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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Will hot-pepper nose spray soothe sinuses?

Joe And Teresa Graedon

Q. Can you comment on the efficacy and safety of nasal capsaicin (Sinus Buster, Sinol-M) for rhinitis, sinusitis or sinus headache?

A. Capsaicin is the hot substance that gives chili peppers their kick. Even in dilute concentrations, it can sting for quite a while. This seems to deplete a natural chemical in the body called substance P, which is critical for the perception of pain.

Although capsaicin is used in liniments or rubs for sore muscles and joints, it is less common in nasal sprays. Italian researchers found that it could be useful for reducing runny-nose (rhinitis) symptoms (Acta Oto-Laryngologica, April 2009).

It also has been tested for relieving migraine or cluster headaches and seems to be modestly effective (Archives of Neurology, June 2002). We would like to see bigger and better studies of capsaicin nasal sprays before we endorse them for either sinus problems or headaches.

Q. I had been taking the antidepressant Pristiq and wanted to get off it. But stopping really was uncomfortable, with shivers, high blood pressure, rapid heart rate and dizziness.

My doctor said I needed to go back on it because of my low serotonin levels. I am taking it again now and wondering how I can ever get off this drug. Is there a natural supplement to support my serotonin levels?

A. Getting off antidepressants like Paxil (paroxetine), Pristiq (desvenlafaxine) and Zoloft (sertraline) may require patience and persistence. The withdrawal side effects you experienced are not uncommon and sometimes last for weeks. Other symptoms that have been reported after stopping such drugs include nausea, sweating, headache, dizziness and “brain zaps.”

If your doctor is willing, you might switch to a longer-acting antidepressant and taper off it gradually, as this reader did: “By switching to Prozac for about two months, I was able to reverse the ‘brain zaps’ I had when stopping Effexor XR, and then I came off the Prozac slowly with no withdrawal symptoms.”

Several nondrug approaches to depression may be effective. We discuss them in our Guide to Dealing with Depression, which we are sending you. It also describes strategies for getting off antidepressants. 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. E-7, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It also can be downloaded for $2 from our Web site: www.peoples

Q. I just tried milk of magnesia (MoM) as an underarm deodorant, and it works great! I couldn’t believe it.

I teach aerobics for a living, and I get very sweaty and stinky. The MoM worked through three straight hours of weights and aerobics, and I smell fresher than when I use deodorant.

A. We have heard from many other readers that milk of magnesia can be helpful as an underarm deodorant. It contains no aluminum and may be less likely to irritate delicate skin. One person reported: “Even so-called mild deodorants irritate my armpits. Milk of magnesia doesn’t. I just apply with my fingertips, and a little goes a long way. It’s been very effective for up to 24 hours and sometimes longer, even when I’m doing a lot of perspiring. It takes a few minutes for it to dry, but it leaves no residue on clothes, which surprised me. I’m sold.”

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them via their Web site: www.Peoples
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