Graedons' Pharmacy: Coconut cookies control diarrhea from colitis

November 5, 2013 

Q: A couple of years ago, you offered a recipe for coconut macaroons that helped a young person with colitis or Crohn's disease. I have misplaced the recipe, but my son was just diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, and I want to make them for him. Where can I find it?

A: Many readers have offered testimonials about the value of coconut in easing chronic diarrhea. This is one of the troublesome symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn's or ulcerative colitis.

We first learned about coconut macaroon cookies from Donald Agar, who discovered that eating two a day was a better treatment for his chronic diarrhea from Crohn's than the medication Imodium. Animal research suggests that coconut oil may indeed have anti-inflammatory activity in the large intestines (Journal of Nutrition, March 2009).

Coconut macaroon cookies contain shredded coconut, egg whites, almond extract, salt and sugar.

The recipe is in the book we are sending you, "Recipes and Remedies From The People's Pharmacy." Others will find the book at

Q: I am heavily pregnant, and hemorrhoids have been causing me excruciating pain as well as terrible itching that has kept me awake all night.

I was so pleased to find the remedy of applying a damp green-tea bag to the area. This helped me almost immediately and is SO much better than the creams I got from the pharmacy. Thank you a billion times. Because of your information, I can sleep better at night and enjoy my day without having to stay home.

A: A visitor to our website shared the following: "I woke in the middle of the night tormented with rectal itching from a hemorrhoid. I had read that a soaked tea bag could relieve inflammation, so I soaked a green-tea bag in hot water for two minutes, squeezed it out and applied it to the site. The relief was almost immediate.

"I held it in place until the tea bag was no longer warm, about 10 minutes. The itch was gone and did not return."

Q: I started having hot flashes during the summer, and they were awful. A friend suggested maca root, and I decided to try it. It works for me. I take a tablet after breakfast and another at lunch every other day.

Now I can sleep through the night without having to throw the covers off. I am not sure how or why it works for me. I am just glad that it does.

A: Maca is Lepidium meyenii, a plant that is native to the Andes. Although there is not much scientific research on its benefits for menopausal symptoms, the studies that have been conducted indicate that it may indeed be effective (Maturitas, November 2011).

Q: I just stepped in an ant bed and checked the People's Pharmacy website for a remedy. Many solutions were mentioned, including apple-cider vinegar. I had a bottle in my pantry. I soaked a cotton ball in the vinegar and rubbed it all over the affected area. The itch is gone!

I'm in the Deep South, where fire ants are rampant, and never before have I tried anything that took the itch away. I wish I'd checked this website sooner.

A: Many readers have shared their success with remedies for fire-ant bites. The ants are ferocious when disturbed, and the venom, solenopsin, can create a feeling that the skin has been burned, with intense pain and itching.

Readers' remedies include witch hazel, benzoyl peroxide (10 percent), Vicks VapoRub, Preparation H, apple-cider vinegar or a cut onion.

Q. My sister-in-law said she took too much naproxen for pain over an extended time. It damaged her liver, and now she is afraid to take any NSAID.

I've found fish oil and turmeric great to manage my arthritis pain without the risk of long-term heavy NSAID use.

Is the mechanism by which fish oil and turmeric reduce inflammation likely to cause a problem like the one my sister-in-law experienced?

A. Liver damage is considered a relatively rare side effect of NSAID-type pain relievers such as ibuprofen, naproxen and diclofenac.

We could find no evidence that fish oil or curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, harms the liver. In fact, research in animals suggests that either of these dietary supplements might help protect the liver against chemically induced damage (Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine online, July 17, 2013).

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of this newspaper or email them via their website: Their newest book is "Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them."

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