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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Wash those lice right out of your hair

Q. We are lice-free at last with Listerine, alcohol, vinegar and Denorex! We sprayed four heads every night with Listerine before bed, then combed and combed every inch with a nit comb.

The lice were gone in three days, but we continued this ritual for seven more days to kill off any newly hatched eggs each day. I soaked the four separate nit combs in rubbing alcohol between uses and dipped them periodically in the alcohol as I combed.

We also used vinegar on one severely affected head to loosen the nits. Then we shampooed the hair with extra-strength Denorex. Sure, it was labor-intensive, but it was also cheap, safe and effective.

A. We suspect that the alcohol in old-fashioned amber Listerine kills lice. We would discourage spraying it on, though, as the fumes might be inhaled. Gently massaging the mouthwash into the hair and covering for a few minutes with a towel should do the trick.

Combing out nits is laborious but essential for permanent success. Vinegar helps loosen the glue that holds lice eggs (nits) to the hair shaft.

Q. I have suffered with constipation for many years, despite regular prune juice and Metamucil. Since I read in your column that my calcium supplement might be constipating, I have been following your suggestion of taking magnesium with it every day. That did it! I finally have relief.

A. Chronic constipation can be extremely distressing. We’re glad our suggestion was helpful; many Americans don’t get enough magnesium from their diets.

We offer this and other suggestions, including a recipe for Power Pudding made of wheat bran, applesauce and prune juice, in our “Guide to Constipation.” Anyone who would like a copy, please send $2 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (59 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. GG-30, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It also can be downloaded for $2 from our Web site:

Q. I live in the desert Southwest, where we have been experiencing allergy symptoms for about a month. With the high winds this time of year, they will only get worse.

My mother, who grew up in the Midwest and raised her family in the mid-Atlantic region, always recommended drinking fenugreek tea sweetened with local honey to prevent or minimize allergy symptoms. Is there any evidence to support fenugreek’s effectiveness for allergies?

A. A search of the medical literature turned up no evidence that fenugreek can alleviate allergy symptoms. There is some evidence that this herb from India can help lower blood sugar and control high blood fats, especially triglycerides, but studies have been inconsistent.

Some people develop allergic reactions to fenugreek itself. This may be a particular problem for those who are allergic to soy or peanuts, other plants in the same family.

Q. After chemo treatment, I had two bouts with shingles. Knowing that this is a herpes virus, I treated myself with L-lysine as I often do for cold sores. The discomfort and rash disappeared in less than a week. My oncologist was very interested to hear this and has been successful using L-lysine for other patients with shingles.

A. Prescription antiviral drugs such as Valtrex or Famvir can be helpful against shingles. Many people say that L-lysine works for cold sores. We have never heard that this amino acid might also work against shingles.

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