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Will Horny Goat Weed Solve Sex Problem?

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Q. My husband has suffered from high blood pressure and high cholesterol for years. HCTZ and Monopril control his hypertension and Vytorin has lowered his cholesterol.

Since starting the drugs, he’s had trouble with impotence. He refuses to see a urologist but takes an herb called Horny Goat Weed instead.

I don’t trust this herb, but he thinks it will help. What effect would this herb have on his other medication?

A. Horny Goat Weed (Epimedium) may have a suggestive name, but clinical data to support its effectiveness for erectile dysfunction or low libido are limited. What’s more, products being sold as Horny Goat Weed vary tremendously. They don’t all contain the same ingredients.

This herb might interact with blood pressure medicines. Side effects could include dizziness from low blood pressure, nausea, dry mouth or respiratory difficulties.

Some of your husband’s medications could be contributing to his sexual issues. We would like to send you two Guides to solving sexual problems along with a CD of an hour-long interview with a leading expert on sexual dysfunction. Others who want this information should send $18 in check or money order: Graedons' The People's Pharmacy®, No. YP-561, P. O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027.

We urge your husband to discuss this issue with his doctor, who might prescribe medication that does not interfere with your love life.

Q. I read a letter from a reader who used Vicks VapoRub on the soles of her child's feet to help with chest congestion and cough. I'm not sure why it works, but I’ve heard an anecdote that may be relevant. If you rubbed crushed garlic on your feet, you would have the garlic on your breath in a short while. I guess the feet absorb strong-smelling compounds.

A. We can’t explain why smearing Vicks on the soles of the feet might calm a nighttime cough. The soles of the feet seem pretty tough. But perhaps you’re right that herbal oils in Vicks VapoRub can be absorbed.

Some people use crushed garlic to treat athlete’s foot. We don’t know whether this remedy causes bad breath.

In the 1930s scientists argued about the cause of garlic breath. Some claimed that particles of garlic trapped in the mouth were responsible. Others insisted that smelly garlic compounds circulated in the bloodstream and were exhaled. They devised a clever experiment to test their hypothesis:

They put fresh raw garlic into double capsules so no particles stayed in the mouth. People who swallowed these garlic capsules developed garlic breath within two hours.

The clincher was an experiment carried out in labor and delivery rooms. Women in the first stage of labor took garlic capsules and developed garlic breath. When their babies were born, they too had garlic breath lasting from 4 to 20 hours.

Q. What foods are high in selenium? I’ve been told this mineral may help prevent arthritis.

A. Research presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology showed that people with low selenium levels were more prone to osteoarthritis.

Brazil nuts are the richest food source of this mineral with 544 micrograms per ounce. Don’t overdo, though. More than 400 micrograms of selenium daily may be excessive.

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