😟 Hemorrhoids are much more common than you think, but there’s a reason they’re not often on the table for discussion. These swollen veins responsible for swelling, itching and even painful symptoms are in places that we don’t like to talk about publicly.
🙈 Feeling shameful about symptoms can lead to alternative methods for treatment as a means to avoid speaking with a doctor or even purchasing products at the store. Vicks VapoRub is one such non-traditional hemorrhoid remedy, and we’ll help break down why you should avoid using Vicks for hemorrhoids before reaching for the rub.
Who are we? We’re Doctor Butler’s, experts in down-there care of hemorrhoids and related conditions. We make proctologist-developed hemorrhoid ointments and complementary products to help you quickly leave the pain behind. Dr. Robert Cutler medically reviews all of the information here.
Pressure from straining or stressful bowel movements is the main culprit behind hemorrhoids. Constipation, weight gain due to pregnancy, lifting heavy objects, and a lack of fiber and fluids can all contribute to the formation of hemorrhoids. Pressure leads the veins to swell, and once swollen, symptoms kick in. Internal hemorrhoids remain inside the rectum while external hemorrhoids line the skin around the anus and can appear as small, painful lumps.
Traditional Treatment Options
Hemorrhoids are relatively easy to treat. You can make slight changes to diet, personal routines and apply at-home remedies such as creams and ointments. Lifestyle changes that can reduce the risk of flare-ups include:
- Increase volume of high-fiber foods
- Drink water on a frequent basis
- Avoid prolonged sitting on toilet or otherwise
- Consistent physical activity
- Do not delay bowel movements – go as soon as you feel the urge
You can begin treating your flare up right away. Applying wrapped ice packs or cold compresses can help slow blood flow to the area, easing the pain of newly-formed hemorrhoids. A sitz bath or a warm bath with epsom salt and heated gel packs or a warm compress can increase circulation to healing hemorrhoids and feel soothing on damaged skin. Using a memory foam seat cushion reduces anorectal pressure and provides comfort during flare-ups.
Over-the-counter remedies that help target active symptoms can mean a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory for minor pain, or a hemorrhoid cream that you can apply to the affected area. Ingredients such as lidocaine and hydrocortisone work to stop itching and swelling and help promote irritated skin to heal.
For symptoms that continue to worsen or hemorrhoids that won’t stop coming back, it’s important to seek advice from a physician. Medical treatments for hemorrhoids include rubber band ligation and sclerotherapy. Surgery to remove a hemorrhoid is a last resort, but a hemorrhoidectomy or hemorrhoid stapling is an option should it be necessary.
What is Vicks VapoRub?
Vicks was developed by its founder in 1894 to help treat his son’s symptoms from an upper airway infection known as Croup. Vicks VapoRub is now marketed as a topical cough medicine with medicated vapors, with additional use for temporary relief of minor aches and pains caused by muscles and joints.
The active ingredients in Vicks are camphor, menthol and eucalyptus oil, as well as inactive ingredients that include cedarleaf oil, nutmeg oil, petrolatum, thymol and turpentine oil. Vicks has long been used for the off-label treatment of toenail fungus, stretch marks, bug repellant, acne, headache relief and more. The non-recommended use of Vicks to address such ailments is often a result of the cooling properties of camphor, which is the VapoRub’s main active ingredient at 4.7%.
How Does Vicks Work?
Camphor and menthol are topical analgesics that activate and then numb pain receptors in your skin1. While Vicks is not medically approved as a treatment for cough and throat irritation, the numbing effects of its active ingredients suppress the respiratory reflex that leads to them. The numbing effect also extends to minor aches of the musculoskeletal system, targeting the pain through the skin. Breathing in the scented compounds of the combined camphor, menthol and eucalyptus oil may have a soothing sensation that eases congestion, but Vicks VapoRub does not contain pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine, the two active ingredients most commonly found in over-the-counter decongestants.
