5 Medical Myths Spread on TikTok

Not content with spreading political lies and hosting videos praising Osama bin Laden, TikTok has branched into medical misinformation.

The social media giant has a “wellness hub,” where viral videos have a huge impact, particularly on young people’s approach to health.

The problem is that little of this information is vetted, and much of it is distorted, exaggerated, or just plain wrong.

Here are six that jumped out at me, but keep in mind that there are many more.

Always take what TikTok users post with a grain of salt (and don’t trust them on salt, either).

These are often advertised as “doctors don’t want you to know this trick” and it’s true! We don’t want you to know because it isn’t true:


A number of videos claim eating marshmallows will help treat a cough or cold.

There is a grain of historical truth here, namely that the root and leaves of the Marsh Mallow plant are loaded with anti-oxidants and have long been used for medicinal purposed including loosening mucus, inhibiting bacteria, bolstering immunity and soothing an irritated throat.

But the problem is that today’s marshmallows are almost pure sugar and do not come from the plant, so the medicinal uses are nil, despite what TikTok promises.

Several videos on TikTok are pushing the idea that marshmallows can treat a cold or cough.
Several videos on TikTok are pushing the idea that marshmallows can treat a cold or cough. TikTok/@sandyatbeach


No, an evening snack won’t help you sleep better, as some TikTokers claim.

Your body runs on a biological clock, and you begin to produce melatonin about three hours before bedtime, which not only relaxes the brain but also slows the pancreas’s production of insulin.

A 3-hour interval between dinner and bedtime is ideal.

Eating a starchy sugary food before bed is the fastest way to gain weight.

Our forbears ate protein and fiber, while we load up on sugar. They were lean, mean, fighting machines. Whereas we are purveyors of social media fads.


Another TikTok trend that has received a lot of attention is the use of raw potatoes on the skin.

Whereas there is some evidence that the azelaic acid in potatoes brightens the skin and that the presence of the natural antibiotic solanimycin may work against the bacteria in acne and help cleanse the skin, the TikTok viral notion of putting a raw potato in your sock at night to help leech out the toxins of a cold or flu is ridiculous.

Unfortunately, the potato medical myth doesn’t end with the skin.

There is also a dangerous idea trending on TikTok that raw potato juice can cure a strep throat. This is completely untrue.


And perhaps the most worrisome of all is the contention, going viral on TikTok, that knowing your menstrual cycle is a more effective form of birth control than any hormonal intervention.

Many TikTokers are romanticizing a return to nature and breaking free of today’s highly effective birth control methods which rely on hormones, replacing them with so-called “fertility awareness” knowing your calendar cycle and what is essentially a return to the ancient “rhythm method.”

This notion has led to countless pregnancies throughout the centuries, because it is very easy to ovulate and not know it, and TikTok is stoking the myth.

The rhythm method is only about 75% effective with typical use.

Nevertheless #fertilityawareness and #naturalbirthcontrol have received many millions of views on TikTok.

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