People's Pharmacy

People's Pharmacy

April 27, 2007|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon | Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon,

A lot of attention has been given recently to the benefits of dark chocolate for lowering blood pressure. A television report said that eating chocolate is as good as some blood pressure medicines.

However, in the studies from which this conclusion was drawn, the average systolic pressure was only lowered 5 points and the diastolic pressure by about 3 points.

While this is in the right direction, these numbers are hardly anything to get excited about. Why are people so enthusiastic about such limited results?

No one is suggesting that people eat chocolate instead of taking blood pressure medicine. You might be surprised to learn, however, that even standard blood pressure pills don't lower blood pressure much more. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Nov. 10, 2004) found the popular medications Norvasc (amlopidine) and Vasotec (enalapril) lowered systolic pressure by 5 points and diastolic by about 2.5 points.

I read about the person who ate ice all the time. I too ate ice excessively. When I started taking an iron tablet every day, the craving stopped. Eating ice can ruin your teeth. After eating ice, I had two caps come loose.

Thanks for the word of warning. We suggest anyone with strange cravings, whether for ice, laundry starch or popcorn, be tested for iron or zinc deficiency. Correcting the deficiency may ease the craving.

I take 600 mg to 1,200 mg of Motrin every day for headaches. My doctor wants me to take aspirin for my heart. Is there a conflict?

The ibuprofen (Motrin) you take may counteract the heart-protecting power of aspirin. What's more, so much ibuprofen can create a vicious cycle of headaches. Please discuss this with a headache specialist.

Do you know of any ointment, poultice or herb that will get rid of skin tags? I had a dermatologist examine me. He told me this skin tag was not dangerous, but the cost of removing a small skin tag was beyond my budget.

We have heard from several readers about a completely unorthodox technique for getting rid of these small benign growths on the skin. A liquid bandage called New-Skin is applied repeatedly to the skin tag for a couple of weeks.

Here is one reader's testimonial: "I just wanted to thank the person who wrote in about using liquid bandage on skin tags. I had a small skin tag that came off in a couple of days. A rather large skin tag that bothered me a lot came off in about two weeks. I feel like my shoulder is pounds lighter."

This technique doesn't work for everyone, but we have heard from many readers who have had success with this low-tech approach.

I would like to know the formula you once printed about using bitters for flatulence.

The Angostura bitters label suggests taking one to four teaspoonfuls after meals for flatulence. Some readers put it in club soda or 7Up to mask the bitter taste.

My husband has difficulty with his daily bowel movement. We eat dark bread and yogurt every day. He drinks milk, but it does not seem to be helping the constipation. He is bloated and feels uncomfortable. Any help would be appreciated.

The milk he is drinking might be part of the problem. Many people who are lactose-intolerant develop diarrhea, but some experience bloating.

Increasing fiber and fluid is a good first step. Brown bread may not have enough fiber to do the job. Try "power pudding" instead: Mix 1 cup coarse bran, 1 cup applesauce and 3/4 cup prune juice. Refrigerate and then take one to two tablespoons daily and wash it down with lots of water.

You recently had a question from a person with arthritic fingers who can't use anti-inflammatory drugs because of an ulcer. Many years ago, an old man who'd had arthritis in his fingers so bad he could hardly move them told me of his secret: a teaspoon of cayenne a day in a small glass of tomato juice.

When I got an arthritis attack in my hip, I started taking cayenne. I found that 1/4 teaspoon a day in a tall glass of orange juice works for me.

We've heard of lots of arthritis remedies through the years, but we've never heard about swallowing cayenne. It is a time-honored ingredient in arthritis rubs, however.

I am a 35-year-old woman who lives a very active and busy life. I work three jobs and have a family with three teenage boys. I've been on Wellbutrin XL for two years now for anxiety. I've also been taking Adipex (phentermine) to lose weight. It has helped me lose 40 pounds. The problem is that my sex drive also has dwindled. My husband and I used to have sex at least twice a week. Now it's maybe once or twice a month.

It is possible that your weight-loss drug could have affected your sex drive. Changes in libido are reported with phentermine.

Sexual interest may be one of the first casualties of stress, anxiety and overwork. You and your husband might need to talk about this issue and see if there is some way to carve out a little time to relax together.

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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