Graedons' Pharmacy: Diaper-rash cream banishes body odor

September 10, 2013 

Q: I've tried all kinds of deodorants and have been disappointed in all of them. I'd scrub till my armpits bled, and then within minutes of my shower, I would stink again.

By chance, I found something that works for me. It is zinc cream for baby diaper rash.

I apply an almost invisibly thin layer and rub it in. It keeps odor away all day long.

A: Zinc oxide has antimicrobial activity (Journal of Biomedical Nanotechnology, December 2011). This may account for its odor-controlling properties. We also have heard from many readers that liquid magnesium hydroxide (milk of magnesia) can control body odor. Here is one story:

"I've been using milk of magnesia on my armpits, and I am sold. It dries quickly and does not stain my clothes, plus it works to suppress body odor."

Q. My fibromyalgia causes me chronic pain, which makes it very hard to sleep. If I can get to sleep at all, I'll wake every hour, go to the bathroom and just maybe drop off to sleep before I have to get up again.

You cannot fathom the impact of your simple suggestion about applying kidney-bean pressure to the sleep acupressure point in the wrist.

I devised a wristlet by cutting a piece from an Ace bandage to go around my wrist twice. I closed the ends, forming a doubled circle, and in between the layers sewed a toggle button (a one-inch barrel-shaped button with a metal eye in its center for sewing). This slips over my hand easily, and once the button is positioned over the acupressure point, it does not stray.

This simple device puts me to sleep in a few short minutes, and I do not wake more than twice during the night. Sleep is so essential to making fibromyalgia a livable condition.

A: People with fibromyalgia frequently have a hard time getting the restful sleep they need. This sets up a vicious cycle of pain and insomnia.

We are pleased that the acupressure approach worked for you. We first learned about this more than a decade ago when a reader told us that he taped a dry kidney bean between the two tendons on the inside of his right wrist. It seems he was using an acupressure point called the "Inner Gate" that is said to promote sleep.

There is more information about using acupressure and other natural approaches to counter insomnia in our Guide to Getting a Good Night's Sleep. 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. I-70, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It also can be downloaded for $2 from our website:

Q. I have high blood sugar. Is agave nectar a good choice for sweetening my five cups of tea a day? (It says it is low glycemic index.) If not, what would you recommend? I love my hot, sweet, milky tea.

A: Agave nectar has been promoted as a healthy sweetener, but it contains more fructose than high-fructose corn syrup. Although fructose does not raise blood sugar, it can raise triglycerides and put a strain on the liver. We suggest cutting back on agave. If you must sweeten your tea, you might consider a noncaloric sweetener like stevia or monk fruit.

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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