Q. What can you recommend for dog flatulence? It is so smelly, and in the winter we can't put the dog outside at night.
A. Look for CurTail. When drops are added to food, they control pet gas with the same enzyme (alpha galactosidase) found in Beano for humans. CurTail (www.curtail.comcq) is sold at pet-supply stores, or call (800) 994-4711.
Q. My whole family has been suffering with colds and flu this winter. No sooner does one child recover than another gets sick. The kids hate taking cough medicine, and we read in your column that it doesn't work that well for children. What else can we do for congestion and those awful nighttime coughs?
A. Ginger tea with honey can be great for coughs and congestion. Animal research suggests that compounds in ginger might be as effective as the most common ingredient in over-the-counter cough remedies.
Thyme tea is also an excellent cough remedy. It can be sweetened to taste to make it more palatable for a child. This herb has been used for centuries to calm coughs.
For nighttime cough, our favorite trick is to apply a coating of Vicks VapoRub to the soles of the feet. Put socks on to protect the sheets.
We are sending you our Guides to Cold Remedies and Unique Uses for Vicks, with more information on this old-fashioned remedy and other ways to fight colds. 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. QVi-276, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027.
Q. Can fish oil help depression? Does it interact with antidepressants?
A. Depression requires medical supervision. Counseling is as effective as some medication. Other approaches may include vigorous exercise, exposure to sunshine and fish oil.
One study in the Archives of General Psychiatry (October 2002) found that 1 gram of EPA (a compound of fish oil) daily was effective in people who had not responded to standard therapy.
Fish oil also improves cardiovascular health by helping stabilize heart rhythms and reducing the risk of blood clots. This anti-clotting effect, however, may increase the risk of bleeding, especially in combination with anticoagulants.
Q. I have had Raynaud's [phenomenon] for years. When I could not get a flu shot this fall, I began taking the Chinese herb astragalus to boost my immune system. I took 3 pills a day (470 mg each), and within a few days I noticed that I had almost no more symptoms of Raynaud's. It is 98 percent gone. I can even pick up ice cubes without my fingers turning white.
No doctor has ever told me there was any relief for this very inconvenient and painful problem.
A. In Raynaud's, cold temperatures or emotional stress triggers vasoconstriction of the fingers and toes. As a consequence, they turn white or even blue and become painful.
Astragalus root has been used in China for centuries to boost the immune system and improve circulation. This herb is considered helpful for combating colds and flu. Animal research suggests that astragalus may improve circulation, which is a problem with Raynaud's.
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, NY 10019, or e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org or via their Web site: www.peoplespharmacy.org.
& copy; 2005 King Features Syndicate Inc.