Thyme and star anise tea might help quiet a cough

THE BALTIMORE SUN

When I was in Europe last month, I caught a cold and developed an awful cough. Luckily, a German pharmacist understood my sign language and sold me a miracle cure that cleared it up in a few days.

The medicine is Makatussin, and it contains "Thymianfluid-extrakt" and "Sternanisol." It comes as drops to be put on a sugar cube or in tea.

It worked so much better than my regular cough medicine that I would like to find something similar here. Is there a medicine like it?

Makatussin contains extract of thyme and star anise oil. The German government has approved both herbs for colds and coughs.

We know of no similar medicine available in the United States. You could, however, make yourself a tea with thyme leaves, about 1/2 teaspoon per cup, and a piece of star anise. You can buy this spice where Chinese groceries are sold.

My dog got too close to a skunk yesterday, and now he's not fit to come in the house. I've given him three baths, but he still smells terrible. Do you have any recommendations?

A few years ago, a reader sent us this suggestion from Chemical and Engineering News: "Mix 1 quart of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide (from your pharmacy) with 1/4 cup of baking soda and 1 teaspoon of liquid soap. Soak the pooch in water and scrub with the mixture, then rinse in warm water."

Check with your vet first to make sure this solution is safe for your dog, and be sure to keep it out of his eyes.

I was intrigued to read that stinging nettle can be used for allergies and enlarged prostate. I do not suffer from those conditions, but years ago we carefully picked wild stinging nettles with clippers, dropping the nettles into a large paper sack. Once home, we dumped them into a sink full of cold water and then cooked them. Believe me, they tasted much better than spinach.

When stinging nettles contact the skin, their tiny hairs cause acute pain, redness and irritation. For many centuries people have eaten nettles as a vegetable and have used them for medicine. Once cooked, they no longer sting, and people find them very tasty.

Stinging nettles are also used to treat arthritis, bladder infections and kidney stones.

I've been told that drinking a tablespoon of cod liver oil in a half-cup of milk upon arising will do away with arthritis pain. I am an insulin-dependent diabetic and have so much pain when I get up, I can hardly stand it. Would this remedy be harmful?

Regular use of cod liver oil has been associated with weakening of the bones. That is because of the high dose of vitamin A it contains. Studies of Scandinavian women who consume cod liver oil show a higher rate of osteoporosis.

Purified fish oil avoids this problem. Because it is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory activity, fish oil might help with your arthritis without weakening your bones. A recent study suggests that it might interfere with glucose control, so be sure to monitor your blood sugar closely.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019, or e-mail them from their Web site, www.peoplespharmacy. org.

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