Graedons' Pharmacy: Does chocolate prevent sunburn?

August 6, 2013 

Q: I've recently read that dark chocolate can help the skin resist the ultraviolet rays of the sun due to its antioxidant qualities. Is that really true?

A: You would need to consume high-flavanol (antioxidant) chocolate or cocoa for several months to get this benefit.

In one study, women were randomly assigned to drink either high-flavanol or low-flavanol cocoa for three months. The response to ultraviolet (UV) exposure was measured at the beginning and end of the trial. Skin reddening dropped 25 percent in the women on high-flavanol cocoa (Journal of Nutrition, June 2006).

Supplements such as CocoaVia offer flavanols without the fat and calories of candy.

Q: Have you heard about maca root for low libido in postmenopausal women? I am looking for natural ways to boost my libido.

Olive oil and coconut oil help vaginal dryness, but my problem now is having no interest in intercourse. My husband and I have a good relationship, and he is being very patient with me. I am only 53 and miss that intimacy in our relationship.

A: Maca root comes from a Peruvian plant (Lepidium meyenii) belonging to the mustard family. Although this natural remedy has a reputation for boosting libido, there is little good data.

One small study did find that maca root helped overcome the sexual side effects from common antidepressants such as fluoxetine or paroxetine (CNS Neuroscience and Therapeutics, Fall 2008).

A review of the fourbest randomized controlled trials of maca concluded, "The results ofour systematic review provide limited evidence for the effectiveness of maca in improving sexual function." (BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Aug. 6, 2010).

Another study suggests that maca might ease symptoms of menopause (Maturitas, November 2011).

For more information on ways to ease menopausal symptoms, we are sending you our Guide to Menopause.

Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (66 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No. W-50, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027.

It also can be downloaded for $2 from our website:

Q: I had a huge wart on my index finger and other small ones on my hand. I also had plantar warts on the ball of my foot and on many toes.

Freezing them off was very painful, and they came back. Compound W, duct tape and banana peel didn't work.

I started soaking in Dead Sea salts from Israel. The warts slowly started getting smaller and eventually died.

I soaked every morning and sometimes twice a day after I realized they were shrinking. It has been more than a year, and I'm still wart-free!

A: We have read that Dead Sea salts improve the barrier function of the skin and can ease eczema symptoms (International Journal of Dermatology, February 2005) and psoriasis (Seminars in Arthritis and Rheumatism, October 2012). Yours is the first report we have received that such a solution might work against warts.

Joe Graedon, a pharmacologist, and Teresa Graedon, a medical anthropologist and nutrition expert, answer readers' questions in their column. Email them via

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