Q. I was surprised to read in your column that gumbo soup can help a headache. I thought I was the only one, besides my niece, who used this remedy.
She has suffered from frequent headaches all her life, but we never talked about it until she came to visit me. When she told me Campbell's Gumbo Soup cures her headaches, I could hardly believe it. I had discovered this myself quite by accident many years ago.
This cure is so easy, I've tried to pass it on to friends over the years. Most people don't believe me and ignore the advice.
A. We first heard that spicy soup could help a headache from Cecil in Clemson, S.C. He banished a recurrent migraine by accident with spicy seafood gumbo. Then Judy in Cheshire, Conn., reported that Chinese hot-and-sour soup reversed her migraines.
We suspect that capsaicin from hot chili peppers might be the active ingredient. It has been tested in a nasal spray formulation and found effective against migraines. The Campbell's Chicken Gumbo we tested was not very spicy, but we're glad it works for you.
Q. Thank you for writing about thyme as a cough remedy. I am getting over a nasty cold. When I'm up, I feel fine, but as soon as I lie down I develop a violent cough. This has kept me awake for several nights.
Last night I ran out of cough medicine and had a horrible coughing fit at 2 a.m. I didn't know what to do until my husband reminded me of your column about thyme tea.
I made myself a cup with a teaspoon of thyme leaves from my spice rack. Although I hardly believed it would work, I got a good night's sleep without coughing the rest of the night.
A. Thyme has been used for centuries to treat coughs and bronchitis. The volatile oils in thyme -- thymol and carvacrol -- loosen thick phlegm and reduce the irritation it can cause. They also relax the muscles of the respiratory tract.
According to herbal authority Varro Tyler, a tea made from 1 to 2 grams of dried thyme leaves per cup can be helpful. This works out to 1/2 to 1 teaspoon per cup.
In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of the People's Pharmacy, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, N.C. 27717, or e-mail them at their Web site (www.peoplespharmacy.com) on the HealthCentral.com network.
King Features Syndicate