Exotic herb ciwujia's safety could still be a question mark

People's Pharmacy

November 25, 1997|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon, Ph.D. | Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon, Ph.D.,SPECIAL TO THE SUN King Features Syndicate

What's the story on ciwujia? I am a long-distance runner and work out at the gym. A lot of my fitness-oriented friends take a supplement that contains this herb. It's supposed to boost energy and improve endurance. I would like to know more about this stuff before I start popping pills.

You stumped us at first. None of our herbal references covered ciwujia. But with the help of the North Carolina health science librarians, we found it in the Chinese Materia Medica.

Ciwujia has been used traditionally for treating low back and knee problems, particularly weakness and soreness. It appears to have a ginseng-like action against fatigue, helping mice climb ropes more efficiently and rats swim longer.

Most human studies have been done abroad, primarily in China and Russia. Investigators report that this herb has low toxicity and may be helpful for conditions ranging from arthritis and altitude sickness to insomnia and exhaustion.

Whether it would be helpful or safe for physical training, however, we cannot say.

I work in a hospital and have to wash my hands every time I go into a patient's room. I'm also cautious about picking up germs from telephones, doorknobs and elevator buttons. I already had one bad cold this winter and don't want another.

My hands are in terrible shape -- chapped, rough and red from all the washing. A few of my fingertips have split so that it hurts to write with a pen.

I have tried lots of moisturizers including Vaseline Intensive Care, Moisturel, Jergens and Nivea. They are all OK but have not solved my problem.

Someone at work said you have written about cheap but effective animal moisturizers. I have never heard of an animal moisturizer.

Please tell me more.

The animal in question is a cow. Readers of this column sing the praises of Bag Balm and Udder Cream for dry, chapped hands. Although these products were originally developed for barnyard use, they seem to work well for people. Bag Balm has an antiseptic ingredient but is very greasy and has a distinctive odor. You may find that Udder Cream is more cosmetically acceptable.

Whatever moisturizer you choose, we suggest you apply it liberally at bedtime. Protect your sheets with cotton gloves available from a photographic supply store.

We are sending you our Guide to Skin Care and Treatment, in which we discuss dry skin, wrinkles and moisturizers and tell how to order the barnyard beauty aids if you can't find them locally. Anyone else who would like a copy may send $2 with a long (No.10) stamped, self-addressed envelope to Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No. S-794, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, N.C. 27717-2027.

If the cow creams don't help, you may need to see your doctor. A checkup and a prescription for Lac-Hydrin might be in order.

In a recent column a reader related an experience with St. John's wort. The person had trouble urinating and had to be hospitalized.

I too have taken St. John's wort (along with valerian root) to help me sleep.

When I experienced nightmares and a change in urination, I got frightened and stopped both herbs. The problem disappeared and I am convinced St. John's wort is not for me.

We do not know if St. John's wort can cause urinary difficulties. There is limited data on long-term consequences of herbal medicines, especially in combination with other compounds. Without regulation or research people are on their own, so anyone who experiences side effects should stop the herb promptly.

Our 14-year-old Labrador retriever is in poor health. He has arthritis and heart disease.

I cannot bear the thought of taking him to the vet to be put to sleep because it is so difficult for him to get into the car, and he is too heavy for me to lift. He also hates going to the vet due to

traumatic procedures in the past.

I have heard that aspirin is toxic for pets and can kill them. If I mashed up a dozen aspirin tablets in canned dog food and gave them to him, would that be a humane way to put him out of his misery?

Please do not consider this tactic. You could do far more harm than good, leading to prolonged agony for your pet as well as a final trip to the vet after all.

Aspirin can be very irritating to a dog's digestive tract, leading to hemorrhaging. A perforated ulcer would be a horrible way for your dog to die.

The veterinarian's approach is far more humane. We encourage you to get some assistance in transporting your dog to the vet.

I'm 43 years old and being treated for depression. I was on Prozac for about a year, but then it lost its effectiveness for me. The doctor switched me to Paxil. I took it until it started to wear off, too. After a short time on Zoloft, I was prescribed Effexor.

Effexor is working well, but I have no sex drive to speak of, which has been an ongoing problem with these drugs. My doctor told me to try stopping Effexor on Thursday so that my wife and I could have a romantic anniversary weekend, but it was a dismal failure. I felt much too sick to make love. I had a horrible headache, cold sweats, nausea and dizziness.

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