Archive for Saturday, February 10, 2001


February 10, 2001


Grapefruit, either as fresh fruit or as juice, has a powerful impact on an enzyme our bodies use to process many medicines. The result might be higher drug levels, which could increase the risk of side effects.

Cholesterol-lowering drugs such as Zocor, Lipitor and Mevacor are affected. Estrogen levels from birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy can go up. Concentrations of blood pressure medications like Plendil, Sular and Procardia are also elevated by grapefruit.

Synthroid is best taken on an empty stomach. Calcium can interfere with its absorption, so don't take calcium tablets, milk or calcium-fortified juice for two hours after your Synthroid.

Many of your readers are concerned about flatulence. If gas and odor are due to lactose intolerance, over-the-counter gas pills would not help, but lactase pills would.

Lactose intolerance, an inability to digest the sugar in milk, is more common with age. It can result in gas, cramps or diarrhea after consuming dairy products. Products like Lactaid, Lactogest or Dairy Ease might alleviate this problem.

My kids (ages 13 and 15) are taking a nature study program in which they learn about edible and poisonous plants. They have learned about many of the medicinal qualities of various herbs as well. Recently they harvested Yerba Santa and want to make tea from it. Is this plant toxic?

Yerba Santa (Eriodictyon californicum) is a traditional medicinal plant, but it hasn't been studied scientifically. A poultice of crushed fresh leaves has been used to treat bruises, and this topical treatment would be safe. The tea has been used as a cough remedy. There aren't reports of toxicity, but it might be better if they only sipped a little tea to see how it tastes.

Can you tell me about lice and the use of Listerine in eradicating them? My niece and my nephew have both contacted me because their children have had lice. I told them I'd read that Listerine could help, but they think I'm crazy.

We have heard from several readers that Listerine can be helpful in preventing lice infestations. We recently received this testimonial from a reader: "The best way to prevent head lice is old-fashioned Listerine Antiseptic Mouthrinse. We were in the Army 33 years and moved a lot, but my kids never got lice.

"Teachers asked me why my children didn't get lice when all the others did. I used to put Listerine on their hair and scalp a week before school started and periodically after that, and also put a tablespoon of Listerine in the rinse water when I washed the clothes and sheets. You have to be careful to keep the mouthwash out of eyes."

Listerine Antiseptic Mouthrinse contains essential oils including thymol, eucalyptol, menthol and methyl salicylate. It also has 26.9 percent alcohol, which may kill lice.

This winter has been tough on my skin, hair and nails. I am 53 years old, and my hobby is woodworking. My fingernails are so brittle and thin, they are constantly breaking and splitting.

I was so desperate, I went to a manicurist for acrylic treatment. Now I have nail fungus.

Besides my nails, I also am having trouble with dry skin and dandruff. My scalp is itchy, and I don't wear dark clothing because the flakes are embarrassing. Do you have any inexpensive suggestions for these problems? I am on a tight budget and cannot afford pricey medicine.

Despite the budget, your first step needs to be a doctor visit to rule out thyroid trouble or psoriasis, which would require medical treatment.

A strong moisturizer should help strengthen your nails as well as make your hands feel better. Petroleum jelly (Vaseline) is both cheap and effective if applied after patting washed hands dry. If it feels unpleasantly greasy, consider a "barnyard beauty aid" such as Udder Cream, Bag Balm or Hoofmaker.

Other helpful nail moisturizers include Elon Nail Conditioner and Epilyt Lotion.

-- Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist. Teresa Graedon holds a doctorate in medical anthropology and is a nutrition expert. Write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 235 E. 45th St., New York, N.Y. 10017, or e-mail them via their Web site,

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