Jewelweed relieves itch from Poison Ivy

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY

July 03, 2008|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon

When researching my master's thesis for the preservation of a historic road, I hiked the old road with a local man. We walked through a field of shoulder-high plants for about 50 yards when he turned to me and said, "I hope you're not allergic to poison ivy, because this is a field of it."

When I noticed a small spot on one hand starting to itch, the man pulled a weed along a hedgerow where he said it usually grows. He crushed the weed to produce a small amount of liquid and rubbed it on the spot. Within 30 minutes, the spot was completely gone. Any ideas what the plant may be?

Many woodsmen use jewelweed to treat poison ivy. It is said to work if the juice is applied within 15 minutes or so of exposure. Another plant that has traditionally been used against poison ivy is plantain.

Of course, the best defense is to avoid the three-leaved plant in the first place. If that's not possible, applying a barrier cream ahead of time can be helpful. IvyBlock, Ivy Shield and Tecnu are designed to keep irritating poison ivy resin away from the skin. Washing with soap and water shortly after exposure also can help prevent a rash.

I have taken thyroid medication for decades. In addition, I take amitriptyline, calcium, multivitamins, Prempro and aspirin.

My eyebrows have become so sparse that I need to use an eyebrow pencil to look normal. I have also lost hair on my legs and arms, as well as on my head.

When I told my dermatologist this, he suggested I try Rogaine. It hasn't been very effective.

My TSH level is between 5 and 6, and my cholesterol is over 240. I am a vegetarian and eat a very healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables. No matter how much I exercise or watch my diet, I can't seem to lose weight. When I ask my doctor about all this, he dismisses my symptoms as unimportant. I'd be grateful for any advice.

Many of your symptoms, such as high cholesterol, sparse eyebrows, hair loss, depression and trouble losing weight, are consistent with too little thyroid hormone. Your TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) is high, another indication of inadequate thyroid function.

Estrogen (found in Prempro) may affect your thyroid test. Taking thyroid with a multivitamin or calcium could interfere with absorption and effectiveness.

Can glaucoma eyedrops lower heart rate? Ever since I started using timolol, I haven't been able to reach my target heart rate when I exercise.

Timolol (Timoptic) is a beta blocker. It can slow heart rate whether taken orally or as eyedrops.

I have bursitis in my hip. A friend said that she thought you once published a home remedy that helped.

Another reader recently took us to task for not recommending bromelain for bursitis: "This has worked for many people we know. In just a couple of days, the pain is gone. Those who continued to take it for a week after that got rid of their bursitis."

Bromelain is extracted from pineapple. Many animal studies have shown that it has anti-inflammatory and analgesic activity. A clinical trial on people with painful arthritic hips found that bromelain (under the brand name Phlogenzym) was just as effective as the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac (Voltaren) (Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology, January-February 2006).

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: peoplespharmacy.com.

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