Licorice blamed for lower levels of testosterone, other problems

People's Pharmacy

August 11, 2002|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon | Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon,Special to the Sun; King Features Syndicate

Q. I understand that eating licorice lowers testosterone levels in men. Will it have the same impact on testosterone levels in women? Could this hormonal effect be a solution to eliminating unwanted facial hair in women?

A. An Italian study published in 1999 in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that men who eat licorice have lower circulating testosterone levels. Although this herb might also lower testosterone levels in women, the risks might be too great.

Licorice has a number of potential side effects, including high blood pressure, fatigue, mineral imbalance and loss of libido. A report last month in the Lancet describes a Chinese man with muscle weakness and a serious shortage of potassium due to a licorice-containing medicine he was taking.

There are better options for controlling facial hair in women, but they require a doctor's prescription. The diuretic spironolactone has long been used for this purpose. Vaniqa cream is also effective.

Q. I keep reading that tea might have benefits over coffee because of its antioxidants. Caffeine makes me jittery, so I prefer decaffeinated tea. Does decaffeinated tea retain its antioxidant potency?

A. Recent studies demonstrate that tea drinkers are less likely to suffer a heart attack and less likely to die if they do have a heart attack. Researchers speculate that antioxidants in tea are responsible.

Both green and black tea contain caffeine, although the dose per cup is substantially lower than that in coffee. Decaffeination does seem to remove many beneficial antioxidant compounds in addition to caffeine.

Q. I had a small wart on the back of my hand that the dermatologist treated with liquid nitrogen. Two applications did not work.

Next I tried taping a small piece of banana peel, wet side to skin, over the wart. With diligent use of the banana peel, the wart has gone and not returned. Why would banana peel work?

A. We have heard from others that banana peel used in this way can banish warts, but we have no idea why.

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