Salsa helps ease psoriasis


April 23, 2000|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon | Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon,Special to the Sun; King Features Syndicate

Q. I would like to thank you and the gentleman who wrote to you about salsa relieving the symptoms of psoriasis.

After years of salves, ointments and other topical medications (extremely expensive), I tried salsa, and the psoriasis is slowly disappearing. The only other therapy that helped me was PUVA light treatments, but I worried about skin cancer as a side effect.

I've eaten salsa every other day since your article appeared, with surprisingly good results. I hope other people will benefit.

A. We are pleased to learn of your success with salsa. Andy Flynn in Durham, Maine, told us about his experience eating hot chili peppers.

We were surprised at his chance discovery that spicy food made his psoriasis better.

When we searched the medical literature, we found that dermatologists have used capsaicin (the "hot" in hot peppers) in creams and ointments to treat psoriasis. But until Andy and you wrote to us, we had seen nothing on the benefits of oral capsaicin for this skin condition.

Q. I know I'm sleep-deprived. I rarely go to bed before 11:30 p.m., and it can take me another hour to fall asleep. Then I wake up around 4 a.m. or 5 a.m.

I get droopy after lunch, and some days my memory seems fuzzy. My doctor prescribed Ambien, but I am reluctant to take a sleeping pill every night. Please send me any information on this medication and any natural approaches for insomnia.

A. Like millions of other people, you aren't getting enough sleep. This can lower resistance to infection and interfere with judgment, memory and coordination.

Ambien is a fast-acting sleeping pill, but it occasionally causes daytime drowsiness or dizziness. Natural approaches include herbs such as valerian or kava taken as pills before bedtime.

Q. In 1950 my teacher went to the Mayo Clinic for treatment of crippling arthritis. She was 27 years old and spent six weeks at the clinic. The treatment was a miracle for her.

She was given a formula to continue taking, which she shared with me for my mother. The jar of little black balls in her fridge changed my mother's life. Here it is:

"Remove the stems from 3 pounds of dried figs and grind the figs with 1 1/2 pounds of seeded raisins in a food chopper. Add 3 ounces of powdered senna, 2 ounces of powdered charcoal and 1 ounce of slippery elm, a little at a time. Mix in by hand 3 ounces of olive oil and 1 ounce of glycerin. Make the mixture into balls about the size of a nickel.

"Take one ball night and morning for one week, then one ball a day for six months. This formula makes about 235 balls. Keep them in an icebox or refrigerator in a covered glass jar.

"Upon rising in the morning also take the juice of a lemon in as hot water as possible with 1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar."

A. The mimeograph you sent us certainly looks like it dates to 1950. We don't know whether this "Arthritis Remedy" from Drs. Chas. and Will Mayo will work, but we welcome our readers' reports. We suspect these little black balls are likely to have some laxative effect due to the dried fruit and the senna.

Q. I have a problem with excessive facial hair. Electrolysis is expensive and uncomfortable, so mostly I use tweezers. I saw on TV that there is a new cream to get rid of facial hair. Can you tell me about it?

A. The new cream, Vaniqa, is being reviewed by the FDA. If approved, it will be available by prescription. Vaniqa slows hair growth by interfering with an enzyme in the hair follicle. In one study, it worked on 70 percent of the women who used it. Side effects included stinging, burning or acne.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of the People's Pharmacy, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, N.C. 27717, or e-mail them via their Web site ( on the network.

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