Q. I’ve heard that capsaicin nasal spray was used to treat migraines in a study. I’ve also read accounts online of migraine sufferers who put capsaicin powder into their nostrils as a nonprescription alternative treatment.

I have tried this. I dip a water-moistened cotton swab in a miniscule amount of powder and insert it briefly into each nostril, breathing deeply. It provides some relief.

My concern is about possible damage this may cause nasal membranes. I have noticed no after-effects other than some dryness. But I suffer from migraines almost daily in the spring and don’t want to frequently employ a technique that may cause harm.
A. Essence of hot peppers (capsaicin) can be extremely irritating. Putting something like that in one’s nose could create burning, stinging and sneezing. While it is true that there has been some research on capsaicin nasal spray for migraine, this is still experimental. We do not have information on the long-term potential for harm.
Q. I know there was a study a while ago that showed that glucosamine and chondroitin did not work for arthritis in the knees. This does not square with my experience.
I’ve been taking this combination for five years. The one week I missed taking it, my knees ached so badly I could hardly climb the stairs.

I started on it because my daughter and son-in-law, both vets, gave me a bottle with a picture of a dog on it. They said, “One of the owners of a patient says it helped his dog so much that he tried it himself.��? I don’t think dogs would be fooled by placebos, so how do I interpret the results of this study?

A. The results of the study (New England Journal of Medicine, February 23, 2006) were rather confusing. The scientists found that the supplements glucosamine and chondroitin were no better than placebo for most arthritis sufferers. But for a small group of people with more severe knee pain, the combination worked better than placebo.
When it comes to arthritis, we think experience should be your guide. Many people get benefit from home remedies that seem illogical, such as pectin in grape juice or raisins drenched in gin.
For more information about glucosamine, home remedies and the pros and cons of pharmaceutical approaches we are sending you our Guide to Alternative Treatments for Arthritis. 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. AA-2, P. O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It can also be downloaded for $2 from the Website: www.peoplespharmacy.com.

Q. I read with interest your article about Earl Grey tea causing muscle pain and cramping. I stopped drinking this tea a few years ago because each time I drank it I would have an asthma attack. I wonder if other asthmatics have had the same problem.

A. We have found no reference to Earl Grey tea triggering asthma, but your experience is fascinating. Perhaps others will tell us whether this flavored black tea has had a similar effect.

Q. Here’s a hiccup remedy: Take a few drops of lemon or lime juice. A friend told me about this and it works every time.

A. Another reader offered this: “Hold a pencil in your mouth like a horse’s bit. With the pencil still in your mouth take a couple of gulps of water and try to swallow. I have tried this many times and it works!��?

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