Natural cold remedies may be better choice for kids


November 03, 2008|By JOE AND TERESA GRAEDON

I have read that cold medicines for children continue to be sold even though they have not been thoroughly tested. Sadly, some businesses are quick to put out OTC medications just to turn a profit (and a rather large one at that). After all, if it promises a miracle, what parent of a sick child wouldn't spend money for it?

Unfortunately, I work in a business that uses that trick time and again. I definitely don't like the lack of standards for children's OTC cold products.

For years, millions of young children have been dosed with ineffective and potentially harmful cough and cold remedies. Pediatricians have been lobbying the Food and Drug Administration to crack down on the manufacturers of these medications. Under this pressure, the companies recently agreed not to market these products for children younger than 4.

We're not confident that older children will benefit either. In lieu of drugstore nostrums, home remedies may offer a safer approach. Some pediatricians suggest chicken soup for colds or honey and lemon for coughs. For a discussion of natural ways to boost the immune system and fight off colds, you may want to listen to a podcast of our radio show No. 664 with Dr. Tieraona Low Dog at

Can Aleve sometimes cause drowsiness? I only take one pill, but later I find myself dozing off. Is there a hidden ingredient that causes this? Am I the only one who experiences this problem?

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as OTC ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) and naproxen (Aleve) or prescription products like diclofenac (Cataflam, Voltaren), indomethacin (Indocin) and meloxicam (Mobic) can sometimes cause drowsiness, dizziness or confusion.

You are not the only one who gets sleepy or spacey on medications such as Advil or Aleve. A nurse who wrote to us several years ago reported that ibuprofen made her mentally foggy. She feared early-onset Alzheimer's disease, but found that stopping the NSAID improved her mental status.

We have prepared a Guide to Alternatives for Arthritis with a discussion of the pros and cons of medicines such as prednisone and NSAIDs as well as nondrug approaches for easing joint pain. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (59 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No. AA-2, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It also can be downloaded for $2 from our Web site at

I would like to know if there are any herbs used for penis enlargement. I am interested in natural approaches to growing body hair and improving potency.

Despite extravagant claims that pills can increase penis size, the Food and Drug Administration has not approved any product for this purpose. Urologists we have consulted tell us that there is nothing you could take that would noticeably change your anatomy.

Environmental contamination with estrogenlike compounds may be affecting penis size in babies. Phthalates are used in certain plastics to make them more flexible. A recent study found that among baby boys, those with the highest levels of phthalates in their bodies had the smallest genitals.

We don't know of a safe way to increase body-hair growth. There are a couple of herbs shown to be helpful in treating impotence. One is yohimbe, which comes from the bark of an African tree. The other is horny goat weed (Epimedium brevicornum), a Chinese herb. Italian researchers have found that this natural product has Viagra-like activity (Journal of Natural Products, September 2008).

About six years ago, I had trouble with statin cholesterol-lowering drugs. My muscles and joints got very sore. Then a friend suggested red yeast rice. The results were amazing.

At that time, my doctor required a lab test for cholesterol every six months. He was amazed to learn I was using red yeast rice instead of Lipitor.

My cholesterol had dropped from 270 to 178. My LDL, HDL and triglycerides were all in the desirable range.

Red yeast rice has been used for centuries in China to flavor, color and help preserve food. It has also been used in traditional Chinese medicine to promote circulation.

Red yeast rice contains natural compounds related to the statins in cholesterol-lowering drugs such as lovastatin. A 5,000-person study in China demonstrated that taking red yeast rice can cut the risk of a second heart attack nearly in half (American Journal of Cardiology, June 15, 2008). It also cut the need for angioplasty or stents by a third.

The researchers say subjects experienced only mild side effects, including digestive upset and temporary liver enzyme elevation. No one should take red yeast rice without medical supervision, though. Some people who are susceptible to muscle pain when they take statins may also experience this problem when they take red yeast rice.

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