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Blood Pressure Benefits from Chocolate

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Q. I’ve got a comment about the dark chocolate controversy on whether it is irresponsible to recommend chocolate for health benefits.

I started eating Hershey’s dark chocolate when it was on sale a few weeks ago. I enjoy about five of the little squares twice a day. Both my systolic and diastolic blood pressure numbers went down about 15 or 20 points each.

A. Chocolate will never substitute for blood pressure medicine, but some data support your experience. Studies have demonstrated modest of benefits of cocoa and dark chocolate in lowering blood pressure (Hypertension, Aug., 2005; Archives of Internal Medicine, Feb. 27, 2006).

Your reaction to chocolate is much greater than average. The amount needed to affect blood pressure ranges from 10 g (the size of one Ghirardelli chocolate square) to 100 g (the size of a Ritter Sport bar).

Q. My sister-in-law has begun to have increasingly frequent migraines and is considering using feverfew to see if it helps. She gets serious side effects from prescription medicines. Are there any drugs that interact with feverfew?

A. Feverfew has the potential to interact with a great many medications, especially blood thinners like Coumadin (warfarin), aspirin or Plavix (clopidogrel). No one should take feverfew with prescription medications unless a physician supervises closely and checks for safety.

A reader shared her success with this herb: “I started taking feverfew for migraine headaches in 1998 and haven't had a migraine since then. When I have a colonoscopy, I stop taking the feverfew to reduce the risk of bleeding.��?

Q. Can you stand another toenail fungus cure? I have found one that works for me, and I have tried them all, including prescription Lamisil pills.

I read somewhere that oil of oregano will kill anything, so I tried putting a drop down between the nail and the skin every day. Slowly but surely the toenail is growing out normally! I hope someone else can benefit from this as well.

A. Thanks for the recommendation. Here’s one from another reader: “When examining me my doctor noticed that I had nail fungus affecting toes on each foot. He recommended that I make a batter by mixing cornmeal and water in a shallow pan, let it sit for an hour, and then soak my feet for an hour. Do this once a week for a month.

“If the fungus is not gone, apply Vicks VapoRub once a week for a month. I did the cornmeal therapy for three weeks and the fungus was gone. I don't know why it works, but it's cheap, harmless, and it worked for me.��?

We have collected a number of remedies for nail fungus and other common problems. To get more information, request our Guides to Nail Care, Home Remedies and Unique Uses for Vicks. Please send $4 in check or money order with a long (no. 10) stamped (63 cents), self-addressed envelope: Graedons' The People's Pharmacy®, No. HRV-3176, P. O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027.

Corn meal seems to have antifungal activity. We have heard from gardeners who use it to fight black spot on roses.

Q. When I add up the amount of vitamin D in my multivitamin and calcium tablets, it comes to a total of 1000 IU vitamin D each day. Is that too much?

A. Many experts think that is a good dose. A study showed that women with high levels of vitamin D, equivalent to taking 1000 IU daily, had the lowest risk of breast cancer.

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