Q: I have a friend who is beautiful, with fabulous skin, but when she goes on summer vacation at the beach, she gets horrific cold sores that last for a week or more. It is hard not to stare when she has one on her lip.
I would like to give her some advice, but at the same time I don’t want to intrude. I have read in your column about L-lysine, but I don’t know much about it or other simple remedies. I’d welcome your suggestions.
A: Home remedies are highly variable. What works for one person may not work for someone else.
Many readers report that taking the amino acid L-lysine at the first sign of a tingle can either prevent an outbreak or speed healing. One reader reported, however: “I tried L-lysine, but it was no help. At the first sign of the next cold sore, I applied coconut oil, and it was like magic. The cold sore was gone in a few hours.”
Some people have found that drinking buttermilk can help. Others sing the praises of eating kiwi fruit.
Q: I’ve been embarrassed about my toenail fungus for years. A dermatologist recommended soaking my feet in cornmeal mush, so I tried that. I didn’t see much improvement after about two months.
I then tried putting Vicks VapoRub on the toenails each morning and night, and I saw improvement after just two weeks! The toenails have flattened back out from the “tenting” I had prior to the Vicks application. Also, the nails are no longer yellow.
I’ll have to be patient and wait for the toenails to grow out, which can take up to six months, but I will finally have a “flip-flop” summer!
A: We’re pleased to hear of your success with Vicks. It contains plant oils such as camphor, eucalyptol, menthol and thymol that have anti-fungal activity.
Different types of fungus may infect the nails, and this may explain why some remedies work better on certain infections than on others.
Q: I wanted to share my experience with boswellia. I read in your column about boswellia being helpful for arthritis pain. I began taking one capsule every morning, and after about a week, I noticed some relief from the joint pain.
I am a 58-year-old woman who had a hysterectomy at age 52. The hot flashes I’d had for years had begun to subside several months before starting the boswellia.
After taking boswellia for a couple of weeks, I noticed the hot flashes were back with a vengeance. I was not sure if it was the boswellia or a coincidence, so I eventually decided to quit the boswellia.
On the second day of no boswellia, I realized that the hot flashes had practically ceased. What a relief! It is my belief that boswellia caused the hot flashes to recur.
A: Boswellia comes from the resin of a tree, Boswellia serrata, which grows in Africa and India. It has long been used in Ayurvedic medicine, and research has shown that it has anti-inflammatory activity (Journal of Molecular Neuroscience, May 2016).
You are the first person to tell us that this herb could make hot flashes return.
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.”