Fresh ginger in tea can help with cold symptoms

The Baltimore Sun

Now that my son is in day care, I am constantly getting his colds and coughs. What can you recommend for easing the symptoms? I am not big on drugstore remedies.

Readers of this column are enthusiastic about ginger. Here are just a few anecdotes:

"I must testify what a wonderful hot drink one can make from grating about 1 inch of fresh ginger, putting it in a little wrap of cheesecloth or in one of those mesh spoons used for tea leaves and letting it steep in a mug of hot water. It is fantastic for combating colds ... a refreshing and spicy tonic."

Another reader says: "Someone just told me about drinking ginger tea for a cold. It's miraculous. Within minutes after sipping the tea I got relief from my stuffy nose and scratchy throat. I just sliced some fresh ginger and poured hot water over it and added a little honey."

Here is another variation on the ginger theme: "I make a tea with 1-inch fresh grated ginger, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 pinch cayenne pepper and 2 teaspoons honey or maple syrup for my colds. This was taught to me by someone who studied ayurvedic medicine in India. I love the taste - it's sweet and spicy. My measurements are rough estimates. I just add the ingredients to taste."

I read in your column a letter from a person whose cholesterol went from 180 to over 300 after taking glucosamine and chondroitin for sore knees. I think it is not the glucosamine, but the chondroitin that raises cholesterol.

I have been taking glucosamine alone for five years, and it works for me. I also take a handful of walnuts and drink a glass of pomegranate juice every day. My cholesterol went from 254 to 184 without drugs!

We have no research to verify that glucosamine and chondroitin independently or together raise cholesterol. We appreciate your suggestion, however. Not everyone gets relief from arthritis with these dietary supplements. Research suggests that neither is very effective for mild to moderate pain.

We are delighted to learn that you have been able to lower your cholesterol successfully without drugs. In our new "Guide to Cholesterol Control and Heart Health," we offer many other nondrug suggestions and discuss the pros and cons of most medications. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (59 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No. C-8, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It also can be downloaded for $2 from our Web site at peoplespharm

My husband got Super Glue on his glasses. (Don't ask!) We tried everything to get it off until I read on your Web site about using the insect repellent DEET. I sprayed OFF! out of the can on them. Most of the Super Glue is gone already.

The recommended technique for unsticking fingers or removing Super Glue is acetone, found in some nail-polish removers. We were surprised to learn from a reader that OFF! insect-repellent wipes also work.

What can you tell me about using testosterone to jump-start diminished sex drive in women? I used to have a fantastic libido and enjoyed a great sex life with my husband. But ever since menopause, I am rarely interested in sex, and when we do make love I almost never have an orgasm.

The "APHRODITE" study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (Nov. 6, 2008) reported that a patch containing 300 micrograms of testosterone "resulted in a modest but meaningful improvement of sexual function." During this yearlong trial, women on the patch reported "increases in sexual desire, arousal, orgasm and pleasure."

In the study, a few women on testosterone were diagnosed with breast cancer. The researchers could not determine whether this hormone was responsible. Long-term side effects of testosterone have not been studied.

We are sending you our "Guides to Female Sexuality and Treating Sexual Dysfunction," with more details about testosterone and other approaches for men as well as women. Anyone who would like copies, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (59 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No. PZ-9, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. The Food and Drug Administration has not approved topical testosterone to improve female libido, though some doctors are prescribing it "off-label."

I was put on Lipitor to control cholesterol, and it shot my blood sugar through the roof. My doctor suggested switching to Crestor. Would this drug also affect blood sugar?

You are not the first person to note that some cholesterol-lowering medicines might raise blood-sugar levels. Another reader reported that after taking Crestor, his type-2 diabetes numbers also "went through the roof." In addition, he reported: "My hands, feet and arms tingled so much I could hardly stand it."

The official prescribing information for both Lipitor and Crestor mention elevated blood sugar as a possible side effect. A large study of more than 17,000 patients (the Jupiter Trial) reported a higher incidence of diabetes in the subjects taking Crestor (New England Journal of Medicine, Nov. 20, 2008).

Researchers are not sure whether this is a real complication of statin-type drugs or just a coincidence. In the meantime, it is still important to control cholesterol, since both it and diabetes can increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

When I was young I had an ongoing dandruff problem. This was about 45 years ago.

My uncle was a barber, and he told me to use Listerine. I have used it ever since, every time I wash my hair, and have never had another problem with dandruff. It works.

Thanks for the tip. Many other readers agree that old-fashioned Listerine can help fight flakes and itching on the scalp. That may be because the alcohol and herbal oils in Listerine have anti-fungal properties. Since dandruff is caused by yeast (a type of fungus), it is not that surprising that this mouthwash might be beneficial.

Although the makers of Listerine used to advertise it for "infectious" dandruff, the FDA no longer permits this claim. Nevertheless, rinsing with Listerine (or a generic house-brand equivalent) seems like a cost-effective tactic for discouraging dandruff.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of this newspaper or e-mail them via their Web site.

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