Stung by a bee or a scorpion? Ease the pain with fresh onion

Q. You recently wrote about rubbing a cut onion on a bee sting to ease the pain.

Swiss farmers have practiced this for centuries. In 1949, when I was stung by a bee right near the kneecap and was hurting badly, my farmer grandmother gave me a freshly cut onion and told me to rub it on the sting site for five minutes.

After that, I could not even feel the sting or any pain anymore. I have used this remedy many times since.

A. Thanks for this historical perspective.

Onion contains compounds that can break down the proteins in bee venom.

We also heard from someone who experienced a different kind of sting:

“Several years ago, I was stung on the leg by a scorpion. It was horribly painful. My leg turned red and started swelling above and below the site of the sting. At my mom’s suggestion, I tried fresh-cut onion on the sting, and it worked great. In about 20 minutes, the redness had completely disappeared, the swelling stopped and the pain was almost completely gone.”

Some scorpion stings can be dangerous. If they cause numbness or tingling, blurry vision or muscle twitches, emergency treatment is advisable.

Q. I have suffered from charley horse leg cramps as well as cramps in my feet, hands, rib cage or arms for years. At one time, I took quinine capsules, but they have been banned and are no longer available.

After reading about putting a bar of soap under the bottom sheet, I’ve recently tried this with a bar of Ivory for several weeks. I have NOT received the kind of relief that I was hoping to get.

Is there anything else I can do? There are days when the pain after a cramp is so bad that my legs and thighs are still tender in the morning and it hurts to walk.

A. Although many people have found soap helpful against nighttime cramps, it does not work for everyone. We have also heard that a swig of pickle juice or a spoonful of yellow mustard may work to banish muscle cramps.

We are sending you our Guide to Leg Pain with a wealth of affordable home remedies for cramps. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $2 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (61 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. RLS-5, P.O. Box 52027,Durham, NC 27717-2027.

It also can be downloaded for $2 from our Web site:

Q. You recently mentioned the value of L-lysine for dealing with cold sores. I have struggled with cold sores and fever blisters for more than 50 years.

About 20 years ago, I first tried L-lysine.

I’ve found that taking 1,000 mg twice a day at the first sign of a “tingle” stops the cold sore immediately.

If I miss that signal and a blister forms, taking L-lysine makes the blister disappear within a few days: no scabs, no inflammation. My brother has had similar good results with L-lysine.

A. Like you, many people who suffer from recurrent cold sores report that the amino acid L-lysine can be useful in shortening the attack. Despite such testimonials, however, there is a surprising lack of recent clinical trials supporting the use of L-lysine.

Older studies were inconclusive.

Without better research, it is hard to say whether this natural product is really better than placebo. On the other hand, L-lysine appears safe.

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: Their newest book is “Favorite Home Remedies From The People’s Pharmacy.”

2009 King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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