Q. I am a distance runner, and my feet are in awful shape. They're cracked and scaly, and the toenails are thickened with fungus. Trying to clip my nails is an exercise in frustration. To compound my problems, I also have a plantar wart on my right sole.
My podiatrist says that I need foot surgery to remove the wart and the fungus-infected nails. That would really interfere with my training for a marathon. Is there any nonsurgical way to deal with warts and nasty nails?
A. Dr. Samuel Moschella of Harvard Medical School had several patients who were runners with plantar warts. Like you, they were reluctant to stop running, so he had them try an old-fashioned approach instead of excising the warts. They soaked their feet in hot water for 30-90 minutes a week, and many of them were able to forgo the surgery when their warts disappeared.
It is also possible to remove fungus-infected nails without surgery. This requires application of a urea paste, which dissolves the infected portion and leaves healthy nail. We're sending you our Guides to Home Remedies and Nail Care for details on these treatments along with some natural approaches to fighting nail fungus. Anyone who would like copies, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (60 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No. HR-311, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, N.C. 27717-2027.
Q. My friend is 19 years old. One night she was watching TV with her mother, and the right side of her face went numb. Her doctor diagnosed it as Bell's palsy and said she would just have to suffer with the paralysis for eight weeks, until the problem ran its course. She was relieved it wasn't a stroke, but she had to tape her right eye closed every night since she couldn't move the lid.
I'd heard that stinging nettles could be used to help palsy, and thought immediately of her. She bought a small bottle of stinging nettle tincture and placed one eyedropper full twice a day under her tongue.
She felt sensation in her face with that first dose and continued to take it until the bottle was empty. Then she went to see her doctor and greeted him with a huge smile! He concluded that her eye muscles were still a bit slow, though Jenny had not even noticed. She was smiling and winking long before he'd said she would be. I hope this helps someone else with Bell's palsy.
A. Bell's palsy is a sudden weakness of the muscles on one side of the face. The cause is unknown, and there is no specific test or treatment. A doctor's diagnosis is needed to rule out other, more dangerous conditions, such as a stroke.
Stinging nettle extracts have been studied for alleviating symptoms of prostate enlargement as well as for allergies. We had not heard that this herb could be helpful in Bell's palsy, but your friend's tale is fascinating.
Q. I am an active 55-year-old man. I play competitive tennis, lift weights and try to get some exercise every day. I am in good health and take no medications, but after reading about it in your column, I started taking bilberry. My night vision has improved to the point where I can play tennis under the lights without glasses. I thought you'd like to know.
A. Bilberry extract can help eyes adapt to darkness more quickly. During World War II, British pilots for the RAF were given bilberry jam (similar to blueberry jam) before setting out on night missions.
XIn their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, N.Y. 10019, or e-mail them at email@example.com or via their Web site: www.peoplespharmacy.org.
& copy; 2002 King Features Syndicate, Inc.