Heat may damage herbs, vitamins

People's Pharmacy

August 09, 1998|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon | Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon,SPECIAL TO THE SUN King Features Syndicate

Q. I remember reading in your column that heat can be bad for medicines. Since I don't take any drugs, I didn't pay any attention. Yesterday I received a delivery of vitamins and herbs. The temperature outside was over 95, and it must have been well over 100 in the back of the delivery truck since my package was so warm. Can heat ruin vitamins or herbs such as ginkgo, St. John's wort or saw palmetto?

A. Heat and humidity can degrade many compounds, natural as well as synthetic. Manufacturers recommend that most pharmaceuticals be stored at room temperature, between 68 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Brief temperature spikes to 86 degrees are considered acceptable.

We have long been concerned about mail-order services that send medicines in trucks without air conditioning. Summer shipments to pharmacies may pose a similar problem. Temperatures in delivery vehicles can easily rise to over 120 degrees.

Herbs and vitamins are probably not immune to such heat. Cooks know that herbs used to flavor food should not be stored in warm places or they lose their potency. If you're planning to order more herbs, you may wish to delay until the heat abates.

Q. Last month I rear-ended another car because I was drowsy There wasn't much damage, but it scared the heck out of me. After the accident I asked my doctor for help with my sleeping problem, and he prescribed Ambien. It works, but I'm worried that I am relying on it too much. I've been taking either Ambien or Tylenol PM every night. I'd much prefer a more natural way to get the sleep I need. Are there any herbs I could try instead of Ambien?

A. Like many Americans, you could be chronically sleep-deprived. Millions are not getting the recommended eight hours nightly, often because of work pressures or activities such late-night television. Someone who has a hard time getting up when the alarm goes off may as a consequence suffer from a weakened immune system, forgetfulness, impaired attention or slow reflexes. Infections or accidents could result.

Herbs such as hops, St. John's wort and valerian have traditionally been used to treat sleeplessness. You may also benefit from other non-drug approaches, such as relaxation tapes or a high-tryptophan or a high-carbohydrate bedtime snack such as milk and graham crackers.

Ambien (zolpidem) is less likely than previous sleeping pills to cause dependence or next-day drowsiness. But you are wise not to rely on any sleeping pill indefinitely.

Q. I am responding to the recipe for bed sores credited to Dr Richard Knutson. I take exception to that antiquated treatment of Betadine and granulated sugar.

Betadine is known to kill cells, which is why it is used as a surgical scrub. On a wound it can slow healing, which is counterproductive. Gentle cleansing with saline solution is all that is usually needed.

A. You are not the only nurse who wrote to alert us to the dangers of Betadine for bed sores. Antiseptics in general are not good for wounds. The old practice of pouring iodine or alcohol on kids' cuts and scratches is no longer recommended.

Write to the Graedons in care of The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278, or e-mail to pharmacindspring.com.

Pub Date: 8/09/98

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