Q. Ice-cream headaches cure my hangovers. I’ve read that it helps send more blood to the brain as a defense mechanism to try to keep the brain warm. I’m assuming the increased circulation helps my brain recover from the effect of the alcohol.
A. When we first heard from readers that inducing “brain freeze” by eating ice cream quickly could stop a migraine headache, we were astonished.
Then a group of scientists reported on research in which they triggered brain freeze in volunteers by having them drink ice water. Sophisticated Doppler equipment measured blood flow within the subjects’ heads and found that the pain of brain freeze began when an artery just above the palate started to dilate, presumably to protect the brain from getting too cold.
It seems that this change in blood-vessel diameter might be related to the effect on migraine headaches. We don’t have any theories on why it might help a hangover headache, though.
Q. I was listening to your radio program when a physician called in about the benefits of using vinegar for heartburn. He didn’t indicate the type of vinegar or the dosage.
That very day I experienced bad heartburn. I had dark-chocolate balsamic vinegar on hand and took about half a teaspoon. The taste was pleasant. To my amazement, my heartburn was gone within a couple of minutes.
A. The caller, Dr. Charles, was an ear, nose and throat specialist. He expressed concern about the overuse of omeprazole (Prilosec) and other powerful acid-suppressing drugs to treat routine heartburn. He suggested taking vinegar instead of medications to ease heartburn symptoms, especially when withdrawing from such medications.
We discuss a wide range of nondrug approaches to easing reflux in our Guide to Digestive Disorders. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (65 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. G-3, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It also can be downloaded for $2 from our website: www.peoplespharmacy.com.>
Because medications like omeprazole can cause rebound hyperacidity when they are stopped, it is sometimes difficult to get off them. Our guide provides advice on this, along with a recipe for persimmon-ginger tea to ease the discomfort.
Q. I have been dealing with eczema and skin allergies for about two years. My arms, neck and face were always red and itchy.
I have used lots of prescription creams. They would work briefly, but the problems always came back in a couple of days. The prescriptions also took the color out of my skin, so I had red and white patches on my arms.
In December, I started drinking a cup or two of oolong tea daily after reading about it in The People’s Pharmacy. My skin hasn’t looked this good in years! So far the eczema has not returned, and my skin doesn’t itch. I would absolutely recommend oolong tea for eczema.
A. Oolong tea is a traditional Chinese tea that falls somewhere between green tea and black tea. When leaves are plucked from the Camellia sinensis plant, they are either steamed quickly (green tea) or allowed to dry and turn black (oxidize) in the sun (black tea). Oolong is partially oxidized, providing its distinctive flavor.
Japanese researchers reported more than a decade ago that drinking oolong tea could help control eczema (Archives of Dermatology, January 2001).