Q. A few weeks ago you wrote about someone using Listerine and baby oil to treat dandruff. More than 40 years ago, my family was using plain Listerine for this purpose. It was advertised as a dandruff treatment during World War II, and it worked wonders.
A. We were fascinated to discover a 1943 ad for Listerine Antiseptic against “infectious dandruff.” These days Listerine is advertised only for oral hygiene.
The active ingredients of Listerine include essential oils (thymol, eucalyptol, menthol, methyl salicylate) with anti-fungal activity. Dermatologists have determined that dandruff can be caused by fungus (yeast), so it makes sense that attacking the fungus might offer relief.
Other ingredients in dandruff shampoos also counter fungus. Selenium sulfide, zinc pyrithione or the anti-fungal drug ketoconazole (Nizoral) are all effective fungus fighters.
Q. Last January I was rushed to the medical center with a heart attack after taking two puffs from an over-the-counter bronchial mist inhaler. Using the inhaler immediately made me short of breath and the trauma caused by the reaction caused a heart attack. The doctor told me my life was saved in the emergency room.
I was hospitalized for three days and the bill came to $23,000. I have no insurance and feel that the pharmacy where I bought the asthma inhaler should pay for my medical bills. I will have to live with a damaged heart for the rest of my life. As an active athlete, this is a considerable price to pay.
A. Epinephrine, the ingredient in OTC asthma inhalers, can open constricted airways. But it may also stimulate the heart muscle and cause irregular heart beats. For susceptible people, this might trigger a serious cardiac reaction.
Asthma experts generally prefer prescription inhalers rather than OTC asthma products because the prescription inhalers produce more effective, safer and longer-lasting relief.
Q. I have had a major constipation problem for as long as I can remember. I’ve tried everything, including extra fiber (which causes bloating and gas) and lots of water. Nothing works. At times I have even resorted to enemas in desperation.
My wife purchased an herbal tea to lose weight and suggested that I try it. The results are amazing. I have a cup and it works miracles. The label says it contains senna and warns against using it for more than 10 days. Why can’t I use this tea for the rest of my life?
A. Senna is derived from the leaves of an African shrub (Cassia senna). Although approved by the FDA, it is considered a strong laxative because it stimulates muscle contractions in the lower digestive tract. Gastroenterologists generally advise against regular use of such products since they can cause dependence. Over-reliance on senna may deplete the body of essential nutrients.
Magnesium can be helpful for people with chronic constipation. Doses over 350 mg may cause diarrhea, however. Sugarless gum can also provide relief, as long as you don’t overdo.
We are sending you our Guide to Constipation with a recipe for pumpkin bran muffins and ten tips to combat constipation. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $2 in check or money order with a long (no. 10) stamped, self-addressed envelope: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. GG-30, P. O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027.