No mercury has been found contaminating fish-oil capsules

THE BALTIMORE SUN

I keep reading that eating fish is good for your heart, your brain and just about everything else. I am not fond of fish, so I have started taking fish-oil capsules.

A friend says fish oil is contaminated with mercury. I hate to think I'm slowly poisoning myself by trying to improve my health.

The Food and Drug Administration cautions that large fish (shark, swordfish, king mackerel or tilefish) might be contaminated with mercury. Tests of fish-oil capsules, however, have not revealed mercury. For more details on one such analysis, you can check the Web site www.consumerlab.com.

Is there any interaction between ginkgo and Coumadin? I looked in my reference books, but ginkgo is not mentioned. I am a retired pharmacist, and many of my friends and neighbors want to know about this. Can you help?

Coumadin interacts dangerously with dozens of drugs and foods, but there is little data on herb incompatibility.

Although a small Danish study reported no problem between ginkgo and Coumadin, there are reasons to suspect that combining these compounds is not prudent. Ginkgo keeps blood platelets from sticking together to form clots. This could add to the anti-clotting action of warfarin (Coumadin), possibly leading to hemorrhage.

I developed a severe case of shingles around my waist. I did not want to get involved with strong pain relievers, so I tried applying green tea four times on the small blisters that formed the first day.

The next day, after applying green tea again four times, the scabs fell off, and I have had no lasting pain. Perhaps this will help other people suffering from shingles.

Shingles is an extremely painful skin eruption caused by the same virus (varicella-zoster) that causes chickenpox. Prompt treatment with prescription antiviral medicines such as acyclovir (Zovirax), famciclovir (Famvir) or valacyclovir (Val-trex) can speed healing.

One should never rely on home remedies for such a potentially serious condition as shingles, but your experiment is fascinating.

Applying tepid green tea in addition to taking appropriate medical treatment should not pose a risk. Animal tests have shown that topical use of green tea has anti-inflammatory properties.

I've read that vitamin E is good for your skin and overall health. But foods rich in this vitamin are high in fat, and I'm trying to watch my weight. Should I take a vitamin E supplement?

Oils such as safflower, olive and peanut contain vitamin E. So do avocados, walnuts and wheat germ. To get a standard dose, such as 200 International Units of vitamin E, however, you would need a supplement.

Does psyllium fiber have any health benefits?

Psyllium seed is rich in soluble fiber. Products made from psyllium, such as Metamucil, are used to maintain regularity; they can also help lower cholesterol. Be sure to take psyllium with adequate fluid.

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