Q. This is either an urban legend or a friend is playing a joke on me. She says that if you sleep with a bar of soap (not Dove or deodorant kind) the restless leg syndrome (RLS) will not occur.
She swears that she read this someplace and that it worked for a relative. Since it was non-invasive, I slept with a bar of soap for two weeks. No RLS, but I still had leg cramps.
Is this a placebo? Mind over-matter? It is NOT logical! Have you ever heard of such a thing?
A. Your friend may have read about the soap remedy in our column. We agree that putting a bar of soap under the bottom sheet is illogical. Like most remedies, it has never been tested scientifically. But we have heard from many readers that it helps prevent their cramps. Here is one:
“I have had severe leg cramps for years. When I read about putting a bar of soap in bed, I got a bar of Ivory and put it under the bottom sheet near my legs. It’s been a month since I did that, and I have not had one leg cramp.”
Restless leg syndrome (RLS) differs from leg cramps in that the person feels the urge to move the legs frequently. It too can interfere with sleep.
We have collected a wide range of remedies for these conditions in our new Guide to Leg Pain. Anyone who would like a copy may send $3 in check or money order with a long (no. 10) stamped (60 cents), self-addressed envelope: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. RLS-5, P. O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027.
Q. I have a remedy for dog breath. I just put some fresh parsley in their food. It takes care of the problem.
A. We have heard of people using fresh or dried parsley to help control human halitosis. Dog breath can be wicked. Thanks for the tip.
Q. Besides prescription drugs, are there any natural alternatives to help lower triglycerides?
A. Indeed there are. One approach is fish oil, which lowers triglycerides between 5 and 25 percent. This blood fat is a risk factor for diabetes and heart disease.
Dietary changes can also help. Studies have shown that reducing the amount of carbohydrates (sugar, bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, etc) lowers triglyceride levels.
Q. I heard on a health show that an herb may help prevent the onset of migraine headaches. It was pronounced “butter…” but I did not catch the full name. Do you know the correct name of that substance?
A. The name is “butterbur,” or Petasites hybridus. A study published in the journal Neurology (Dec. 28, 2004) compared standardized butterbur root extract to placebo. Over the four-month study, the higher dose of the herb (75 mg tablets twice a day) reduced migraine attacks by almost 50 percent, compared to 26 percent for placebo.
Side effects were primarily digestive upset, especially burping. The tablets used in the research were Petodolex brand, from the German manufacturer Weber and Weber.
Q. A few days ago I read in your column about Vicks VapoRub being used on the soles of the feet. I misplaced the article. Please tell me what is the benefit?
A. A nurse told us several years ago that she was able to calm nighttime coughs by applying Vicks to the soles of her children’s feet. She then put socks on them to protect the bed sheets. Others have reported similar benefit, but we cannot explain why it would work.

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