Q. I am a mosquito magnet. The only thing that eases the itch is to put my poor bitten legs under hot running water. Tap water is hot enough.
After I have been out feeding the mosquitoes, I just come in and take a hot shower or an appendage bath and don’t have to suffer more.
A. We first discovered this home remedy for itchy bug bites and mild poison ivy in a dermatology textbook from 1961 (“Dermatology: Diagnosis and Treatment”). The hot water (hot enough to be uncomfortable but not hot enough to burn) needs to be applied for just a few seconds to short-circuit the nerves that cause itching. The effects can last for a few hours.
Q. What can you tell me about red yeast rice? Is it really good for lowering cholesterol levels, and are there any side effects?
A. Red yeast rice (RYR) can help in lowering cholesterol. In one study, researchers recruited people who had high cholesterol but had discontinued statin-type drugs because of muscle pain or weakness. They were randomized to RYR or a placebo. Those taking red yeast rice lowered both bad LDL and total cholesterol significantly and did not suffer serious side effects (Annals of Internal Medicine, June 16, 2009).
We are sending you our Guide to Cholesterol Control and Heart Health with more details on RYR and other natural ways to lower lipids and reduce the risk of heart disease. 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. C-8, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It also can be downloaded for $2 from our website: www. peoplespharmacy.com.
There are natural statins in red yeast rice, so it is not surprising that some readers have reported muscle problems while taking this supplement. Anyone who takes RYR should be under medical supervision.
Q. I am a nurse, and one of my patients has a success story that may interest you. His pre-surgical tests showed an HbA1c above 8, indicating that his blood sugar had been above normal for months. He decided to start taking a cinnamon supplement.
When I saw him two months later, his HbA1c was 6.0. Wow! He’s also been taking a teaspoon of yellow mustard, which contains vinegar and turmeric, after every meal. It muddies the research, but it has been good for him.
A. Thanks so much for sharing this story. HbA1c is a blood test that reveals long-term blood-sugar control. Keeping the level below 7 is considered desirable.
Not everyone benefits from cinnamon, but we have heard from readers that a supplement can be helpful. There is even some research to support this approach (Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology, May 2010). Both vinegar and turmeric can help reduce the rise in blood sugar after eating, so we’re not surprised that mustard might be beneficial, too.
Q. I read your article on pinworms. As a child I had several episodes with this parasite. Because I vomited up the meds that were prescribed, my mother called the doctor, and he said to put sliced garlic on buttered bread and have me eat the “garlic sandwich.”
That was the end of pinworms. Never had another attack, and I still love garlic to this day.
A. Garlic is an old-fashioned remedy for pinworms. We could find no scientific validation for this approach, but others have shared similar stories of success. The medicines (albendazole, mebendazole or pyrantel pamoate) also work quite well.