Question: My husband loves garlic and onions. No one believes me, but I have even caught him making raw onion sandwiches. When he makes a pasta sauce, I have to beg him not to use more than three cloves of garlic.
Needless to say, his breath could stop a horse. I love this man dearly, but kissing him is a challenge. Is there an herbal mouthwash or home remedy that could calm his dragon breath?
Answer: Garlic breath goes way beyond mouthwash. The sulfur-containing compounds that cause the distinctive aroma are absorbed into the bloodstream, circulated throughout the body and exhaled through the lungs.
The only home remedy we have ever heard about for garlic and onion breath is parsley. Some people say that eating fresh parsley can counteract the smell. Others prefer parsley flakes or capsules of parsley seed oil.
Q: My doctor recently prescribed Premarin and Provera for hot flashes. He said this combination would be good for my bones and my heart as well.
A close friend of mine was horrified to hear I am on Premarin. She's an animal rights activist and says they restrain the pregnant mares to get their urine and make this medicine. She urged me to give up Premarin and switch to soy products instead.
What can you tell me about natural estrogens from plants?
A: It is true that Premarin is purified from pregnant mares' urine, but the manufacturer and the animal rights activists will never agree about whether this process is humane. Your physician has a number of other options, such as Estrace or Ogen pills, or estrogen patches.
It is possible to get significant relief from hot flashes and night sweats with plant estrogens. A daily dose of 20 grams of soy protein powder was helpful in a preliminary study. Further research is needed to see whether soy or other estrogen-rich foods such as rye can strengthen bones or protect the heart.
Q: Where can I find horehound cough drops? When I was a kid they were very popular, but I can't find them anyplace. The young pharmacist didn't know what I was talking about.
A: There was a time when horehound candies were found in almost every pharmacy. This mint-like herb used to be a standard ingredient in cough and cold remedies. You can still find horehound in specialty confectioners or health food stores.
Q: I read in your book "Deadly Drug Interactions" that my ulcer medicine, Prilosec, makes it hard to absorb vitamin B-12. When I mentioned this to my doctor, he was skeptical. Is there someplace he can look it up? What is the problem with low levels of vitamin B-12?
A: Have your physician read an article by Dr. Stefan Marcuard in the Annals of Internal Medicine (1994; 120:211-215). This research demonstrated that Prilosec strongly interferes with vitamin B-12 absorption.
Over a long period of time, this could lead to a deficiency of this crucial vitamin. Symptoms may include burning of the tongue, weight loss, nerve damage, depression, irritability, loss of appetite, yellow-blue color blindness or unsteadiness.
* Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist. Teresa Graedon holds a doctorate in medical anthropology and is a nutrition expert. Send questions to them at People's Pharmacy, c / o King Features Syndicate, 235 E. 45th St., New York, NY 10017, or e-mail PHARMACY@mindspring.com.