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Peoples pharmacy

14-May-2007: Q: My husband and I take black cherry juice concentrate for arthritis aches and pains. I buy it at the local health-food store. We take a teaspoon a day, like cough syrup.

My finger joints are no longer swollen and painful. On those rare days where I still have some discomfort, I just take another dose.

A: Tart cherries, sour cherries and black cherries have all been used to combat inflammation associated with arthritis or gout. Animal studies have shown that the red compounds in cherries (anthocyanins) have anti-inflammatory activity (Scandinavian Journal of Rheumatology, September-October 2006). Human research from the 1950s suggests that cherries may help both gout and arthritis.

Cherry juice concentrate is more affordable than fresh cherries or juice. It can be added to seltzer water or made into a tea. There are also concentrated cherry capsules or cherry supplement bars.

Q: Is there a book that has all of your home remedies in it? I really would like to have something as a reference to all of these great ideas.

A: We have included many of our favorite home remedies in our recent book, "Best Choices From The People's Pharmacy" (Rodale). In it, we discuss a variety of ways to treat common problems and evaluate them with respect to side effects and cost. Home remedies are frequently less expensive than pharmaceuticals. You can get a copy of "Best Choices" at your local library, bookseller or online at

Q: You recently answered a question from a vegetarian blood donor who has trouble with low hemoglobin. He was concerned about caffeinated beverages.

I, too, am a vegetarian and donate blood every 56 days. I do not consume caffeine at all, but my iron level has been, at times, too low to donate.

I was told that tea (even herbal and decaf) robs your body of iron, so a week before I donate blood, I stop drinking any tea. Since I started doing that, I have not had a problem with my iron level.

For a hot drink before donating, your reader could try a tablespoonful of blackstrap molasses in hot water. It doesn't taste good, but it'll warm him up and provide iron.

A: Thanks for the recommendation on blackstrap molasses. This does make an iron-rich hot beverage.

Caffeine doesn't matter when it comes to iron, but many kinds of hot drinks have tannins and polyphenols that can interfere with iron absorption. Tea is rich in these compounds, but coffee and cocoa can also hinder iron absorption. So can herbal teas made from peppermint or chamomile (British Journal of Nutrition, April 1999).

Q: I have heard that a banana peel can be helpful against warts, but I am not clear on how you would use it. My doctor burns off several warts yearly, but they inevitably come back. I would be grateful if you would share the specifics of how to use a banana peel to treat warts.

A: Cut a piece of banana skin slightly larger than the wart. Use tape to hold the white, fleshy side next to the wart. Leave it on overnight. Use a new slice of banana skin daily for a couple of weeks.

We make no promises, but other readers tell us that the banana-skin remedy can work. A woman complained that burning warts off was expensive ($600) and painful.

Although it took one month, the banana skin was painless and affordable, especially since she enjoyed eating the bananas as a bonus.

Source: San Bernardino Sun

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