Q. I have prostate cancer. I heard on the local news that pomegranate juice might lower PSA. Is there any scientific research to back this up?
A. A group of scientists in Marburg, Germany, has been investigating the effects of pomegranate juice and its components on prostate-cancer cells. Because this is laboratory research ("in vitro" or cell-culture research), it has no bearing on PSA (prostate-specific antigen), a marker for prostate cancer. Their studies show that pomegranate juice inhibits the growth and discourages the migration of prostate-cancer cells. They concluded: "Overall, this study demonstrates significant antitumor activity of pomegranate-derived materials against human prostate cancer (Journal of Medicinal Food, Fall 2004)." Follow-up studies have confirmed this. Recent research shows that PSA is not a foolproof indicator of prostate cancer (Journal of the American Medical Association). There are no clinical studies to show that drinking pomegranate juice will help you overcome prostate cancer, but the existing science suggests it won't hurt and might help.
Q. Several months ago I went to my neurologist for my yearly physical and told him about a problem I had with my legs "jumping" at night and waking me up. He gave me the technical name for it and wrote me a prescription for Mirapex. I then told him I had read in your column about putting a bar of soap in the bed, so he told me to try the soap and fill the prescription if it didn't work. I still have the unfilled prescription sitting on my bathroom vanity. When we went on a trip to Yellowstone, I took my soap along and slept fine every night we were gone.
A. This home remedy mystifies us, but we have heard from many readers like you. The risk of unwrapping a fresh bar of soap and putting it under the bottom sheet where the legs will be is almost zero. The cost is far less than a prescription. If home remedies do not work, the Food and Drug Administration has just approved the prescription drug Requip for restless legs.
Q. Your readers often ask about help for falling asleep easily. It's a good thing I was safely seated on my own sofa when I first sipped a cup of "Calm" tea from the Tazo company. I was soon stretched out and napping comfortably. I use this blend whenever I want to relax. It is difficult not to doze off. I'm not pushing the Tazo brand. The blend contains chamomile, hibiscus, spearmint, lemon grass, rose petals, blackberry, sarsaparilla, lemon balm, licorice and natural flavors. When I drink chamomile tea for indigestion, it doesn't put me to sleep.
A. Thanks for the tip. Other readers will surely want to try this tasty blend. Chamomile is traditionally considered a mild sleep aid. Perhaps the secret is in the combination of other mildly relaxing herbs, such as lemon balm. Hops, valerian and passionflower are other herbs used for relaxation and sleep, and might be found in other tea combinations.
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.
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