St. John's Wort might ease symptoms


January 14, 2001|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon | Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon,Special to the Sun; King Features Syndicate

Q.I am worried about my mother. We visited over the holidays, and she just isn't her old self. I'm convinced the problem is her medicine. She has been on so many antidepressants that I have lost count. They have included Prozac, Paxil, Effexor, Zoloft and Celexa. She has suffered from anxiety and restlessness, insomnia, dry mouth and nausea.

Her doctor is ready to give up. She now takes Remeron, but she is tired and dizzy all the time. She is still complaining of dry mouth and constipation. She also has gained weight. Would it be safe for her to try St. John's wort as an alternative?

A.Have your mother discuss St. John's wort with her physician. This herbal medicine has been tested head-to-head against prescription antidepressants and has been shown to be roughly comparable for mild to moderate depression.

It has fewer side effects, but St. John's wort can interact with a great many other drugs, including heart and blood pressure medicines and the blood thinner Coumadin.

Q.My son goes through a lot of lip balm. He puts it on every hour or so. If he goes out without it, he insists I buy him another tube immediately. We've got half-used Chap Stick and Blistex tubes all over the house and in the car. He licks his lips compulsively, but it doesn't do any good. Is there anything we can do besides keep supplying him with this stuff?

A.When humidity drops, many people have trouble with chapped lips. Although we don't know of any danger from lip balm, its use can become a habit that's hard to break. One of the "natural" brands of lip moisturizer containing beeswax, lanolin, coconut oil and other vegetable oils may help keep him from licking his lips, which does dry them out further. You'll find them in health food stores or pharmacies.

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