Q: I would like to share my challenges with canker sores. As a child, I was constantly in pain from these painful lesions. They would get as big as dimes on the insides of my cheeks and hurt so much I would cry just trying to talk.
Nothing the doctors came up with did the job. In my early 20s, I joined the Navy, and the sores disappeared! After I left the Navy, they soon reappeared.
I read that a smallpox shot could prevent them. We were vaccinated in the Navy, and that is why they disappeared.
When I was able to get smallpox shots every two or three years, it worked like magic. When the vaccine was no longer available, I suffered with sores again.
Then the University of Indiana did a study. They found that foods high in the amino acid arginine would cause canker sores. Some foods to avoid were chocolate, nuts and chickpeas. Another amino acid, L-lysine, acts as an antidote. If I accidently eat something I shouldn’t, I pop some lysine tablets. I haven’t had a painful canker sore in decades.
Answer: Your approach surprised us. On searching the medical literature, we found references to some research in the mid-1950s. Scientists experimented with smallpox vaccine to manage recurrent canker sores and fever blisters (Postgraduate Medicine, January 1954). There were hints that this immune-boosting therapy worked, especially against recurrent herpes infections (cold sores).
You are not the first person to praise L-lysine against canker sores or cold sores. Many others maintain that it works well, but mainstream medicine remains skeptical (Integrative Medicine, June 2017).
Q: I suffered with leg cramps at night for many years. They may have been due to wearing high heels. After retirement, they didn’t occur as often, but I still got them occasionally.
Then I happened upon your radio program. You were interviewing the person who developed HotShot for muscle cramps. During that show, you also mentioned apple cider vinegar as a remedy. I priced HotShot and decided I’d try vinegar first since I had it on hand.
For me, apple cider vinegar is a miracle! If I feel a leg cramp coming on, I get up and take a teaspoonful of vinegar. The cramp is usually gone quickly, and I can go back to bed and sleep peacefully! I keep a 2-ounce bottle in the car for leg cramp emergencies while driving.
Answer: The scientists who developed HotShot used strong flavors in their muscle cramp remedy. These include cinnamon, ginger and an extract of hot pepper. Such spices along with sharp flavors like vinegar or mustard activate transient receptor potential (TRP) channels in the mouth, throat and stomach. This may override the hyperexcited motor neurons responsible for leg cramps.
If you, like us, are fascinated by scientific explanations for such treatments, you might be interested in our eGuide to Favorite Home Remedies. This electronic resource can be found in the Health eGuide Section at www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.
Q: You’ve written about cold keys on the back of the neck for nosebleeds. I never tried keys, but a cold wet washcloth on the back of the neck works. One of my nephews had a lot of nosebleeds when he was little, and it always worked for him.
Last year, I was coaching fifth-grade basketball when one of the kids got a bloody nose. I didn’t have a washcloth, so I used wet paper towels. His nose stopped bleeding almost instantly.
Answer: Many readers agree with you, despite the disapproval of medical experts (Clinical Otolaryngology and Allied Sciences, December 2003). We suspect that the cold triggers blood vessel constriction, but we have not seen any studies to support this hypothesis.
Questions for Joe and Teresa Graedon can be emailed via their website: www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.