Q: I dropped a jug of milk on my foot recently, causing swelling, extreme pain and black-and-blue marks up to my ankle lasting more than three weeks. At that point, I decided I must see the doctor.
While preparing for the visit, I soaked the foot in a strong solution of vinegar and water. The next morning, you couldn't tell I had ever injured my foot. A bit sheepishly, I canceled the appointment. Skeptics would say the injury just ran its course, but up to that morning I could hardly walk.
Fast-forward two weeks. While I was in the grocery store, a can fell off the shelf and injured the exact same foot with more force and pain than before. (I know, that foot seems cursed.) I went home and soaked the foot in vinegar, and the next day I had neither pain nor swelling.
I am cognizant of the fact that this does not seem possible. I am 100 percent sure that vinegar did the cure, based on my experience.
You had a man write in who thought fire-ant stings helped his arthritis. Instead, I believe it was the vinegar and baking soda he used on the fire-ant bites that helped his joint pain.
A: There is no science to support the use of vinegar for healing such injuries, but an old nursery rhyme suggests your remedy may go back a long time:
"Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. Jack fell down and broke his crown and Jill came tumbling after.
"Up Jack got and home did trot as fast as he could caper. He went to bed to mend his head with vinegar and brown paper."
Q: I appreciate what people have shared about their tricks for relieving headaches and migraines. I was especially intrigued by reports that provoking brain freeze
with ice cream might stop a migraine in its tracks. Trouble is, I get too nauseated when a migraine is setting in. What else can I do for these terrible headaches?
A: Researchers have shown that quickly drinking something cold constricts blood vessels in the roof of the mouth, causing "brain freeze." Some report that this effect stops a migraine.
You may find our Guide to Headaches and Migraines is helpful with its suggestions on nondrug approaches including riboflavin, feverfew, ginger, butterbur, melatonin and acupuncture.
Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (70 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No. M-98, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It also can be downloaded for $2 from our website: www.peoplespharmacy.com.
When remedies fail, triptan medications such as Amerge, Imitrex and Maxalt may help. Anti-seizure drugs like topiramate can sometimes prevent attacks.
Q: My sister gets cramps in her feet at night. They are so severe that she has to get out of bed to deal with them.
She has tried mustard, soap, pickle juice and V8. Is there anything else that might work?
A: She might try a magnesium supplement before bed. Sometimes that can prevent muscle cramps like the ones that plague her.
People report that B vitamins also may be helpful. A small study in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacology (December 1998) found that a B vitamin complex alleviated nighttime cramps for more than three-quarters of the elderly volunteers: "After 3 months, 86 percent of the patients taking vitamin B had prominent remission of leg cramps, whereas those taking placebo had no significant difference from baseline."
In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them viaPeoplesPharmacy.com. Their newest book is "Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them."