Q: I have macular degeneration, for which my doctor recommended special vitamins (AREDS) and injections in my eye every three months. A friend mentioned reading in your column that saffron might be helpful. Can you tell me more?
Answer: Because age-related macular degeneration can rob people of their vision, your eye doctor must monitor your progress closely. The vitamins he or she suggested proved effective in a large clinical trial (Age Related Eye Diseases Study) (Archives of Ophthalmology, October 2001).
You should not consider saffron as a replacement for your prescribed treatment and vitamins, but as a supplement to them. A review of research (Neural Regeneration Research, December 2020) concludes that saffron improved visual function in individuals with AMD. The doses in the seven clinical trials reviewed ranged from 20 to 50 mg a day.
Q: I have read in your column that beet juice can lower blood pressure. I do take a low dose of valsartan to keep my blood pressure close to normal. I would like to add a natural approach to help control my high blood pressure, but I really dislike the taste of pure beet juice. Do you have any recipes that might disguise the flavor a little bit?
Answer: You could put your beet juice in a smoothie. Dilute it with apple juice, carrot juice and ginger. We have many more details and other food suggestions, including eggplant water and curcumin scramble in our book "Recipes & Remedies from The People's Pharmacy." To order a copy, please send $14.95 + $4.50 postage and handling to: Graedons' People's Pharmacy; Dept. R&R; P.O. Box 52027; Durham, NC 27717-2027. You can also order online: www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.
Q: My grandmother, who was born in 1877, put castor oil on warts. They always went away.
I tried putting it on my toenail fungus. That went away too. I think castor oil works much better than pricier drugstore options.
Answer: Your grandmother's remedy must have been popular, because we have heard from other readers about putting castor oil on warts. There has been little medical attention devoted to this home remedy.
One case report in the Archives of Dermatology (January 1982) noted that after application of castor oil the warts blackened and eventually peeled off. The authors wrote: "Thirteen days after blackening in the warts was first noted, all of the warts had disappeared. According to the patient, the warts 'just peeled off."'
As for toenail fungus, we could find no scientific studies to support the use of castor oil. That said, many readers share your enthusiasm for this inexpensive simple treatment. Any toenail fungus treatment requires patience, because it takes a long time for the nails to grow out fungus free.
Q: I have been taking vitamins, including vitamin E, for a couple of decades. I bruise very easily for no apparent reason. Sometimes a big bruise shows up on my fair skin and I can't remember bumping anything. Could the vitamin E be causing the bruising?
Answer: High doses of vitamin E can indeed cause bruising, along with digestive distress, fatigue, weakness, rash, blurred vision and bleeding (Indian Dermatology Online Journal, July-August 2016).
You might want to try reducing your dose to see if that makes a difference.
Questions for Joe and Teresa Graedon can be emailed via their website: www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.
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