Q. I used your Certo remedy for arthritis with my beloved Rachel Dog for seven years. She thrived without side effects and as pain free as her debilitating arthritis would allow for the duration. I am a believer!

A. We are glad the remedy worked for Rachel Dog, but we don’t recommend this approach for other dogs. There are several cases in the veterinary literature of grapes and raisins causing kidney damage in dogs (Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, Sept-Oct. 2005). Because the remedy calls for Certo, a plant pectin used in home canning, to be dissolved in grape juice, we cannot be sure this is safe for dogs.

There is no research proving that Certo dissolved in grape juice will ease arthritis pain in people, but many readers tell us that it is helpful. We describe this and the gin-soaked raisin remedy along with other non-drug approaches to common ailments in our Guide to Home Remedies. 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' People's Pharmacy, No. R-1, P. O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It can also be downloaded for $2 from the Website: www.peoplespharmacy.com.

Q. I'm 52 and since I was a teenager I've had various degrees of dry skin or, as my dermatologist puts it, "atopic dermatitis." He tells me it is genetic and stress-related.

Every three months I can get a shot of a steroid, but besides being not so good for me, it only clears it up for a month at most. Then the skin on my hands dries out, peels off, splits and cracks. As one area heals, another area splits.

I've tried an assortment of hand creams, lotions and ointments from Avon or Burt's Bees to petroleum jelly and prescribed steroid creams. Nothing really seems to do the trick. At times I even sleep with greased-up hands in white cotton gloves. Do you have any recommendations?

A. Dealing with the dry skin of atopic dermatitis is a challenge. Japanese researchers reported benefit when they had patients with hard-to-treat atopic dermatitis drink three to four cups of oolong tea (a liter) daily (Archives of Dermatology, Jan. 2001).

Another approach comes from readers: “Someone wrote in about using a vinegar/water mixture (2/3 white vinegar and 1/3 water) for dried chapped hands. Each winter my hands would get terribly dry and the tips of my fingers would crack and bleed. It was so painful.

“I dipped my hands in the vinegar and water mixture daily. I left it on for about a minute, then rinsed it off. I only had three cracks on my fingertips all winter. That reader earned my thanks!”

The reader who first reported using this remedy keeps a spray bottle of the mixture in the shower to apply to hands and feet.

Q. Many people have horrible leg cramps and cannot take quinine because it is being taken off the market. I am 70 years old and have suffered with leg cramps all my life. Years ago, I used to take OTC quinine tablets, but quinine water never worked for me.

A long time ago I found that 250 mg tablets of magnesium at bedtime worked like a charm in warding off leg cramps and restless leg syndrome.

A. Others have also reported that magnesium can be helpful against leg cramps. Taken before bedtime, it may also help insomniacs fall asleep. Too much can cause diarrhea, though.

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  1. Shirley

    I’m 74 and my granddaughter is 16. We have both suffered from atopic dermatitis for most of our lives. A friend suggested going to a naturopath for a blood test for food allergies. It showed that she’s allergic to everything dairy and some other things. I’m allergic to eggs and almonds. Since we’ve avoided these foods we are both very comfortable without any skin problems (unless we eat these foods).
    Thanks for your column in the Seattle Times.

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