GRAEDONS | People's Herbal Pharmacy Milk of magnesia makes good deodorant, reader says

Q. I want to share a remedy I learned about when traveling in Brazil. Just apply milk of magnesia to your armpits. It is the best underarm deodorant!
A. What an unusual idea. Milk of magnesia contains magnesium hydroxide, which is both an antacid and a laxative. We have never heard of applying it to underarms, though. Perhaps it reduces the acidity of the skin to make odor-forming bacteria less welcome.
Q. I don't like the taste of thyme and ginger in a tea for relieving a cough. But if you add a low-sodium chicken bouillon cube instead of sugar, you have a tasty little broth that calms a cough.
A. Thanks for an interesting modification on an old remedy. Spices such as thyme and ginger have a long history against coughs. They do have strong flavors, however, and your solution is one way to make them more palatable.
Dissolve a bouillon cube in a cup of hot water. Add one-half teaspoon of thyme and about a teaspoon of grated fresh ginger root. Steep the mixture for four or five minutes and then pour it through a strainer into a clean mug and sip.
Q. Please pass this on to the woman who cannot stay awake while driving. I have always had the same problem. I do not have a sleep disorder.
Driving and riding in a car are the only situations where I can't stay awake. A friend gave me the solution about nine years ago -- sunflower seeds! There is something about having to concentrate on cracking them open with your teeth that keeps the brain alert. It's rather messy, but it works for me.
A. We received many messages from readers who were concerned about the woman who could not stay awake while driving. Most feared that she was being poisoned by carbon monoxide and pleaded that she have her car checked.
Other suggestions included keeping a squirt bottle of water in the cup holder for an occasional refreshing spritz. One reader realized that the doughnut and coffee she had at the beginning of her drive were making her blood sugar drop later. She switched to nuts or cheese sticks as a snack, avoiding cookies, candy, crackers or sugary sodas, and had no further problems with drowsiness while driving.
Q. I'm 47 years old and play basketball. My calves seem to cramp almost every time I play. I stretch them for about 20 minutes beforehand, but it doesn't help.
Would this be due to a lack of calcium or potassium? Please help. I'm sick of hopping around for days after I play.
A. Muscle cramps can be caused by all sorts of things. Lack of minerals such as calcium, magnesium and potassium may be responsible. In such cases, replenishing the minerals may prevent the cramps.
A former football player with the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers told us that the best home remedy is a jigger of pickle juice. He also found a glass of tonic water with quinine helpful. Other readers tell us that a teaspoonful of yellow mustard also works.
We are sending you our Guide to Leg Pain, with many home remedies and simple suggestions for cramps and restless leg syndrome.
XIn their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of this newspaper or e-mail them via their Web site:
& copy; 2006 King Features Syndicate Inc.

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