home remedies that get passed on from generation to generation? Dr. Brent Ridge offered the following insight to help debunk some of the most popular medical myths.

Taking Vitamin C Helps You Avoid a Cold
Taking high doses of vitamin C to cure the common cold does not lower the duration or severity of the cold symptoms. There is no proof to show that it does. However, it is important to one's overall health to consume at least the minimum daily requirement of vitamin C.
(Source: Australian Medical Association)

Putting Butter on a Burn Eases the Pain
Butter was thought to coat the burn, but it can cause infection and create an environment for bacterial growth. Putting butter or other greasy ointments on a burn may make things worse, since the grease will slow the release of heat from the skin, allowing damage to the skin from the burn to continue. It's best to run the burn under cool water immediately to help remove the heat and put an end to the damaging process. Then wrap the burn with a sterile gauze or nonadhesive bandage.
(Source: Readers Digest, Dr. Michael Van Rooyen, professor of emergency medicine at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.)

Garlic Helps Fight Infection
Garlic, scientifically known as allium sativa, is a complex mixture of chemicals displaying antiviral, antibacterial, anticancer, antiblood-clotting, decongestive, cholesterol-reducing, and immunity-boosting properties. Garlic kills viruses responsible for colds and the flu, according to tests by James North, a microbiologist at Brigham Young University. Eat garlic when you feel a sore throat coming on, he says, and you may not even get sick. (Eat garlic when you're stuffed up, too. It acts as a decongestant.) Other studies suggest that garlic revs up immune functioning by stimulating infection-fighting T-cells.
(Source: USA Today)

Shaving Causes Hair to Grow Back Faster
Shaving does not cause hair to grow back faster, darker, or coarser. Shaving is just a method of cutting hair at the skin surface and has no effect on the part of the hair shaft below the surface, which is where growth and pigmentation occur. Although the hair may seem to grow faster after shaving, this is just an illusion. A small amount of growth on a clean-shaven face is much more noticeable than a small amount of growth on a bearded face. Likewise, the blunt, stubbly ends of new growth can give the illusion of darker, coarser hair.
(Source: University of Arkansas Medical School)

Spicy Foods Can Trigger Labor Pains
There's no connection between the GI tract and the uterus.
(Source: webmd.com)

Cutting Salt Intake Can Help Lower Blood Pressure
This is true. Despite a continuing controversy over the extent salt's role in hypertension, the two are clearly related. Many population studies have linked a high-salt diet to high rates of hypertension and shown that in societies where little salt is consumed, blood pressure typically does not rise with age. A majority of treatment studies have demonstrated that reducing dietary salt can significantly lower blood pressure, especially in people who already have hypertension, but also to some degree in people with normal blood pressure.
(Source:The New York Times)

Eating Chocolate Can Cause Acne
There is no link between eating chocolate and breakouts. Certain cosmetics, sweating, and high humidity may aggravate your acne.
(Source: The New York Times)

Reading in Dim Light Hurts Your Eyes
As a rule, you cannot damage your eyes by using them. There are a few exceptions, however, such as looking directly into sunlight and laser light. Other than that, reading in dim or bright light will not change the health or function of your eyes. Also, sitting too close or too far from the TV will also have no permanent effect on your vision.
(Source: Wilmer Ophthalmologic Institute, Johns Hopkins Hospital)