Q. I am an above-the-knee amputee who suffers from severe phantom limb pain. This always starts with muscle spasms.
I tried taking a tablespoon of yellow mustard, and it stopped the spasms immediately, not allowing them to progress into a full-blown episode that could last 12 hours or more. What is it in mustard that is helping?
My doctor has never heard about the mustard remedy for muscle cramps. He’d like to know more so he can help other patients.
A. There have been no scientific studies of mustard use for muscle cramps, but people tell us that this remedy is surprisingly effective. We’re not sure whether the magic ingredient in mustard is the yellow spice turmeric that provides the distinctive color or the vinegar or salt. Thanks for sharing such a compelling story.
Q. My beloved dog is almost 15, and her arthritis is making it hard for her to climb stairs. Would it be OK to give her gin-soaked raisins? They work for my arthritis, so I would like to share the benefit with her.
A. Absolutely not! Raisins are toxic to dogs and can damage their kidneys. Instead, ask your vet about glucosamine and chondroitin. Although clinical trials have been disappointing in humans, many veterinarians tell us that this supplement works for their canine patients.
People often get confused about the raisin remedy for themselves. Common questions include how to prepare and store them and whether there are side effects.
There are detailed instructions and answers to FAQs in our Guide to Alternatives for Arthritis. Other natural approaches include bromelain in pineapple as well as turmeric, boswellia, ginger, capsaicin and stinging nettle (Urtica dioica).
Q. One of your readers wrote about success using Listerine for acne. I had equal success using Listerine for my psoriasis.
Large red areas on my legs itched severely. The doctor could offer no cures except to enter a clinical trial. Instead I used Listerine. I applied it twice a day, and the itching stopped almost immediately. It took about six or seven weeks for the redness to disappear.
That was seven years ago. The psoriasis has not recurred. The cost was minimal; the look on my doctor’s face was priceless.
A. Your story is intriguing. We suspect that dermatologists would be skeptical. Nevertheless, we have heard from others that old-fashioned amber-colored Listerine does help ease the itching of scalp psoriasis. Other natural approaches to psoriasis include moderate sun exposure or consuming turmeric, flaxseed oil, cilantro or salsa.
Q. Several years ago, my son’s preschool teacher told me to use natural vanilla extract on mosquito bites, as well as minor bruises. It’s amazing how fast the vanilla takes the itch away, even on old bites!
A. There may be science to support your remedy. The skin contains specialized vanilloid receptors that sense pain and itching. They react to vanilla and capsaicin (the hot stuff from chili peppers).
In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of this newspaper or email them via their Web site: www.PeoplesPharmacy.com. Their newest book is “Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.”
2013 King Features Syndicate Inc.