Q. I have suffered for years with a fungal growth under my big toenail and would like to get rid of it. I read somewhere that sticking my big toe in half a lemon every night would do this. Apparently the citric acid overcomes the unsightly fungus. What do you think?
A. Several years ago we got a letter about this unusual nail fungus remedy. The reader said:
“You’ve never mentioned a remedy I learned from an elderly lady in South Carolina. At night cut a hole in the top of a lemon and scoop out a hollow just large enough for the toe.
“My mother had a great toenail so thick she could hardly wear a shoe on that foot. I used duct tape to hold the lemon on Mother’s foot and put a sandwich bag over it. After three nights, the toenail became so soft that it peeled off, and the new nail grew in normally.”
No one else has reported success with this remedy. Pure lemon might be irritating, and removing a toenail should be done under medical supervision due to a risk of infection.
We have collected a number of other remedies from readers who say they worked against nail fungus. We’re sending you our Guides to Home Remedies and Nail Care for more details on treatments like dilute vinegar soaks and prescription strength urea paste to remove the nail. Anyone who would like copies, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (no. 10) stamped (60 cents), self-addressed envelope: Graedons’ The People’s Pharmacy®, No. HR-311, P. O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027.
Q. Do you know of a Web site that evaluates herbal preparations that are offered for sale? I want to try some herbs, such as curcumin, but I want to be sure of the identity and purity of the product.
A. Try www.usp.org and www.consumerlab.com. USP stands for U. S. Pharmacopeia, a nonprofit agency that sets standards for drug purity. Look for the section on USP Verified to find dietary supplements that have passed rigorous testing.
Consumer Lab also tests dietary supplements. Its most recent report shows that some dietary supplements have less omega-3 or omega-6 fatty acids than the labels claim. Neither site evaluates curcumin, though.
Q. I have heard you mention Angostura bitters as a treatment for flatulence. What’s the dose? Or should I just have an old-fashioned every morning?
A. Skip the old-fashioned (which contains bourbon as well as bitters). According to the Angostura bitters label, the dose for flatulence is one to four teaspoonfuls after meals. You could put it in water.
Q. Which is safer to take every other day: Phillips Milk of Magnesia or tea with senna leaf in it?
A. No one should use a laxative for more than a week at a time without medical supervision. If we had to choose between the two, however, we’d pick milk of magnesia. Magnesium hydroxide is less likely to irritate the digestive tract than a stimulant laxative such as senna.
Q. My son has frequent nosebleeds. Can you tell me how to use cold keys down the back of the neck? Is there a drugstore product that would help?
A. Placing keys against the back of the neck and then dropping them down inside the shirt is an old remedy that sometimes works. Nosebleed QR is an OTC product containing potassium salt and hydrophilic polymer. It usually stops a nosebleed in less than a minute. More information is available at 800-722-7559.

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