Q. Some years ago, when I was a volunteer on the tall ship Elissa berthed in Galveston, Texas, I heard about a mosquito repellent used by the crews on barges plying the Intracoastal Waterway when they had to go out on the deck of the barge to check that the navigation lights were properly lit. They sprayed themselves with a mixture of Avon Skin-So-Soft and water to keep the hungry mosquitoes away.
Ever since then, I’ve kept a spray bottle of the stuff on my workbench to spray on my skin and shirt when I work in my yard. It works, it smells nice, and it’s good for my skin.
A. We first heard about people using Avon Skin-So-Soft as a bug repellent almost 30 years ago. Fishermen, campers, park rangers and Marines claimed that this bath oil kept away chiggers, sand flies, black flies and mosquitoes. A study in the Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association (June 1989) demonstrated that Avon Skin-So-Soft bath oil exhibited repellent properties, though the effectiveness wore off fairly quickly.
Avon subsequently began making a number of Skin-So-Soft products that contain approved repellents such as IR3535 and picaridin. Both of these compounds represent good alternatives to DEET and are listed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as effective mosquito repellents.
Q. I was taking metoprolol to control my blood pressure, but it wasn’t working well enough. My doctor added lisinopril, which only helped a little. Amlodipine was included in the mix, and it has got my blood pressure into the range my doctor wants. But these drugs make me tired and dizzy, and I have swollen ankles and an annoying cough.
Are there any natural ways to control blood pressure? I have heard that celery might help. Any truth to that?
A. Some foods block the same enzyme (ACE) as lisinopril. These include the fermented milk product called kefir, pomegranate and hibiscus. Other foods that also may help lower blood pressure include beets, celery seed, Concord grape juice and chocolate.
We offer more details on these and many other nondrug approaches to lowering blood pressure in our Guide to Blood Pressure Treatment.
To determine whether a natural approach is working, it is important to monitor blood pressure regularly and talk with your doctor about what you are doing.
Q. I have had a large prostate for many years, resulting in problems with the stream when urinating. I took one of those pills that was supposed to help. It did, but the side effects were not worth the treatment.
I read in The Peoples Pharmacy that pumpkin seeds help the prostate. Believe me, they work.
I take 2 teaspoons every morning with my breakfast and have few, if any, problems going to the bathroom.
Pumpkin seeds are cheap and natural, and you can take what you need without any side effects. I buy them unsalted and shelled, and they taste great.
A. As far as we can tell, there are no well-controlled clinical trials of pumpkin seeds for prostate symptoms in men. Some animal research suggests that pumpkin-seed oil may offer benefit (Journal of Medicinal Food, Summer 2006).
In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers.
2014 King Features Syndicate Inc.