Q. I'm sensitive to poison ivy and have had it almost every summer since childhood. At the end of this summer I had a bad case that itched at night (as always). I tried everything I had on hand: cortisone cream, Ivy Itch, alcohol. Finally I grabbed the Vicks VapoRub out of desperation and dabbed it on. It eased my itching immediately. I applied some every night until the poison ivy had cleared up.
I've shared this information with my family, and I'd like to share it with your readers, too.
A. Camphor, one of the main ingredients in Vicks VapoRub, is found in over-the-counter remedies for poison ivy. Others have shared their success using Vicks for the itch of mosquito bites, but this is the first time we have heard of using it for poison ivy.
Q. I have had bad luck with prescription antidepressants. Drugs like Prozac and Effexor make me jittery and ruin my libido. They also seem to wear off over time.
My sister has had excellent results with Saint-John's-wort, but I have never used herbal medicines and would like to know more before I consider such an approach.
A. You might want to ask your physician about the antidepressant Wellbutrin (bupropion), which is far less likely to lower your libido and might even improve your sex drive. It can cause anxiety and insomnia, however.
Saint-John's-wort can be effective in mild to moderate depression but should not be used for severe depression. It does not appear to cause anxiety or sexual side effects the way prescription drugs can.
Q. My husband had been taking Ginkgo biloba and aspirin for almost 10 months when he started to bleed from his nose. The blood was gushing out, and we couldn't stop it, so I took him to the ER, where they cauterized it.
The doctor there said my husband should discontinue the ginkgo, since he was also taking aspirin. He stopped right away and has had no bleeding problems since then. I keep wondering why his own doctor had OK'd the combination.
A. It can be difficult for doctors to find reliable information about herb and drug interactions. There is relatively little research conducted to determine whether such combinations might be dangerous.
Ginkgo can inhibit platelet aggregating factor, a compound that helps blood clot. Apparently this action makes some people vulnerable to excessive bleeding, especially if they are also taking aspirin or other blood thinners.
Q. My 9-year-old dog had been limping for some time until the vet prescribed glucosamine. My dog is now much better, and my vet says it works for humans, too. Will it help me the way it helped my dog?
A. Glucosamine and chondroitin might indeed relieve arthritis for people as well as their pets. Have your cholesterol measured before you start, however, because some readers report their cholesterol levels have risen on this dietary supplement.
In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019, or e-mail them at their Web site (www.peoplespharmacy.com) on the HealthCentral. com network, or at email@example.com.