People's Pharmacy



I thought I heard something recently about infants developing eczema from having a cat in the house. Is that true? I have a new granddaughter who shares her home with a 30-pound Maine coon cat. Is this a problem?

You heard it right, but we can't say whether it will be a problem for your granddaughter. The study tracked 486 babies from birth through one year. At one year, 28 percent of the babies whose families had cats had been diagnosed with eczema, an itchy and uncomfortable rash. In comparison, 18 percent of the feline-free infants had gotten that diagnosis.

Prior research had suggested that pet ownership might help protect children against allergies. That may be true for dogs, but not for cats.

Instead of sunscreen, I take megadoses of vitamin C, which has protected me for more than 20 years against sunburn. I take 3 grams of C each day, and once every year or two I might get a little pink on the most sensitive areas (tip of my nose, neck and shoulders early in the summer); otherwise, the C protects me against the radiation of the sun.

There is some data to suggest that vitamin C might have some modest effects against ultraviolet radiation. A study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology (February 2005) demonstrated that a combination of antioxidants such as vitamins C and E could reduce DNA damage caused by sun exposure.

Do not assume, however, that taking oral vitamins can protect you against harm from the sun's rays. We would encourage you to stay out of the midday sun and also to use sunblock that contains titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.

I just read that if you eat black licorice, it can cause high blood pressure. I have low blood pressure and a slow heart rate. Could I take licorice for this problem? Are there any other health concerns associated with licorice?

While it is true that natural black licorice (glycyrrhiza) can increase blood pressure, do not try this trick at home. Licorice can deplete the body of potassium and alter hormone levels. In addition to lowering testosterone (and libido), regular licorice consumption can cause muscle cramps, headaches, fatigue and irregular heart rhythms.

I read about your home remedy of white raisins soaked in gin to help arthritis pain. I tried this and found only a moderate improvement in arthritis pain. But after two weeks of treatment I noticed a marked improvement in my restless-leg syndrome.

Have others reported this? I used to experience RLS two or three times a week, but have not had a recurrence since beginning the gin/white raisin treatment.

You are the first to suggest that gin-soaked raisins might ease restless legs. In this condition, the sufferer often has a creepy-crawly sensation and an uncontrollable urge to move their legs every few seconds. Some people report a deep pain. Most RLS patients report that it interferes with sleep and affects their quality of life.

Prepare this recipe by putting golden raisins in a shallow container and pouring in just enough gin to cover them. Allow the gin to evaporate, and eat nine a day.

Are you aware of any unorthodox uses of gold in treating illness or used as home remedies? I've heard that wearing gold can ease the discomfort of menstruating women, for example.

One unorthodox remedy involves rubbing a gold ring until it is warm and then applying it to a sty on the eyelid. The ancient Romans reportedly used gold salves to treat skin ulcers.

There are also Food and Drug Administration-approved uses for gold. Rheumatologists prescribe gold shots (Myochrysine) or oral gold pills (Ridaura) to treat rheumatoid arthritis.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of this newspaper or e-mail them via their Web site:

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