Olive leaf extract will not cure herpes

People's Pharmacy

January 13, 1998|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon, Ph.D. | Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon, Ph.D.,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

I've recently been diagnosed with genital herpes and treated it with the prescription drug Zovirax.

I would rather use something more natural.

Have any of your readers found alternative treatments that cure it? I read in an herbal book that olive leaf extract works. Is this true?

Herpes infections are caused by a virus that resists cure even by the prescription drugs that control it effectively (Famvir, Valtrex, Zovirax).

These antiviral medications speed healing and, if taken preventively, dramatically reduce the number of outbreaks.

Readers of this column tell us that lysine supplements may also reduce the number of outbreaks, though this approach remains controversial.

As for olive leaf extract, there is little evidence to suggest it can eliminate the virus, and it certainly is not a cure.

For some time now, I have been taking concentrated garlic oil twice a day for heart health. My doctor has also prescribed

Coumadin to thin my blood.

Is one canceling the effect of the other?

On the contrary, there is concern that garlic might interact with Coumadin to thin the blood too much. Garlic alters blood platelets and makes them less likely to stick together and form a clot. Coumadin affects vitamin K, which is also necessary for blood clotting. Taking them together may increase your risk of hemorrhage.

Please discuss this program with your physician and request a blood test before continuing with the garlic.

I read in your column that flax seed can be helpful for constipation. Is it the same thing as cotton seed?

I am allergic to cotton seed oil and flour.

Flax seed is from the plant that produces linen fiber, so it is completely different from cotton seed. We can't predict whether you would be allergic to flax seed.

Do you know of any natural remedies for a dry cough? It's part of a cold, and I cannot tolerate dextromethorphan or codeine.

Look for a cough drop such as horehound, eucalyptus or menthol.

While not cough suppressants per se, these time-honored candies can soothe a tickle and ease a dry hack.

What's the difference between Anacin and Anacin-3? I'm not supposed to take aspirin because I am on Coumadin.

Anacin-3 contains acetaminophen, which will not interact with the blood thinner you take. Plain Anacin, however, contains aspirin. You should avoid it.

Remember to read ingredient lists carefully before you take any over-the-counter medicine.

Dear readers: What's in a name? For drug companies, the right name translates into billions. The wrong name can spell disaster for patients.

Years ago, pharmaceutical manufacturers didn't worry too much about whether names were catchy. Generic names were (and still are) virtually unpronounceable and hard to remember. Try wrapping your tongue around guaifenesin, phenyltoloxamine or trimethobenzamide.

Even brand names can be daunting. Zaroxolyn and Wellbutrin don't have the same appeal as Prozac or Zocor.

Once, marketing of prescription medicines was aimed primarily at physicians. If doctors could remember the name of the drug, the company believed it had a winner. As a result, they often came up with medical terms that described the condition being treated.

Drugs for the heart often include the word "card" for cardiac: Cardene, Cardura, Procardia. Asthma drugs often incorporate the term "vent" to imply ventilation or breathing: Atrovent, Flovent, Proventil, Serevent and Ventolin. Then there is Rhinocort, a cortisone-like drug for allergies ("rhinitis" in medical mumbo-jumbo).

Nowadays, pharmaceutical firms are actively advertising their prescription products directly to consumers.

Drug names need to make sense to ordinary people.

The name of the allergy drug Claritin is catchy and invokes the idea of clearing the nose. Its competitor Allegra is another easy-to-pronounce name that implies energy and pleasant activity. Flumadine tells everyone that it fights the flu.

Some current efforts may not translate easily into everyday speech, though. Fosamax (meant to imply "maximum bone"), Lipitor (for controlling "lipid" or cholesterol levels) and the soon-to-be-approved Propecia (to combat "alopecia" or baldness) may have a harder time with the public.

In addition to being easy to pronounce and remember, it is also important that drug names be distinctive. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

Pharmacy errors are far more common when drugs sound or look alike. In one case a pharmacist mistakenly dispensed the blood pressure pill DynaCirc instead of the antibiotic Dynacin.

Some of the more commonly confused drug names include Xanax (an anti-anxiety drug) with Zantac (an ulcer medicine), hydroxyzine (for hives) with hydralazine (for blood pressure), Lamictal (for epilepsy) with Lamisil (for toenail fungus), and Zyrtec (for allergies) with Zyprexa (for schizophrenia).

Now that so many drug names contains X's and Z's, it becomes more important than ever that patients pay careful attention to what the doctor prescribes and what the pharmacist dispenses. One way to do this is to make a photocopy of the prescription and compare it to the pill bottle you pick up from the drugstore.

If you cannot read your doctor's handwriting, make sure the nurse prints and pronounces the drug name for you. And if you cannot remember it easily, keep that written reminder with you.

In an emergency it could save your life.

Write to Joe and Teresa Graedon in care of Features Department, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278, or send e-mail to pharmacindspring.com.

King Features Syndicate

Pub Date: 1/13/98

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