Archive for Sunday, June 20, 1999


June 20, 1999



Congestion ointment appears to send toenail fungus on a hike.

By Joe Graedon and

Teresa Graedon, Ph.D.

King Features Syndicate

After reading about toenail fungus, I could not resist passing along my recommendation. Four months ago a nurse who does foot care suggested I use Vicks VapoRub for my own nail fungus. I rub it on each nail every day, and my nails are growing out clear. The treatment is cheap and easy. I'm sure many households keep Vicks on hand for congestion just as we do.

This is not the first time we have heard about using Vicks VapoRub on nails infected with fungus. Several years ago a professional foot care nurse told us that this old-fashioned herbal ointment might be helpful.

The ingredients in Vicks VapoRub include camphor, menthol, eucalyptus oil, cedarleaf oil, nutmeg oil, petrolatum, thymol and turpentine oil. Some of these ingredients have antifungal activity. Applying a dab to a diseased nail seems like an inexpensive and safe treatment, though we have yet to see a published study of its effectiveness.

I used to be "hooked" on laxative pills and couldn't move my bowels without them. I was too embarrassed to tell anyone, but my doctor found out and recommended prune juice. Since I started drinking 1 ounce of prune juice every morning I have not had to take the pills. Perhaps this will help somebody else who relies on laxatives too much.

We're glad you've found another way to overcome constipation. Regular use of stimulant laxatives can create a range of problems. For one thing, the body becomes dependent on a laxative. For another, crucial nutrients may be lost.

Here is a home remedy one family swears by: Mix 1 cup applesauce with 1 cup unprocessed bran and 3/4 cup prune juice. Swallow 1 or 2 tablespoons daily with 8 ounces of water. Store the mixture in the refrigerator.

I am taking St. John's wort and in these nice spring days, I have noticed I have an increased sensitivity to sunlight. I want to get rid of that before my vacation in August. If I wean myself off the St. John's wort, how long will I have the increased photosensitivity?

St. John's wort is considered a poisonous weed for cattle and other livestock because it can cause severe photosensitivity. People seem to vary in their individual susceptibility to this reaction. One woman experienced nerve damage in skin exposed to sunlight while she was taking St. John's wort. It took almost a month for the discomfort to disappear.

We are not aware of any research that provides a precise answer to your question. We suggest that you allow several weeks for the herb to clear from your system before spending much time in the sun.

We are sending you our Guides to Herbal Remedies and St. John's Wort with information about uses, side effects and interactions. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $2 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped, self-addressed envelope to: Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No. EE-295, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027.

What can you tell me about ephedra or ephedrine? Apparently this herb has some property that is supposed to raise metabolic rate. Is it safe? My daughter and I are both interested in it for weight loss, but I would like to know more about dangers.

According to the FDA, ephedra (also known as Ma Huang) has been linked to serious adverse reactions including irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, headaches, insomnia, tremors and even seizures, heart attacks, strokes and death.

--In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of the Lawrence Journal-World or e-mail them via their Web site:

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