Licorice, glaucoma not a good combination


April 10, 2005|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon | Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon,KING FEATURES SYNDICATE

I have glaucoma, diagnosed about 35 years ago. I loved black licorice, but it raised my eye pressure nearly off the charts. A pharmacist friend was curious to see what caused it to rise so rapidly when it had been under control. He discovered that it was due to the licorice. All people with glaucoma should be warned.

Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) has been used medicinally for coughs, digestive problems and inflammation. It is also used to flavor candy and chewing tobacco. But licorice has some potentially serious side effects, including fluid retention, potassium depletion and high blood pressure. Thank you for the warning that it can also raise pressure within the eye.

My husband refuses to wash his hands after using the bathroom or before eating. Instead, he uses a squirt of hand-sanitizer gel. Your reaction?

Researchers at the University of North Carolina did a scientific comparison of various soaps and gels for hand-washing. The subjects' hands were deliberately contaminated with a mix of (harmless) bacteria and viruses and washed for 10 seconds. They were then tested for remaining germs. The scientists found that the best approach is simple soap and water. Even rinsing in plain water can be effective.

Your husband should save his alcohol gel for situations when he doesn't have running water available. Most other times, he's better off washing the old-fashioned way.

I was astonished to hear on the radio that a laxative can be used to remove earwax. Do you have any details?

Consumer Reports on Health (March 2005) reports that a few drops of liquid docusate sodium (Colace, Diocto, Docu) in the ear can help loosen earwax as well as or better than standard products. Leave the laxative in the ear for five or 10 minutes and then rinse gently with tepid water from a soft-bulb ear syringe. People who have perforated an eardrum shouldn't try this remedy.

I was desperate about my itchy, flaky scalp, and you recommended Nizoral shampoo and old-fashioned Listerine. I used the Listerine and Nizoral separately. I left each on my scalp for 10 minutes both days. Now it feels much, much better. Thank you.

We are pleased to learn of your success. Nizoral is an antifungal shampoo that is often effective against the yeast that causes dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis. Old-fashioned Listerine contains alcohol and many herbal oils that also have antifungal activity.

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, N.Y. 10019, or e-mail them via their Web site:

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