A year ago, I had what was an infection of the finger called paronychia. This results in a painful, throbbing inflammation of the fingernail lining and the treatment is usually to excise it to release pressure off the finger.
Of course, I knew exactly how I had attained this infection, I had ripped off my nail cuticle, and noticed it bled a little but did nothing about it. A few days later, it developed into an abscess which required a trip to the hospital. As I was on a weekend trip, I didn’t go to my usual doctor, but a local doctor in town, and when I went into his office and announced I had paronychia, he seemed surprised. I’m not even sure he knew what it was, but he examined my finger, looked shocked and insisted that I needed surgery on it straight away and needed to take a course of antibiotics.
However, my understanding of anatomy told me that it is actually quite dangerous to cut into a finger, as thousands of nerve endings could end up damaged and lose sensitivity. In fact, I often questioned why doctors would even suggest cutting into the finger in the first place. In addition, since antibiotics have been known to cause DNA damage, I wasn’t exactly keen with his prognosis and treatment suggestion.
Anyhow, I thanked him for his time, and went to pick up a few items at the drug store before I went home: hydrogen peroxide 1% and borax powder (which is a combination of boron + a salt of boric acid). I made a solution utilising 3:1 spring water to hydrogen peroxide solution with 3 tablespoons borax. First I dissolved 3 tablespoons of borax powder into the simmering 3 cups of bottled spring water at a low temperature until the borax powder fully dissolved and cooled; then I added 1 cup hydrogen peroxide 1% solution.
This makes quite a large batch, but it’s good to have around. I put the majority into an empty plastic water bottle to store at room temperature, and a little into an empty little spritzer bottle and I generously sprayed my infected finger with the solution a few times a day. After a few hours, the throbbing and pain had stopped. After 1 day, the abscess size shrunk considerably. After 2 days, the infection had completely disappeared.
Similarly, several months ago, my father had attained some sort infection on his ankle which grew into a very large cyst. His doctor wanted to cut and drain it, and have him on a course of antibiotics. (Sound familiar?) Anyhow, I suggested that he try the borax solution first, by generously spraying onto the area once or twice daily. After 72 hours, his infection was completely gone.
Borax is a naturally occurring substance and formulated from boron (a mineral compound that we need for strengthening bones) and a salt of boric acid. Borax was first discovered in dry lake beds in Tibet and was imported via the Silk Road to the Arabian Peninsula in the 8th Century AD. It became commonly used in the 19th century through Smith’s Pacific Coast Borax Company that began commercialising borax for household use.
I think borax powder is one of those staple household items with multiple uses and excellent to have around for disinfection, cleaning purposes, treatment of mites (for people who have pets) and for instances such as mine, paronychia or cellulitis. Since this incident, I now carry the borax-hydrogen peroxide solution with me on holiday and always have it around at home.
I also carry a bottle of activated charcoal capsules on holiday. I usually mix the melted liquid form of coconut oil with activated charcoal capsules in case my dogs accidently ingest something toxic. Melted, liquid coconut oil is great for this as the activated charcoal mixes in seamlessly as opposed to attempting to mix in it water, in which the powder floats on top and makes a big mess. Also, dogs like the taste of coconut oil and might eat it on their own without the application with a spoon to feed them.
Studies have found that having dogs take activated charcoal immediately after the ingestion of a toxic substance has the same therapeutic effect as inducing the dogs to vomit, having their stomachs pumped, then given activated charcoal. This is because activated charcoal has a large surface area, and 1g of activated charcoal has a surface area of 500 m2 (about one tenth the size of a football field) and can attach to toxins to prevent absorption; however, activated charcoal has its limits and does not work to absorb toxins such as xylitol, which is a substance found in toothpaste, gum and candy. It’s best to go to a vet if any pets are in a serious state, but I think for minor problems such as diarrhea, upset stomach or if they accidently ingest something that contains onions, grapes etc, then this remedy usually immediately rectifies the problem.
I have read some accounts of people’s blogs in which they say to limit water intake for dogs if they suffer from diarrhea, but this is highly inadvisable. Diarrhea is a way of quickly removing toxins from the dogs’ bodies, and because it rapidly progresses through the dogs’ digestion system to prevent absorption, this results in diarrhea. However, dogs can become extremely dehydrated if suffering from diarrhea so it is advisable to get them to drink more clean, purified, non tap sources of water and fluids to help accelerate the removal of toxins. I found though that treating them with activated charcoal (500 mg capsule per 1kg body weight) mixed in with coconut oil typically resolves the problem immediately.
Activated charcoal also works on humans too - in case one develops food poisoning whilst on holiday. Taking around 1000-2000 mg of activated charcoal immediately after having eaten something questionable, I find completely resolves my food poisoning issues.
Another item I like to take with me on holiday is a handheld photobiomodulation (PBM) device. Also called a low-level laser or NIR (near infrared laser) it helps to immediately accelerate healing and generally good for aches and pains, muscle strain, cuts, or any damage to the skin. I previously wrote about photobiomodulation here: Thor Photomedicine: Making of an Icon
The traditional advice of doctors is to typically ice an area that has had traumatic impact to prevent swelling and bruising. However, inflammation is usually an immune system response to draw more circulation and blood flow to the area so that damaged cells may be repaired or removed. When an area is iced, then this prevents blood flow, hence preventing the adequate removal of damaged cells, so that the area may be prone to re-developing symptoms of the same injury again. This can probably be seen with athletes who may suffer from injury of the same area again and again. I would have to extrapolate that this is due to the fact that the original injury probably never healed completely due to the interruption of the immune system response by icing the area and/or treatment with steroids to reduce inflammation; the inflammation is what is necessary for the adequate removal of injured cells.
Recently, I had an injury on my knee from a sporting event and instead of icing the area, I utilised my photobiomodulation (PBM) handheld device at the highest setting 650nm on continuous laser for 20 min. I repeated this procedure for 2 more days, and although the area was a little achy for a couple of days, on the 3rd day, the pain had completely disappeared and in addition, I never developed inflammation nor a bruise. This is because the PBM laser accelerates healing by increasing ATP in mitochondria - what would otherwise naturally occur through inflammation or a bruise, when blood flow is increased to an area. However, by using near infrared light (NIR) I was able to accelerate this process without any inflammation.
The only negative with the handheld PBM device is that because it runs on rechargeable lithium batteries that it doesn’t have a lifetime use of the device, and my device lasted about 11 months before I had to replace it. I also use this device on my dogs for any injuries they may have and I have to mention that I am a high frequency user, due to being constantly physically active in sports, so it probably had a lot of mileage on it after 11 months.
There are also PBM products that utilise LED lights, but I find the NIR laser to be much more effective. Currently this item is on my wish list:
Similar to my handheld device, it utilises both 650nm and 808nm, however this desktop version has a higher power output at 150mW vs. my handheld at 5mW. However, more power doesn't mean it's necessarily better. The optimal power range for photobiomodulation is less than 300mW otherwise, it could have an inhibitory effect on mitochondria. I still think the handheld is good for convenience and travel, however, I hope future versions move away from the built-in lithium battery as this drastically shortens the lifespan of the product into a throwaway product of planned obsolescence.
By Sierra Choi
(Disclaimer: This article is not intended as medical advice and is for educational purposes only)