Iodex ointment is an over-the counter multipurpose remedy of debatable efficacy that has an enthusiastic following around the world. It has been especially popular in India since its introduction there in 1919. This thick salve, which claims to help ease sore muscles among other uses, lists oil of wintergreen and iodine as its active ingredients. Otherwise, it's composed primarily of petroleum jelly and paraffin wax.
Iodex ointment bills itself as a topical analgesic used to decrease local muscle and joint pain, such as backache and overused, strained or sprained muscles. It is also popular for skin eruptions, cuts and scrapes in both animals and humans.
As many people remember from the dreaded skinned knees of childhood, topical iodine is used to kill germs and prevent infection. Although iodine is listed as an active ingredient in Iodex ointment, according to a notation in the "Texas Medical Journal" of 1920, an American Medical Association study conducted in 1915 found Iodex ointment to contain "no free iodine and only about three-fifths of the iodine claimed." Therefore, its value in preventing infection through the use of iodine is suspect.
Oil of Wintergreen
The second listed active ingredient of Iodex ointment goes by the chemical name of methyl salicylate, which has many uses, including flavoring candy and root beer and to perfuming cosmetics. When Iodex ointment is applied to the skin, it feels cool but may cause redness. Oil of wintergreen is approved by the FDA as safe when used as directed. However, it can be toxic if ingested.
Comparable unguents to Iodex ointment include various "sports creams" and other similar products, such as BenGay and Tiger Balm. These "topical balms," which all have a bland, oily base, are useful for lubricating the skin during massage, increasing local blood flow to the effected area, and relieving aches and pains.
Apply Iodex ointment only to the skin. Do not get it in the eyes, nose or mouth. Do not use on open wounds, and avoid putting a bandage or heating pad over the area you use it on. Stay away from this product if you are allergic to aspirin or if you are pregnant or nursing. If your skin gets red and irritated--or if your problem does not clear up within seven days--stop using Iodex and consult a health care professional.
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