With the appeal of natural home remedies significantly on the rise, and with new health fads born almost on a daily basis (pizza salad, anyone?), it can be hard to keep up and distinguish the respectable from the ridiculous. So before you try to play doctor, check out this roundup of 11 common but dangerous home remedies, to help you stay on the straight and narrow.

1. Coffee For Hangovers

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Waking up the morning after a night out can feel like death, so it may seem logical to reach for that cup o’ joe. Before you try to caffeine your way to feeling like a human again, consider this: that caffeine you’re craving actually works to narrow your blood vessels, raise your blood pressure, and dehydrate you, all of which can make a horrible headache even worse.

Instead, reach for some water. Part of the reason for your hangover is that your body is severely dehydrated, so replacing some of the fluids you lost is definitely the right way to go. If you’re especially brave, you can also toss back some pickle juice.

2. Orange Juice For Colds

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We tend to think of vitamin C as the ultimate cold and flu treatment, partly because it’s written all over every Theraflu and DayQuil package, and while it’s certainly good for you, there’s very little it can do to actually help you get over a cold.

Studies show that no amount of vitamin C consumed during a cold or flu can help cure the illness. Plus, the extreme amount of sugar present in pre-packaged orange juice today is unlikely to help pave the way to good health. Your best bet is to stay hydrated, maintain a healthy diet, and let your immune system do its thing.

3. Hydrogen Peroxide On Cuts

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It’s instinctive to reach for the hydrogen peroxide after suffering a cut or a scratch. Your mom used to tell you that those white frothy bubbles are the germs dying, and while it’s tempting to believe, that’s just not the case.

In fact, using hydrogen peroxide on cuts and scrapes actually damages healthy cells as well, which can delay and complicate healing. There’s no reason to freak out over a minor wound, though, just running it under some cool water and washing the surrounding area with soap will do the trick.

4. Butter On Burns

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There’s no better way to treat something hot than with something cold, right? Not exactly. While you should definitely apply a cold compress to a burn wound, there are some things you should never use. Butter is one of them.

Not only can it promote bacterial growth, which can lead to nasty infections, but butter actually seals the heat in, worsening the burn. Think about it, you wouldn’t put out a fire with grease, right? Instead, run a mild burn under some cool water or apply a cold compress (but never put ice directly on the skin).

5. Toothpaste On Acne

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Where did this idea even come from? And what was the rationale behind it? Anyone that has ever accidentally gotten toothpaste on their face while brushing their teeth knows how incredibly irritating it is.

While toothpaste can dry out pimples, it also severely damages the surrounding skin, causing redness and peeling. Plus, there’s nothing toothpaste can do that can’t be done by conventional acne treatments, but these are actually meant to be used on skin. Out of all the options, though, prevention is key to a clear face.

6. Coconut Oil For Acne

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Photo by Andrew Zaky

The coconut trend is going strong, and while it’s fine for all your cooking and moisturizing needs, you may want to keep the coconut oil away from your face. Unlike the skin on your body, your face is very delicate, and coconut oil is highly comedogenic, meaning it can clog pores, making those breakouts you’re trying to avoid even worse. If you’re into natural remedies, try grapeseed or hempseed oil, which are lower on the comedogenicity scale, for blemish-prone skin.

7. Apple Cider Vinegar For Heartburn

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Whoever thought it was a good idea to treat acid reflux with more acid? Best to save the apple cider vinegar for daily metabolism boosts, and use some fresh ginger to tame that heartburn.

8. Milk For Heartburn

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Logically, milk makes more sense for treating heartburn than does vinegar, but that doesn’t mean it’s actually effective. While it may reduce heartburn symptoms initially, milk actually stimulates acid production in the stomach, which can lead to a rebound effect later on, meaning even more heartburn following the temporary relief.

9. Vomiting After Ingesting Poison

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One of the first things my high school chemistry teacher did on the first day of class was to show us a bottle of ipecac and a trashcan – the unspoken universal first aid for poison ingestion.

However, vomiting may not be the best way to handle a potential poisoning, as some substances can cause even more damage on the way back up than they did coming down. Furthermore, frothy substances (like shampoo) can actually be aspirated as they come back up, leading to severe lung damage. Poisoning is serious business, so never try to fix the problem yourself. The best course of action is to stay calm and get emergency medical help.

10. Juice Cleanse To ‘Flush Out’ Toxins

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Photo by Anna Hsu

Are juice cleanses still a thing? Although they’re aggressively marketed to help ‘flush out’ toxins from your body, we all know the real reason people choose to deprive themselves of solid food is in the hope of easy weight loss. Here’s the deal though: any weight loss you’ll likely experience will be due to water leaving the body in the absence of any carbohydrates to hold on to it, which means once your cleanse is over, you’ll easily pick it back up.

Additionally, your metabolism slows down during the cleanse due to a myriad of nutrient deficiencies, which translates to even more weight gain once you resume normal eating. There’s a reason these fad diets don’t work, and it’s because you need real food to survive.

11. Charcoal Drinks

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I can’t imagine that this is any less gross than it sounds. Charcoal is just not meant to be consumed. Although activated charcoal does work to absorb lots of toxins, it doesn’t distinguish between the good and the bad. If you’re taking any medications, the charcoal can easily absorb the drugs, counteracting the benefits they’re meant to offer. Plus, side effects can include constipation, vomiting, diarrhea, and black tongue, which are probably not listed on the bottle.