Q: My husband has terrible plantar warts. They have been frozen multiple times by a dermatologist. Acid patches ate away at his healthy skin, but not the warts. The warts have spread and are practically covering his entire heel. We are at a loss. Is there any remedy to get rid of these warts once and for all?
Answer: Plantar warts occur on the toes or soles of the feet and can be quite painful. Treatment is not always successful, as you have discovered.
Readers have shared remedies that include turmeric paste, duct tape or banana peel on the wart. The turmeric powder is mixed with a little olive oil, applied to the wart and covered carefully with tape. The socks you wear may become stained, so don't use your best pair. Change the turmeric daily.
To use banana peel, cut a piece of the peel to the size of the wart and tape it to the foot, with the inner side of the peel against the wart. This, too, is changed daily; some people wear it only at night.
Any of these remedies may take up to six weeks, so be patient. Another approach is the oral heartburn drug Tagamet (cimetidine), taken twice daily.
Q: My mother-in-law was hospitalized twice this winter for a weak heart. The hospital was very aggressive in treating her diabetes, although we repeatedly told them that she is better off with blood sugar a little higher than "normal."
Then she was in a nursing home for three months for rehab, and again they were aggressive with diabetes management, although we again insisted that a higher-than-normal glucose level was normal for her.
Twice she was sent back to the hospital when her blood sugar crashed, once down to 43 and the second time to 25. They were giving her too much diabetes medicine despite our requests.
Now she is in assisted living but completely confused. Could the low blood sugar episodes have affected her brain?
Answer: A recent study (JAMA Internal Medicine online, June 10, 2013) reveals that episodes of hypoglycemia (severe low blood sugar) double the risk for dementia. Your mother-in-law's blood sugar was far too low.
Trying to keep blood glucose within narrow limits increases the likelihood of a hypoglycemic crash. This is especially worrisome in older people. We are sending you our Guide to Managing Diabetes with more details on monitoring blood sugar and a variety of ways to control it. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (66 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No. DM-11, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It also can be downloaded for $2 from our website: www.peoplespharmacy.com.
Q: I have two friends who have developed severe red-meat allergies, one of whom was told by his doctor that it was likely tick-bite-related. What can you tell us about this?
Answer: The condition your friends have developed is called "alpha-gal allergy." It is triggered by a reaction to a tick bite (Current Opinion in Allergy and Clinical Immunology online, June 5, 2013).
Eating beef, pork, lamb, rabbit, venison or buffalo meat can result in a delayed anaphylactic response (three to six hours later). Read more about this mysterious but potentially life-threatening allergy on our website, www.PeoplesPharmacy.com. Children are increasingly susceptible and may be hard to diagnose.
Q: Will beet root powder boost libido? I started adding a teaspoon of beet root powder to my morning juice after hearing about it on your radio show, since my doctor advised me I was pre-hypertensive. I'm 51, and my wife and I enjoy a very active sex life even after 25 years together. A few times a week is normal. Since taking the beet root powder, I'm pestering my wife daily, and that's just a little too much for her. Have you heard from others whose sex drive has increased due to beet root powder?
Answer: Five years ago we read a study showing that beet root juice could lower blood pressure. A recent review has confirmed this fascinating discovery (Journal of Nutrition, June 2013).
Beet root helps the body create nitric oxide in blood vessels. This makes them relax, improves blood flow and lowers blood pressure. The erectile-dysfunction drugs (Cialis, Levitra and Viagra) all work through a similar mechanism. By increasing nitric-oxide levels, they improve blood flow to the penis.
We could find no credible evidence that beets boost libido, but improving circulation might have unexpected benefits when it comes to sex. If this continues to be a problem, however, you may want to moderate your beet root powder intake or find a different way to control your blood pressure.
Q: I grew up highly allergic to poison ivy. Our one acre was covered with it, and I seemed to have it year-round. In 1978, we got milk goats to eat the vines, with no thoughts other than to get rid of the ivy. I started drinking their milk. In 1981, we began clearing thick woods that were infested with poison ivy. I tried not to get in it, but in clearing 35 acres and following a bulldozer around while picking up sticks, I am positive that I had to have encountered it. I never did get a rash, though. I couldn't believe how lucky I had been. About a year later, there was an article in the Dairy Goat Journal about the immunity factor, and I thought back to determine the last time I had a rash. I could not remember ever having one after getting the goats, now 28 years ago.
Answer: We could find no scientific evidence to support this idea. Some researchers report that goats eating poison oak or poison ivy don't transfer the irritating compound, urushiol, to their milk. We have heard, however, from other readers with a similar experience. Here's one such story:
"I grew up with goats and drank only goat milk. Our goats had acres of land to roam and ate lots of poison ivy. Neither my brother nor I have EVER had poison ivy, and we can roll in it without getting it. My mother and father, who were both sensitive to poison ivy before the goats, have never had it since."
Q: During a power outage, I burned four fingers while removing hot glass from a kerosene lantern. I first used cool water, then soy sauce, without much relief. I quickly went to your website and searched "burns." I found the mustard remedy. I put on a sterile plastic glove and squirted yellow mustard in the fingers, and left this on for an hour. Immediate relief!
Answer: We're glad this remedy helped.
In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them via their website: www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.