Insect sting eases osteoarthritis


July 31, 2008|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon

I was stung on my left leg five times by yellow jackets. I have osteoarthritis in my left knee, and the pain has been gone since I was stung. I'm hoping that it will last! If I had a choice, though, I would definitely pick honeybee stings over yellow jackets, as they're much less painful.

You're not the first person to share such a story with us. Years ago, a reader wrote: "While snoozing on the porch, I was stung on the finger by a tiny bee. The result: intense pain and, after that, a great reduction of arthritis in my arm."

Early in the 20th century, doctors used bee-venom therapy to treat arthritis. Hospital pharmacies even stocked bee venom for these injections. After World War II, though, this approach appeared antiquated and unscientific and was no longer widely used.

Apitherapy, which uses bee stings medicinally, is undergoing a resurgence. Some proponents claim that honeybee stings can alleviate the pain of arthritis, shingles or tendinitis. Yellow jackets can be dangerous, however, and should not be used.

People allergic to bee stings must avoid this approach, since the reaction can be lethal.

I read in your column about persimmon punch helping ease acid reflux. I have terrible reflux and would love to know how to make this drink. Can you please tell me?

The original report on persimmon punch helping reflux came from a woman who sampled it in a Korean restaurant. She had tried unsuccessfully to stop taking her acid-suppressing drug, but the heartburn kept coming back: "Someone ordered persimmon punch, a concentrated cinnamon-ginger drink, for dessert. A few sips later, I felt fantastic. After a month of adding 3 tablespoons of the cinnamon-ginger drink to my tea morning and night, my heartburn was in control."

We found the following recipe for persimmon punch on the Food Network Web site, courtesy of Hyungshin Song: Combine 2 quarts of water, 1/2 cup of thinly sliced fresh ginger and 3 cinnamon sticks. Simmer for 1/2 hour. Strain the liquid and stir in 1 1/2 cup sugar and 1 cup of sliced dried persimmons. Chill in the refrigerator overnight and serve cold.

While I was working at a restaurant, one of our chefs was burned badly by a fryer. I happened to be in the kitchen when it happened, and the manager screamed, "Get me a fresh onion out of the walk-in refrigerator." I didn't ask questions; I just got it. He asked me to cut it in half and give it to him, which I did. He squeezed the fresh onion juice on the chef's burn. What was amazing was not only that it calmed the awful pain but also that the burned skin never blistered! The manager later explained to me that it must be a fresh-cut onion. I proved that later when, in another restaurant, I got burned and I reached for onions that were cut up that morning. That didn't work, so then I cut a fresh onion. Seconds count when it comes to a burn. That happened back in the '80s, and I have sworn by it every time. It always works! Something about the chemical of the onion juice works wonders.

Thank you for sharing your experience. We have heard of using cut onion on wasp or bee stings, but not on a burn. First aid for a burn is soaking it in cold water immediately. After that, if the skin is intact, a home remedy such as cut onion might be worth a try. Soy sauce is another kitchen remedy for burns. Obviously, a severe burn requires medical attention.

I would like to take red yeast rice as a supplement to lower my cholesterol. But I heard that in 2007, the Food and Drug Administration restricted sales of red yeast rice if it contained lovastatin, the ingredient in Mevacor. Is that true, or can I still buy red yeast rice containing lovastatin?

Red yeast rice was first introduced to the American market in the mid-1990s under the name Cholestin. A standard dose contained a small amount of lovastatin (less than half as much as a 20 milligram prescription-strength Mevacor pill).

The FDA challenged Cholestin on the grounds that it was an unapproved drug. Cholestin has since been reformulated, but there are many other red yeast rice products on the market. The FDA has warned consumers to avoid this compound, even though it does lower cholesterol.

A recent analysis by Consumer shows that red yeast rice supplements "vary by more than 100-fold, with some providing as much lovastatin as prescription medication and others containing very little." Some products were contaminated with citrinin, a potentially toxic chemical.

Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them via their Web site:

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