The People's Perspective on Medicine

Milk of Magnesia Makes Good Antiperspirant

Q. You expressed surprise that someone might use milk of magnesia as an underarm deodorant. I have been using milk of magnesia for several years. Despite my initial skepticism, I’ve found it to be a remarkably effective antiperspirant. I apply it directly from the bottle using my fingers.

It is inexpensive (a bottle lasts months), goes on quickly and easily, has no odor, dries clear, does not stain clothing, and is completely effective in stopping odor and perspiration. It contains no aluminum (some people worry that aluminum contributes to Alzheimer’s). It contains no other harmful ingredients since it is made to be ingested.

A. Thanks for the testimonial. We are glad to learn that this remedy has been effective for others. We agree that it should be safe.

Q. I was recently diagnosed with high blood pressure (after being borderline for several years). My doctor first tried a beta blocker (atenolol), but it caused shortness of breath and took the starch out of me. Next came a calcium blocker (verapamil) that made me dizzy and constipated. I also had headaches.

I am now on Altace. So far so good, but I would like to know more about this medicine since I don’t want any more unpleasant surprises.

A. Finding the right blood pressure medicine can be challenging, but you should not have to deal with dizziness, fatigue or constipation.

ACE inhibitors like Altace (ramipril), Accupril (quinapril), Prinivil (lisinopril) or Vasotec (enalapril) are quite effective and generally well tolerated. A dry hacking cough might be a bothersome side effect. Avoid extra potassium, either from supplements or salt substitutes.

We are sending you our Guide to Blood Pressure Treatment with more information on the safe use of medications and some non-drug options. Others having trouble controlling blood pressure who would like this information may send $2 in check or money order with a long (no. 10) stamped (60 cents), self-addressed envelope: Graedons’ The People’s Pharmacy®, No. B-67, P. O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It can also be downloaded for $2 at

Q. I have been given prednisone twice. It was only so-so for the problems for which it was prescribed.

But while I was taking it my arthritis completely went away! I was told I can’t take it long term because of side effects. Is there any way to get the benefits without the bad parts?

A. Corticosteroids like prednisone are powerful anti-inflammatory agents, which is why they are used to treat everything from asthma to poison ivy. They can ease the pain of arthritis but at a price. Long-term use may trigger fluid retention, potassium loss, high blood pressure, insomnia, mood swings, osteoporosis, weight gain, glaucoma, cataracts and diabetes. There is no way to eliminate these risks.

Q. My husband loves hot chili peppers. He puts hot sauce on just about everything but ice cream–eggs, spaghetti, burgers, vegetables, you name it. He loves salsa, but I fear that all this hot stuff could cause an ulcer. Am I worrying needlessly?

A. Although spicy food is thought to be bad for digestion, there is little data to support this belief. There is even a suggestion that the essence of hot peppers (capsaicin) might be good for combating indigestion (New England Journal of Medicine, March 21, 2002).

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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