Old St. John's wort sworn by for years

People's Pharmacy

August 26, 1997|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon, Ph.D. | Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon, Ph.D.,SPECIAL TO THE SUN King Features Syndicate

What can you tell us about St. John's wort? My wife saw a TV show that said it is being used in Europe to treat depression.

I am currently on Zoloft, and have taken Prozac in the past. These drugs have helped, but I have had trouble with side effects, especially insomnia and sexual complications. I would very much like to get off Zoloft, though of course I will continue to see my doctor regularly.

If I should need treatment in the future, I would be interested in trying a more natural alternative. Do you have any information I could share with my physician? He is not opposed to herbs, but doesn't know much about them.

St. John's wort is becoming popular in this country as well as in Europe. "Wort" is an old-fashioned word for plant, especially an herb. It came from the Old English word "wyrt," which also gave rise to "root."

St. John's wort, or Hypericum, has been used for centuries to treat a variety of ailments. It was considered a healing ointment when applied to wounds. More recently, it was revived and used as an antidepressant. In Germany, it is even more popular than many prescription drugs for mild depression.

We are sending your our "Guide to Herbal Remedies," which discusses St. John's wort and a number of other popular plant-based products. Anyone who would like a copy may send $2 with a self-addressed, stamped No. 10 envelope to Graedons' People's Pharmacy No. E-257, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, N.C. 27717-2027.

For more specific documentation on St. John's wort, you might want to consult the book "Hypericum and Depression" by Harold Bloomfield et al. (Prelude Press, 1996).

Help! My daughter suffered a grand mal seizure five years ago and has been on Dilantin ever since. The neurologist says she must stay on this drug, but it is wreaking havoc with her other medications. She also takes Zantac, Claritin and Zoloft.

She has been using Lo-Ovral for contraception, but her periods now last two weeks and her cycle is short -- only about two weeks long. Are there any birth control pills that would work better with Dilantin?

She also complains of being tired all the time.

According to your description, your daughter is bleeding most of the time. No wonder she's tired! She may well be anemic with that kind of blood loss.

She needs to discuss her situation with her physician.

Birth control pills are not the preferred method of contraception for her, because Dilantin can reduce the effectiveness of oral contraceptives, leaving a woman vulnerable to pregnancy. Since Dilantin may be associated with birth defects, that could be disastrous.

In addition, oral contraceptives can increase blood levels of Dilantin, leading to symptoms such as unsteadiness, dizziness and trouble speaking clearly.

I never had a problem with sun till two years ago. I am careful to always use sunscreen and never lie in the sun. I do a lot of gardening, though, and work around the house and yard. I also love to walk and ride my bike.

The past two years I've gotten terrible cases of sun poisoning despite the sunscreen. Is there anything you can suggest? My lips are especially sensitive.

People are often careful to apply sunscreen but forget their lips and ears. We suggest you use a lip balm containing sunscreen. Look for a sun protection factor of at least 15.

Since you seem to be susceptible to the sun, you need even more protection. Clothing with a tight weave that covers most of your body can help. And don't forget a broad-brimmed hat to shade your face. Some prescription drugs also can make the skin supersensitive. Ask your pharmacist whether your medications are making you more vulnerable.

Some time ago, you responded to a woman who wanted to know how to sterilize the toilet seat in a public restroom because she feared sitting down. People like her are always causing trouble for the next person, because when they don't sit they make a mess.

All I ask for is a dry toilet seat. If some lady doesn't want to use the seat, I wish she would raise it so it would be dry for me.

We discourage women from crouching over a toilet seat. Besides being inconsiderate, the practice is unhealthy. Studies have shown it is difficult to empty the bladder completely from such a position. Failing to empty the bladder completely can increase the risk of a urinary tract infection.

The solution to the toilet-seat debate is simple. Most pharmacies sell packets of disposable seat covers. A disposable cover allows anyone to sit on a toilet seat comfortably, and the next person doesn't have to deal with dampness.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of this newspaper or e-mail to Pharmacindspring.com.

Pub Date: 8/26/97

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