Chinese herb sold at health-food stores may help cold symptoms

The Baltimore Sun

I live in Sweden and work from home, so I rarely come down with colds. However, the other day I got a whopper - a sore throat, a horrible runny nose and a really bad cough - so I decided to try Kan Jang. Kan Jang is a popular cold remedy here produced by the Swedish Herbal Institute.

I started on Kan Jang a day ago and was surprised by the results. My runny nose is completely gone, and my cough has subsided drastically. The postnasal drip that has been driving me nuts for a couple of years is gone.

Kan Jang is not available in the United States, but its principal ingredient, a Chinese herb called Andrographis paniculata, is sold in health-food stores by various manufacturers. It can also be found in a product called Kold Kare. There are placebo-controlled studies showing that Andrographis can speed recovery from colds (Planta Medica, April 2004).

Last week, I developed a nosebleed that would not quit. After a couple of days, I went to an ear, nose and throat specialist. Even after following his advice, though, the nosebleed persisted.

After five days, I was finally fed up and checked your book for home remedies. I am a scientist, so I like solid evidence for everything I try, but I was desperate enough to try just about anything.

I found your suggestion to drop a bunch of keys down the back of my neck. To my amazement, the nosebleed stopped within a few minutes and has not returned.

We cannot explain it, but we have heard that this home remedy can resolve a nosebleed quickly. Nuns and teachers who have dealt with a lot of children often testify to the usefulness of this approach.

I have heard that if you place pieces of eggplant in water for a couple of hours and then drink the water, it helps reduce cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Is this correct, or do I have to put the eggplant in the fridge for four days and drink a small amount daily?

Several years ago, a reader sent in the following remedy:

"Wash but don't peel a medium eggplant. Dice it into 1-inch cubes.

"Place the cubes in a glass gallon jug and cover the eggplant with distilled water.

"Put the jug in the fridge for four days. Drink one ounce of the water per day, taking your blood pressure daily.

"After a week or so, the eggplant will begin to disintegrate; discard it but keep drinking the ounce of soaking water daily."

Although eggplant is part of a dietary portfolio that lowers cholesterol (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, February 2005), Brazilian researchers have found that eggplant extract does not lower cholesterol. A recent analysis of eggplant compounds suggests that some may inhibit angiotensin-converter enzyme (ACE) and thus lower blood pressure (Bioresource Technology, May 2008). We don't know if the eggplant soaking water will have that effect.

I'm a 26-year-old woman in a committed relationship with a man I am deeply in love with and have been for two years. I've always had a healthy sex drive, but now I'm concerned.

In the beginning, we had a very active and passionate sex life, but as time goes by he seems less and less interested. For a while, I think he had sex with me just to keep me happy, and now he ignores my advances. I know we won't have sex several times a day like we did in the beginning, but I don't know why we can't do it several times a week.

I used to send him sexy text messages throughout the day so that when he got home he'd be excited. Now if I do that, he doesn't respond. I've tried to spice things up - toys, videos, you name it. I've tried it all, but nothing works.

Sex is one thing I truly enjoy. Having good sex relaxes me, relieves stress and allows me to sleep through the night, which I can't do on my own.

He's gained a lot of weight, but he's a really great guy, and I have no desire to look elsewhere. Talking doesn't work, as he ignores my questions. I don't know what to do.

Many people mistakenly believe that men always have stronger sex drives than women. But according to Dr. Irwin Goldstein, editor in chief of The Journal of Sexual Medicine, up to one-fourth of women have more interest in sex than their male partners.

Counseling for the two of you is the best place to start. Even if he is reluctant, you should seek guidance on your own. Your partner also should have his hormone levels checked, since low levels of testosterone are associated with being overweight and can reduce libido.

Sex expert Dr. Ruth Westheimer told us that when couples have different levels of interest, a partner can help the other achieve orgasm, even if he isn't in the mood for intercourse.

One of your readers asked for advice regarding constipation caused by Fosamax and Lipitor. I was surprised you did not mention taking Metamucil to help with constipation.

I have had to follow that regimen for more than 30 years, taking 3 teaspoonfuls daily. Please pass this information on.

Psyllium, the active ingredient in Metamucil and similar products, works well to counteract constipation. It also can help lower cholesterol.

Psyllium must not be taken at the same time as Fosamax or Lipitor, however. It might interfere with the absorption and thus the effectiveness of these drugs.

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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