Q. I went to my physician when I had a really bad cold with a cough and asked her what over-the-counter cough medicine I should buy.
She told me, “None! Get some vanilla ice cream and pour Kahlua over it.”
Do you know what? That’s the best cough medicine I have ever had. I’ve told my family and friends about it, and they all agree.
A. Your doctor’s advice certainly sounds original. We have no doubt that ice cream, with or without Kahlua, tastes a lot better than cough medicine with dextromethorphan.
Ice cream has long been used to soothe a sore throat and some people find it helpful in stopping hiccups. As far as we can tell, there are no scientific studies to support this remedy for coughs, but we’re glad it works for you.
Q. I am plagued with boils and have tried hot compresses to no avail. Doctors have lanced them, but they come back, sometimes several at a time. What causes boils and what can I do to get rid of them or prevent them?
A. Dermatologists sometimes prescribe antibiotics to prevent a recurrence of these inflammatory skin lesions. What causes them remains a mystery, but people with diabetes or lowered immunity seem to be more susceptible.
We recently heard from someone who suffered repeat boils as you do. He reported taking the Indian spice turmeric at the very first sign of redness and pain. He said consuming it in milk or on his vegetables clears the skin within a day or two.
Turmeric, found in curry powder and mustard, has anti-inflammatory properties. Its effects against arthritis and cancer are being studied. Antibacterial effects have been reported, which may be responsible if turmeric really does help prevent boils. If you try it, let us know how it works.
Q. A nasty divorce has left me feeling slightly depressed, despite the relief of being out of a bad marriage. I also have moments when my heart races and then I break out in a sweat. I don’t know if these episodes are just anxiety or if they are hot flashes, since I am menopausal.
I am reluctant to take estrogen because I’ve heard about negative effects. I’d rather use a more natural approach. Would a progesterone cream be safe? And would it be compatible with St. John’s wort for my blue mood? I’d appreciate any information you have.
A. Many women experience hot flashes much as you have described them, with an accelerated heart rate, a vaguely anxious feeling, sweating and feeling too warm. Soy, vitamin E, and herbs such as black cohosh may help relieve such symptoms.
Progesterone cream may also help reduce hot flashes. Women’s health expert, Susan Love, MD, points out, however, that high levels of progesterone are not natural after menopause. She worries that potential side effects might arise from long-term progesterone use. Progesterone itself has been linked with depression.
We are sending you our Guides to St. John’s Wort and Estrogen & Progesterone for more details on your treatment options. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (no. 10) stamped (60 cents), self-addressed envelope: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. WV-82, P. O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027.
St. John’s wort or antidepressants like Zoloft or Paxil may ease hot flashes. Interactions with other drugs can pose hazards, however, so check with your doctor or pharmacist if you take anything else.

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