Q. I have suffered for years with a fungal growth under my big toenail and would like to get rid of it. I read somewhere that sticking my big toe in half a lemon every night would do this. Apparently the citric acid overcomes the unsightly fungus. What do you think?
A. Several years ago we got a letter about this unusual nail-fungus remedy. The reader said:
"You've never mentioned a remedy I learned from an elderly lady in South Carolina. At night, cut a hole in the top of a lemon and scoop out a hollow just large enough for the toe.
"My mother had a great toenail so thick she could hardly wear a shoe on that foot. I used duct tape to hold the lemon on Mother's foot and put a sandwich bag over it. After three nights, the toenail became so soft that it peeled off, and the new nail grew in normally."
No one else has reported success with this remedy. Pure lemon might be irritating, and removing a toenail should be done under medical supervision because of a risk of infection.
Q. Do you know of a Web site that evaluates herbal preparations that are offered for sale? I want to try some herbs, such as curcumin, but I want to be sure of the identity and purity of the product.
A. Try www.consumerlab.com and www.usp.org. "USP" stands for U.S. Pharmacopeia, a nonprofit agency that sets standards for drug purity. Look for the section titled "USP Verified" to find dietary supplements that have passed rigorous testing. Consumer Lab also tests dietary supplements. Its most recent report shows that some dietary supplements have less omega-3 or omega-6 fatty acids than the labels claim. Neither site evaluates curcumin, though.
Q. I have heard you mention angostura bitters as a treatment for flatulence. What's the dose? Or should I just have an old-fashioned every morning?
A. Skip the old-fashioned (which contains bourbon as well as bitters). According to the angostura-bitters label, the dose for flatulence is 1 to 4 teaspoonfuls after meals. You could put it in water.
Q. Which is safer to take every other day: Phillips Milk of Magnesia or tea with senna leaf in it?
A. No one should use a laxative for more than a week at a time without medical supervision. If we had to choose between the two, however, we'd pick milk of magnesia. Magnesium hydroxide is less likely to irritate the digestive tract than a stimulant laxative such as senna.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or via their Web site: www.peoplespharmacy.org.
& copy; 2005 King Features Syndicate Inc.