Question: : I had severe leg cramps and read about putting a bar of soap under the sheet. I tried this and found it stopped them immediately. Even more astonishing, it also banished my intermittent erectile dysfunction.

I checked out the ingredients of Ivory soap and found it contains magnesium sulfate. Paramedics use this compound to treat heart attacks or asthma because it relaxes smooth muscle fibers found in blood vessels and airways. I wonder if magnesium is absorbed from the soap through the skin of the legs and feet, increasing blood flow. It works for me!

Answer: : We've heard from many people who find soap under the bottom sheet helpful against leg cramps. We have no scientific explanation.

Yours is the first report on soap helping ED. We find it fascinating, but again, cannot explain it. Your magnesium theory is a stretch, though.

Question: : I take a number of medications for arthritis. I have had a hip replacement and a shoulder replacement, and I am fighting to keep my left knee. I take Nexium and Celebrex, plus other meds. A few months ago, I read an article about Boswellia and decided to give it a try. I can't tell you how wonderful this was. I had no pain!

Then I started to have a bad throat irritation. I went to the ENT, who told me that I was OK and to try a gastroenterologist. My gastro did an endoscopy and couldn't find a thing (except for an irritated throat), but diagnosed me with gastritis and told me to take an antacid as well as the Nexium.

I started to play with my meds, eliminating one at a time to check for side effects. Boswellia was the culprit, much to my dismay. I have been without the Boswellia for about 10 days.

My throat discomfort has almost gone, but the joint pain is back. I have tried gin-soaked raisins, pineapple and vinegar, but nothing works as well as Boswellia for me. Is there a way I could continue to take it without feeling sick?

Answer: : The Indian herb Boswellia has anti-inflammatory activity but can cause heartburn for some. This may account for your throat irritation. It's probably no longer an option for you.

Question: :: More than 20 years ago, I came across an article promoting l-lysine as a preventive measure against cold-sore outbreaks. Having suffered with this virus since adolescence, I was motivated to try the supplement.

In my experience, l-lysine is a miracle drug. I used to have at least one outbreak a month, but I now only feel the initial "tingle" of a cold sore if I have overindulged in caffeine, been under an abnormal amount of stress or spent too much time in the sun. I take 1,000 milligrams a day, every day. If I feel an outbreak coming, I triple the dose for a couple of days, and the outbreak is prevented.

Answer: : Many people report, like you, that l-lysine seems helpful in preventing or healing cold sores. Double-blind studies on l-lysine for cold sores have produced mixed results. There has been surprisingly little research in recent years, however. This amino acid appears relatively safe, although some people report digestive upset.

Question:: I read your column on killing mosquitoes with isopropyl alcohol spray. I have a remedy that works better and is fireproof, unlike alcohol.

Try Listerine. It kills them DEAD. I also put it in a spray bottle and spray it around the picnic tables and chairs to keep mosquitoes and bugs away.

Answer: : Thanks for the tip. Another reader also had success with Listerine as a repellent.

We heard about an even more unorthodox method of killing bugs: "A better way to kill insects is ordinary hair spray. Most households already have it, and the spray is sticky. It makes the wings of flying insects unusable and seals the breathing orifices to suffocate the insects.

"It is water-soluble, so it can be easily wiped up with a damp cloth and leaves no stain on curtains or wallpaper. I've used it on wasps, ants, roaches, etc. I chase flying insects to a window and spray them on the glass pane, then clean up with a wet paper towel."

Keep in mind that hair spray is flammable and should never be used around an open flame.

Question: : My doctor just prescribed Prevacid for acid reflux. I am reluctant to take this medicine because I have heard it might lead to weakened bones.

I already have severe osteoporosis because of a lengthy course of cortisone. This drug caused significant bone loss, so I am now taking Fosamax. I would hate to undo the benefits I have gotten on Fosamax, but the drug does cause bad heartburn. I feel caught in a dilemma and would appreciate any information you might have.

Answer: : A surprising number of medicines have a negative effect on bone density. Prednisone and similar steroid-type drugs are notorious for this, but even inhaled corticosteroids like those found in Advair or Flovent can have an impact. So can certain seizure medicines such as Dilantin, Klonopin and Tegretol, as well as high-dose thyroid hormone (Levoxyl or Synthroid).

Acid suppressors such as Nexium, Prevacid, Prilosec and Protonix apparently reduce calcium absorption and may weaken bone as a result. Fosamax can cause irritation of the esophagus, but instead of taking a heartburn medicine, you might ask your doctor about a different osteoporosis drug.

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 at

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