Vicks On Hemorrhoids: The Debate
Debating whether to use Vicks VapoRub for hemorrhoids makes sense when you consider that both camphor and menthol mimic many of the properties of lidocaine and hydrocortisone, two of the main ingredients in over-the-counter hemorrhoid treatment. Read more to learn about the potential benefits vs. the risks and drawbacks of using Vicks on hemorrhoids, and find out whether experts recommend it as an evidence-based treatment.
Potential Benefits of Using Vicks on Hemorrhoids
Hemorrhoid ointments and creams are chock full of active ingredients that provide relief from the itching, swelling and pain that accompany flare-ups. Lidocaine is a topical anesthetic that numbs pain by blocking the pathways from the skin to the brain. Hydrocortisone reduces the activity of the immune system, slowing blood flow to the hemorrhoid and reducing swelling in turn.
As discussed earlier, the camphor and menthol found in Vicks are both mild analgesics, ingredients similar to anesthetics in their ability to interfere with pain signals being sent to the brain. Eucalyptus oil has been shown to possess anti-oxidation and anti-inflammatory properties2. Given these qualities, the make-up of Vicks seems promising as a treatment for the discomfort caused by hemorrhoids. Is Vicks good for hemorrhoids?
Risks and Drawbacks of Using Vicks on Hemorrhoids
Nowhere on the Vicks label is it recommended for use as a hemorrhoid treatment, and this is for good reason. Hemorrhoids are often accompanied by irritated skin, both as a result of itching and swelling symptoms and increased difficulty wiping and cleaning the area in the case of external hemorrhoids. Anal fissures can also be an issue when dealing with hemorrhoids, as these small tears or cracks in the anus are another result of constipation.
As Vicks is strictly for external use and not for use on wounded or damaged skin (as Vicks itself advises), applying the VapoRub to treat hemorrhoids risks exposing broken skin to camphor, which can be toxic in high doses. Applied directly, the menthol in Vicks may cause a burning sensation on broken skin once the numbing effects have passed, creating worse pain than the hemorrhoid itself.
Approved hemorrhoid ointments and creams sometimes contain a protectant that will form a physical barrier to stop further irritating the skin.
Expert Opinions and Recommendations
Does Vicks help with hemorrhoids? With so many proven methods for treating hemorrhoids, there is little need to turn to non-recommended treatments. Evidence-based products are tested for safety and quality before they are permitted on the market. While Vicks VapoRub has been clinically proven to relieve cough due to common old and minor aches and pains, its efficacy against hemorrhoid symptoms is unknown.
What may work as an anecdotal cure for some has no scientific backing on a larger scale, posing a risk to others who may try it based on rumor or myth. Hemorrhoid symptoms that return on a regular basis or symptoms that aren’t responding even to approved hemorrhoid treatments should always be managed by a medical professional.
Doctor Butler’s – Guaranteed Hemorrhoid Relief
It may be tempting to test out non-traditional treatments if you’re feeling hopeless about finding relief from hemorrhoids. Instead, turn to Doctor Butler’s. Our full line of products addresses a wide array of symptoms with a number of FDA-approved active and natural ingredients. Not only are our formulas lab tested and proven effective in both treating and preventing hemorrhoids, but they are award-winning to boot, winning best treatment awards at Health.com and VerywellHealth three years in a row. When it comes to treating hemorrhoids, leave the Vicks behind and grab guaranteed relief with Doctor Butler’s.
- Barkin RL. The pharmacology of topical analgesics. Postgrad Med. 2013;125(4 Suppl 1):7-18. doi:10.1080/00325481.2013.1110566911
- Lin, T. C., Wang, S. H., Huang, C. C., Lai, Y. C., Song, T. Y., & Tsai, M. S. (2018). Anti-Fatigue, Antioxidation, and Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Eucalyptus Oil Aromatherapy in Swimming-Exercised Rats. The Chinese Journal of Physiology, 61(5), 257–265. https://doi.org/10.4077/CJP.2018.BAG572