Q. Do blueberries have any bad side effects for cardiac patients? I put some fresh berries in my yogurt every day.
A. Blueberries are rich in fiber and antioxidants. Rats fed a diet rich in blueberries have better blood vessel function, so that bodes well for heart patients (Journal of Medicinal Food, Spring 2005).
Q. People often complain about the side effects of statin drugs they take for high cholesterol. My former doctor prescribed each of the statin drugs. They all caused soreness, muscle weakness, joint pain and an extreme reaction to sunlight.
When I went to a new doctor, he asked why I had been given all 5 statin drugs. I told him each drug caused bad side effects, but then the doctor would try another.
The new doctor said such reactions are common among fair-haired, fair-skinned people. He suggested red yeast rice capsules instead. It lowered my cholesterol 60 points (220 down to 160), with no side effects.
A. Red yeast rice is a Chinese flavoring agent and botanical medicine. It often lowers cholesterol quite well in part because it contains statin-like compounds.
Some people experience side effects even with this natural medicine. One reader wrote: “I cannot take conventional statin drugs. I’ve tried three different brands and got achy muscles from all of them. So I tried red yeast rice. Within a few weeks, I got the same muscle pain, although not quite as severe.��?
Q. My husband had severe leg cramps for years. While he was at the eye doctor, the receptionist excused herself, saying: “I’ve got leg cramps. I’ve gotta grab the dill pickle juice!”
When my husband got leg cramps a few nights later, he grabbed the dill pickle jar and poured himself a swig of juice. Almost instantly, the cramps were gone!
Once we were out of pickle juice and he took a tablespoon of mustard. VOILA! He got the same result! Now he keeps little packets of mustard in the car and the truck just in case.
A. Thanks for sharing the pickle juice remedy. Many leg cramp victims may benefit. We discuss yellow mustard along with many other leg cramp remedies in our Guide to Leg Pain. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $2 in check or money order with a long (no. 10) stamped (63 cents), self-addressed envelope: Graedons’ The People’s Pharmacy®, No. RLS-5, P. O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It can also be downloaded for $2 from www.peoplespharmacy.com.

Q. For many years I have made a wad of toilet paper, saturated it with witch hazel and washed myself after going to the bathroom. I have hemorrhoids and find that I suffer from itching and discomfort if I neglect this practice.


What is witch hazel? I think sometimes the label also says something like “hamamelis water.”

A. Witch hazel is a woody shrub that’s been used in folk medicine for years. The hamamelis water you are using is steam distilled from twigs. It is popular as an astringent, which makes it helpful in treating hemorrhoids and skin inflammation.
Q. Do you know whether taking turmeric for arthritis would affect the warfarin I must take daily to prevent blood clots?
A. Warfarin (Coumadin) can interact with many other medications, foods and herbs. One reader experienced a potentially dangerous interaction between turmeric and warfarin. The INR (a measure of blood clotting ability) was very elevated, indicating a risk of hemorrhage. Turmeric could be hazardous for you.

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