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People’s Pharmacy: Chocolate bar boosts aspirin power

Q. I take aspirin for arthritis pain. It’s the only painkiller that works for me, but sometimes if I have a headache, the aspirin doesn’t seem to work.

A fellow worker suggested that I eat a chocolate candy bar when that happens. Though I was skeptical, I tried one. The combination worked, and it has ever since. What’s in chocolate that helps? It’s great that something so delicious is a painkiller!

A. Many over-the-counter headache remedies contain caffeine along with aspirin and acetaminophen. This combination can be quite effective for migraines (Headache, March 2006).

Although chocolate does not have much caffeine, it does contain a similar compound called theobromine. Perhaps the theobromine is working together with aspirin to ease your headache pain.

We should note that some people with migraines report that chocolate triggers their headaches, so this delightful remedy may not work for everyone.

Q. Do you know of any home remedies for help in relieving symptoms of eczema? When humidity is low, my skin condition is aggravated something awful. It gets dry, itchy, red and ugly where it cracks and peels.

A. This time of year is exceptionally rough on skin conditions such as eczema or dry skin. There are many remedies that may work together to ease symptoms.

One reader had success by putting Pepto-Bismol on the itchy patches. Others report that old-fashioned Noxzema skin cream can ease symptoms. Another moisturizer, CeraVe, also has supporters.

We have summarized these and many other options in our Guide to Skin Care and Treatment. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (61 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. SL-28, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It also can be downloaded for $2 from our website: www.peoplespharmacy.com.

Some readers also find oral supplements helpful. Old-fashioned additions such as cod-liver oil and brewer’s yeast have provided some people with good results; others use probiotics as well as fatty-acid supplements such as borage oil or hempseed oil. Oolong tea has been tested scientifically and found to be effective in treating eczema (Archives of Dermatology, January 2001).

Q. I frequently have heartburn when I eat spicy foods. Recently, a bartender offered a concoction of club soda and bitters. He mixed six drops of bitters with a shot glass of soda. It worked instantly to relieve my heartburn. I now keep bitters and soda at home, and it is effective every time.

A. Bitters have been used for hundreds of years to improve appetite or relieve indigestion. They contain an extract of herbs and barks. Bartenders use a few drops of bitters in certain mixed drinks such as Bloody Mary, Manhattan, mojito or Old-Fashioned.

Q. I want to let you know about something that stunned me. I have suffered from restless leg syndrome (RLS) for nearly 35 years. A friend casually mentioned that pie cherries had helped her leg pain and thought maybe they would help my RLS.

I was skeptical, since I have tried many treatments, including medications. I had been on Mirapex for years and recently had to increase the dose. Nevertheless, RLS was troubling me day and night.

I started eating pie cherries (about two dozen with their juice) each day. I have not had RLS for two weeks since I began.

Q. Thanks for sharing your story. People also tell us that pie cherries may sometimes ease gout pain.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. E-mail them via their Web site: www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.


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