Zinc may not fight colds

People's Pharmacy

September 27, 1998|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon | Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon,SPECIAL TO THE SUN King Features Syndicate

Q. I am disillusioned with zinc lozenges. My son came down with an awful cold. I loaded him up with vitamin C and zinc, but he still sniffled and coughed and was miserable for a week. I thought zinc was supposed to help people get better fast.

A. The use of zinc to treat the common cold is controversial. Several studies showed that this mineral helped people recover more quickly, but new research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association contradicts this.

Children and teens taking zinc lozenges recovered from their colds in nine days, just like those taking placebo lozenges. Kids on zinc, however, had more side effects, including nausea and a bad aftertaste.

Q. Can herbs make fibrocystic breasts worse? My family doctor said to avoid estrogen because it might increase my risk of breast cancer and could aggravate the cysts.

My gynecologist urged me to take hormone replacement therapy to keep my bones strong. I opted for an herbal solution with black cohosh, soy, red clover and dong quai. Now my breasts are lumpy and tender. I suspect the herbs are responsible. Is there any way to get the benefits of estrogen without the problems?

A. The herbs you take contain plant estrogens. Many postmenopausal women find they relieve hot flashes and other symptoms. No one knows how these phytoestrogens affect the breast. You might be right that the herbal combination made your breast symptoms worse. No long-term research shows whether any of these herbs protect bones as estrogen does or how they affect the risk of breast cancer.

You may want to ask your doctor if Evista (raloxifene) would be appropriate for you. This medicine acts like estrogen to strengthen bone, but it has anti-estrogen effects in the breast.

Q. Several months ago, I began to feel faint and breathless, with my heart beating in my throat. At first, this happened only when I was driving my car, but then it happened almost anywhere. After a complete physical, my doctor diagnosed me with panic disorder and prescribed Xanax.

I no longer have these attacks, but I have a frustrating side effect: I am unable to have an orgasm, or at least not very often. My husband is understanding, but this has me depressed. I think the drug has also affected my coordination.

Before taking Xanax, I tried St. John's wort, valerian root, kava kava and vitamins, but only Xanax works. I won't stop taking it for fear of never being able to drive again. Is there an herb that could counteract the negative side effects?

A. We do not know of any herbs that can restore orgasms or counteract the unsteadiness caused by Xanax (alprazolam). Please reconsider driving while taking Xanax, since it can affect judgment and reaction time.

You might benefit from another approach to controlling panic. We have been impressed with Dr. Reid Wilson's book and self-help kit called "Don't Panic." For more information: 800-394-2299.

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

Pub Date: 9/27/98

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