Q: I have a question regarding trigeminal neuralgia. My mother suffers from this very painful condition.
Carbamazepine is effective in stopping the pain, but it has side effects that she doesn’t tolerate, even at low doses. Surgery is not an option for her.
Are there any other treatments that provide relief for the pain? I find myself wondering if medical marijuana might help because it has been noted to help with other types of nerve pain.
A: Trigeminal neuralgia is a disruption of the nerve to the face and head that causes intermittent excruciating pain. It may feel like an electric shock or a burning sensation that can last from seconds to several minutes. This pain can be disabling and is hard to treat, though some patients get relief from anticonvulsants such as carbamazepine.
The possibility of using medical marijuana (cannabis) was suggested in a medical journal article (Current Drug Targets – CNS and Neurological Disorders, December 2004). Research in rats indicates that cannabinoids (the compounds from marijuana) might be helpful for easing the pain of trigeminal neuralgia (Neuropharmacology, July 2007).
We also received this message on the use of a cannabinoid for pain:
“I need a shoulder replacement, but because I must use my arms to get on and off my power wheelchair, the operation would be risky. During physical therapy recently, I got a recommendation for something called CBD (cannabidiol). This is a compound in marijuana, but the THC has been removed so it does not make me high.
“I buy it online and have used two squirts of CBD oil in my mouth daily for four days. I cannot tell you how well this works. I can move my arms again and am looking forward to unfreezing my shoulder.”
Q: I caught nail fungus at the gym, and I can’t get rid of it. A prescription for Jublia didn’t work. Neither did laser treatment. Now my podiatrist has suggested surgically removing the nail. That sounds scary. Is there any other way to get rid of this fungus?
A: Instead of surgery, your podiatrist could prescribe a urea paste that will dissolve the fungus-affected nail in about a week. There also are many home remedies that may be helpful at lower cost than Jublia. They include cornmeal foot soaks, Vicks VapoRub, tea tree oil, oregano oil and Listerine-vinegar foot baths.
You will find more details on nonsurgical nail removal and fungus fighters in our Guide to Hair and Nail Care. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (68 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. H-31, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It also can be downloaded for $2 from our website: www.peoplespharmacy.com.
Q: I was desperate last night for a way to help my child. He had a horrible hacking cough to the point of throwing up. I was afraid to put him to bed.
I saw a suggestion on your website for Vicks on the soles of the feet and gave it a try. Within 10 minutes, he was sound asleep and slept right through the night. I have six kids and wish I’d read about this long ago.
A: Rubbing Vicks VapoRub on the soles of the feet seems like an improbable way to treat a cough. There are no studies to show that this works, but many readers have offered testimonials like yours. You might want to put on thick socks after applying the Vicks so the sheets don’t get smeared with goo.
In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of this newspaper or email them via their website: www.PeoplesPharmacy.com. Their newest book is “Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.”
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