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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Soy sauce soothes pain of wasp sting

Q. I was adjusting my sprinkler timer and did not realize my arm was bumping against a wasp nest. That’s how I got stung on the elbow by four or five wasps.

Last weekend, I heard on The People’s Pharmacy radio show that people have used soy sauce on burns. I rushed into the house and emptied one of those little soy packs you get with takeout Chinese food. It wasn’t very much, but it reduced the pain by about 90 percent.

A. Thank you for sharing your innovation. We have suggested several other home remedies for wasp stings, ranging from a cut onion to meat tenderizer or baking soda. But we had not imagined using soy sauce on a sting.

Soy sauce is quite helpful in reducing the pain and redness from a burn. A really serious burn requires prompt medical attention, of course, and so would an allergic reaction to an insect sting.

You may be interested in another reader’s story, although some maintain this remedy is an urban legend: “Several years ago, a woman told our family about the healing virtues of a penny when applied to a bee or wasp sting. Our boys got quite a laugh and often repeated the phrase, ‘put a penny on it … put a penny on it.’

“Not long after our conversation, I was stung by a bee, removed the stinger and was alarmed by the terrible pain on my arm. Without hesitating, I taped a penny over the wound. Wouldn’t you know, the pain disappeared immediately.

“A year later, my husband was stung while tending his bees. Once again he ‘put a penny on it’ and cured his pain right away.”

Q. I have read in your column that Pycnogenol may be helpful for hot flashes. Now a major warehouse club is selling it as a powerful antioxidant that is supposed to have beneficial effects on cardiovascular health, osteoarthritis, skin care, asthma and allergy relief and diabetes. Has any of this been proven? Are there any health risks associated with its use? I love your columns and cut them out weekly to give to friends, family and co-workers.

A. To our surprise, there are studies suggesting that Pycnogenol, extracted from French maritime pine bark, is better than placebo in making blood vessels more flexible (Hypertension Research, September 2007), improving blood-sugar control and reducing cardiovascular risk factors (Nutrition Research, May 2008) and reducing knee pain from osteoarthritis (Phytotherapy Research, August 2008). Any uses it may have for skin care or asthma and allergy relief still seem fairly speculative. Side effects are uncommon.

We are pleased you enjoy the columns. We are sending you a copy of our book “Favorite Home Remedies From The People’s Pharmacy,” with many amazing stories contributed by our readers. It is available online at

Q. I learned in Colombia that inhaling the steam of strong, freshly brewed coffee (not instant) is beneficial for nasal and sinus irritation. The steam soothes and heals the mucus membranes. This remedy has worked wonderfully for me. I was wondering if you have heard of this remedy.

A. This is the first we have heard of coffee steam being beneficial for sinus irritation, but ordinary steam has long been recommended to ease nasal congestion. Since coffee is such an important crop in Colombia, it probably makes sense that people there have experimented with it as a remedy.

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