>Q. A couple of nights ago, I accidentally grabbed the metal handle of a pot right out of the oven. The pain of the burn was intense.
I immediately grabbed the soy sauce and poured some over the burn, with not much relief.
My husband handed me a gel ice pack out of the freezer. The pain came back as soon as I took it off.
I ran upstairs to my computer, got on the People's Pharmacy website and found the yellow mustard remedy. I immediately got the jar from the fridge, put a generous amount of mustard on the burn and wrapped it with gauze bandage. Relief was immediate. By bedtime, the pain was completely gone, and the burn was barely pink.
The next morning, my hand looked and felt perfectly normal -- no pain, no discoloration. If I hadn't experienced it myself, I'd never believe anything so improbable could work.
A. We first heard about this remedy from a listener to our radio show. He recounted a time decades ago when his twin brother fell against a wood stove. They were far away from medical assistance, so his grandmother slathered the burn with cold yellow mustard. There was no blistering.
We're glad you also got relief. A severe burn should always be treated as a medical emergency.
>Q. In a recent column, a reader wanted to avoid medication, and you mentioned red yeast rice to lower cholesterol. I was surprised to read this, since red yeast rice has the same active ingredient as prescription statins, but is completely unregulated as to amount of active ingredient.
The reader might expect all of the possible side effects of a statin from red yeast rice, with none of the quality control available in a tested and regulated medication.
A. You are quite right that lack of regulation means that red yeast rice supplements are highly variable. A recent study analyzed 12 different products (Archives of Internal Medicine, Oct. 25, 2010). One ingredient, lovastatin, ranged from 0.1 mg to 10 mg per capsule. One-third of the products contained the contaminant citrinin.
Side effects appear less common with red yeast rice than with statin drugs (Annals of Internal Medicine, June 16, 2009), but the unreliability of commercial products poses a problem for patients. An analysis of such supplements is available for a fee at www.consumerlab.com.
>Q. I am a preschool teacher, so I can't grease up my hands. My lessons are individualized, and I am handling materials all day.
I am suffering! Cracks near my fingernails appear out of nowhere. I wash my hands up to 25 times a day and wear bandages at night.
I live at 9,400 feet, and the lack of humidity at this altitude is extreme. Do you have any recommendations for dealing with these painful cracks?
A. Greasy moisturizers work well for dry skin and cracks, but they make it hard to handle paper or computer keyboards. Many readers of this column have suggested tips for healing cracks. They include liquid bandage, lip balm, vitamin D and flaxseed oil.
We are sending you our Guide to Skin Care and Treatment with many other suggestions for dry skin and cracked fingertips. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (61 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No. S-28, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It also can be downloaded for $2 from our website: www.peoplespharmacy.com.