Q: I stopped taking glucosamine in favor of gin-soaked raisins, with terrific results. I’m a former runner with serious but not debilitating knee and hip pain. When I read about gin-soaked raisins, I thought it sounded silly.
I gave it a try anyway. It worked. I haven’t used the pills now for more than eight months.
I’m curious: Why golden raisins? Sometimes golden raisins are not readily available. Will plain old black raisins work just as well? I like to know why something works.
A: We’ve been searching for research on gin-soaked raisins for joint pain for years. Sadly, home remedies are rarely studied in randomized controlled trials. As a result, we don’t have a good answer to your question.
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There are data to suggest that grape juice may have a number of health benefits. They include enhanced performance and reduced inflammation in runners (Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, September 2015). Grape juice also appears to make blood vessels more flexible and improve cognitive performance (Nutrients, Dec. 2, 2015; American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, March 2016).
A study in rats showed that the compounds in grape seed help protect against joint damage (Experimental and Molecular Medicine, October 2011).
If you decide to do your own experiment to see if dark raisins work as well as golden ones, please let us know the results.
Q: I just got poison ivy for the first time in my life. I found what you wrote about the banana-peel remedy and gave it a try. I will attest to the fact that, for me, it works much better than hydrocortisone cream.
A: The first step for treating poison ivy is to wash the skin as soon as possible after exposure. Even using a hand sanitizer or alcohol wipe can help. Other people swear by old-fashioned Fels-Naptha soap, though experts say any soap will work. Special products such as Zanfel and Tecnu also are useful.
Other readers have used banana peel for poison ivy, as this woman did: “As a Girl Scout 40 years ago, I tried an experiment with banana peel on one spot of poison ivy and calamine lotion on the other spot. The spot where I applied banana peel three to five times a day healed three days sooner. I am a believer.”
Q: I have read that an ice-cream headache could stop a migraine, and I have tried to use this method. I have had migraines for 40 years. I have tried triptans, but they caused side effects.
I can’t seem to get an ice-cream headache on demand. I’ve tried an ice cube against the roof of my mouth, gulping a cold drink or taking a big bite of ice cream, but no ice-cream headache and no relief. Do you have other recommendations for migraines?
A: Though many people have reported that triggering an ice-cream headache at the first hint of a migraine can ward it off, this doesn’t work in every instance. Like you, some migraineurs tell us they cannot induce “brain freeze.”
Other nondrug approaches include herbs like butterbur and feverfew. Riboflavin and magnesium also may help. Some people benefit from acupuncture.
In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Email them via PeoplesPharmacy.com. Their newest book is “Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.”