Dad's daily medicinal wine may actually be good for him

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY

January 20, 2002|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon | Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon,Special to the Sun; King Features Syndicate

Q. My father drinks one or two glasses of red wine daily. He insists it is his "medicine," keeping his heart and brain healthy. It has become a family joke, especially because he insists that it has to be good wine. We asked him where he got this idea, and he cited your newspaper column. Is Dad's "medicine" really as good for him as he says, or is this just an excuse?

A. Scientific studies document the value of moderate wine consumption in reducing the risk of Alzheimer's and heart disease. The most recent research comes from Italy, where investigators studied more than 15,000 people over age 65. Those who regularly consumed some wine with meals were significantly less likely to show signs of mental decline than teetotalers.

Heavy drinking has a detrimental effect on mental abilities as people age, however. And alcohol can interact dangerously with many medications, including aspirin, acetaminophen and some blood pressure drugs like verapamil.

Q. My teen-age daughter had three warts on her foot. We heard that vinegar might get rid of them, so we tried it. The vinegar soaks worked like a charm.

A. We have heard from many others that vinegar can be effective against warts. Warts on the sole of the foot, called plantar warts, can be hard to treat. But according to a report in the Cleveland Clinic Quarterly, they often respond to soaking the feet 30 to 90 minutes weekly in warm water (110 degrees). Adding 1 part vinegar to 4 parts water might improve the chance of a cure.

Q. My mother heard from her brother that cod liver oil is good for arthritis, so she is taking a tablespoon of this foul-tasting stuff at least once a day and sometimes twice. Is there any evidence that it could be beneficial?

A. Fish oil is high in omega-3 fatty acids and might have some anti-inflammatory action. This could ease arthritis symptoms for some people.

There is a drawback to cod liver oil, however. It is high in vitamin A. Swedish researchers have reported that women getting too much vitamin A from regular doses of cod liver oil are more prone to weak bones and hip fractures.

A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association confirms that excessive vitamin A in the diet can contribute to osteoporosis and fractures. Your mother should consider a different form of fish oil and consult her doctor about the appropriate dose.

Q. I am only 25, but have had several blood clots in my legs that caused intense leg pain and swelling. One episode occurred several days after a long flight from Tokyo.

The doctor put me on Coumadin for six months, but I no longer need to take it. Would aspirin prevent a blood clot when I fly again, or is there an herb that might work?

A. Aspirin does not appear to be very effective in avoiding deep-vein thrombosis, nor are we aware of any herbs for this purpose.

Compression hosiery, however, can be helpful in preventing blood clots from forming in the legs. Search for compression hosiery on the Internet to find suppliers.

Q. I have a thyroid problem for which I take Levoxyl. I also have mild high blood pressure, which I try to control with a low-salt diet.

Whenever I come down with a cold or sinus trouble, I have a hard time finding anything that I can use safely. Almost all the cold and flu remedies caution against using them if you have thyroid disease, diabetes or high blood pressure. Are there any natural remedies that I can use safely?

A. As long as you avoid ephedra (ma huang), you should be able to use almost any natural cold remedy, including herbs that stimulate the immune system, like Astragalus, echinacea and Andrographis paniculata (Kan Jang). Products to relieve cold symptoms such as zinc, vitamin C and ginger are also beneficial.

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 pharmacy@mindspring. com.

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