Q: I got a really bad sunburn (bubbling skin all over my body) several years ago because I ran out of sunscreen. We were in a rural area, and my Greek roommate recommended I lather myself in cold, unflavored Greek yogurt. It really worked.
Anytime I get a bad sunburn now, I put yogurt on, and it melts from the heat of my skin and continues to bake until it’s completely dried on. Not only does cold yogurt feel good, but I do think it helps a lot more than using my aloe vera plant does. My roommate claims the probiotics help skin heal faster. Is there any truth to this?
A: Surfing the web turned up a number of reports that either cold milk or yogurt could be used to ease the pain of sunburn. We couldn’t find any scientific studies of this approach, perhaps because dermatologists want to encourage people NEVER to run out of sunscreen.
Although most sun protection is applied topically, there is some research into a fern extract that would be taken as a pill. Scientists are investigating the fern Polypodium leucotomos for its ability to prevent sunburn, wrinkles and skin cancer (International Journal of Dermatology, March 2015).
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Dermatologists warn that burns like the one you had could increase your risk for melanoma skin cancer. Please have your skin checked regularly.
Q: I have read on your website that people with diabetes can take cinnamon to help control blood-glucose levels. I understand that there are two kinds of cinnamon, cassia and Ceylon. Is there a difference in effectiveness?
A: A number of studies have shown that cinnamon can lower fasting blood glucose and HbA1c, a measure of glucose control over several weeks (Clinical Nutrition, October 2012). These studies used cassia cinnamon, readily available in supermarkets.
It is possible that Ceylon cinnamon, also known as “true” cinnamon, might be able to moderate blood-sugar levels after meals and help control Type 2 diabetes. It has not been tested in clinical trials, though, only in animal research (Nutrition Journal online, Oct. 16, 2015).
We are sending you our Guide to Managing Diabetes for more information on using cinnamon and other nondrug approaches to control blood sugar. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (68 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. DM-11, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It also can be downloaded for $2 from our website: www.peoplespharmacy.com.
One difference between the two types of cinnamon is that cassia cinnamon contains coumarin, which may be harmful to the liver. Ceylon cinnamon has no coumarin.
Q: I have read your advice on the heat rash women often develop under their breasts. I have tried many things, but then I experimented with wiping the area twice a day with hand sanitizer.
Applying hand sanitizer stings for a minute, but the rash dried up in less than a week. If I am careful to use this remedy at the first sign of redness, the heat rash never really gets a start. I am sure the antibacterial activity of hand sanitizer is what makes it work so well.
A: Thanks for the recommendation. We suspect you are right. Many women find that antifungal creams or powders are helpful. Some have used Listerine, which fights both bacteria and fungus.
In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Email them via www.PeoplesPharmacy.com. Their newest book is “Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.”