Old wives’ remedy helped arthritis pain
Q: Several years ago, I read about a study done at Cardiff University in Wales. The scientists gave patients scheduled for knee-replacement surgery either 1,000 milligrams of cod-liver oil or placebo. The volunteers took these pills for 10 to 12 weeks and then had their surgery.
Samples of cartilage and joint tissue at the time of surgery showed that 86 percent of the patients on cod-liver oil produced less of a cartilage-eroding enzyme or none of it. The pills also reduced levels of other enzymes that cause pain.
I decided to try adding cod-liver oil pills to the glucosamine and chondroitin I was taking already. I marked my calendar, as I’d decided that if I had no reduction in pain in 10 to 12 weeks, I’d discontinue the cod-liver oil. My pain was so bad that it would wake me from a sound sleep every night, and I would be up for hours. Nothing helped. I felt it was just a matter of time until I would need to have the knee replaced.
One morning, I realized that I had slept through the night with no pain! I checked the calendar and discovered that it had been only 21 days since I started the cod-liver oil.
I have recommended this to many people who have gotten the same wonderful results. I wonder how many knee-replacement surgeries could be avoided if people tried taking cod-liver oil first.
A: Thank you for alerting us to an interesting, though small, study. It included 31 people and was presented at the Third Congress of the European Federation for the Science and Technology of Lipids.
Many doctors perceive the use of cod-liver oil for joint pain as an old wives’ tale. It is a shame that there has not been more research to investigate the potential benefits of cod-liver oil for osteoarthritis. Anyone who is interested in nondrug approaches to easing joint pain may be interested in our online electronic resource, “Alternatives for Arthritis.” Links to the product may be found at peoplespharmacy.com.
Q: I grabbed a very large, very hot curling iron by the barrel. Immediately, all four fingertips and the palm directly under the fingers started to swell. The pain was incredible.
Then I remembered your advice about soy sauce and poured a quantity into a pie plate. As soon as I immersed my hand in it, the pain ceased! At first, it looked as if all areas would form blisters, but after additional soakings (at the first sign of discomfort) over the next four hours, there was no further discomfort. A week later, there is no evidence of injury at all. This is just amazing.
A: You’re not the first reader to report success with this burn remedy. We have no good explanation for why so many people find that cold soy sauce both eases the pain of a burn and prevents blistering. Of course, any bad burn requires prompt medical attention.
Q: I use either coconut milk or coconut oil. I originally put it on to see if it helped protect me from the sun. I think it helped, though I have no proof.
I then noticed I had no ticks, even though my yard is overrun with them. In addition, no mosquitoes were biting. They hover, but they don’t land.
A: Coconut oil does not have strong sun protection activity. The few scientific studies that have looked at coconut oil to repel mosquitoes used it as a base for other essential oils. Neem oil (2 percent) in coconut oil is quite effective (Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association, September 1993). In addition, ylang-ylang (Canaga odorata) extract in coconut oil is useful, though not as effective in preventing mosquito bites as DEET (Acta Tropica, February 2015).
When mosquitoes carry dangerous diseases such as West Nile virus, we urge people to use a proven effective repellent such as lemon eucalyptus oil, picaridin or even DEET.
Q: I know from personal experience how annoying eczema can be. My hands and face get red, itchy spots. To control it, I put amber Listerine on a cotton ball and dab it on the area with the eczema several times a day. It is not a cure, but it does control the itching.
A: Doctors do not know what causes eczema (atopic dermatitis). There are growing suspicions that disruption of the microbial ecology of the skin could play an important role.
Listerine contains several essential oils that have both antibacterial and antifungal activity. That may explain your success with this unorthodox use of mouthwash.
Q: You have written that diphenhydramine in “PM” pain medications can be risky for older people. I take a medication that contains doxylamine. No pharmacist has ever told me that this might be a problem. However, a psychologist specializing in memory problems told me that I would be better off with a prescription sleeping pill. What do you think?
A: Both doxylamine and diphenhydramine are sedating antihistamines. They have anticholinergic effects that can cause problems for older people. Acetylcholine (ACh) is a brain neurochemical that is essential for memory and many other neurological functions. Anticholinergic drugs can interfere with the action of ACh.
Although many older people use such products to help them sleep, both are considered potentially inappropriate for the elderly (International Journal of Clinical Pharmacy, August 2017). Unfortunately, some prescription sleeping pills, such as zolpidem, may affect memory and balance, and put people at risk for falls and fractures (Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology, January 2014). As a result, they may not be a good substitute for doxylamine.
Q: In 2016, I was admitted to the hospital with numbness in my groin, legs, arms and hands. A week of bloodwork and CT scans did not show a reason for the problem. After that week I was released with no treatment and no improvement.
I subsequently reviewed my blood tests and noticed that my vitamin B-12 level was extremely low. I went to my primary care doctor, who started giving me B-12 shots. The problem cleared up within a couple of weeks. I continue the shots today and have had no further trouble with this.
A: Inadequate vitamin B-12 levels can trigger neurological problems, such as numbness and tingling (BMC Research Reports, Sept. 18, 2015). Vegans, who consume no animal products whatsoever, are at particular risk of this condition. Patients who have had gastric bypass surgery also are vulnerable to this vitamin deficiency and usually need supplements (GE Portuguese Journal of Gastroenterology, April 2018).
You might ask your doctor if you could switch to oral vitamin B-12 supplements. Some research suggests that this can be as effective as shots but less expensive (Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, March 15, 2018).
Contact the Graedons via peoplespharmacy.com.