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Q. We would like your opinion of saw palmetto berries. My husband was on this herb for several months. He felt great and even stopped having to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.

When he went to the urologist, he was told to stop taking the herb even though the doctor did reluctantly say that the prostate had shrunk a bit. Since stopping the saw palmetto, my husband hasn't felt as well and is again getting up in the middle of the night to void. He has trouble going back to sleep.

The doctor seems opposed to herbal treatments, though we are interested in natural remedies. Please give us some perspective.

A. Despite the doctor's reaction to saw palmetto berry extract, many urologists are now recommending this herb in cases of mild to moderate benign prostate enlargement. Obviously, anyone with this condition will need regular out of favor around the 1950s when herbal remedies went out of fashion. There are some clinical trials showing that this compound is almost as effective as prescription drugs in relieving urinary symptoms.

We are sending you our Guide to Herbal Remedies, which gives a brief summary of the research on saw palmetto and other popular herbs. Anyone else who would like a copy may send $2 with a long (No.10) stamped, self-addressed envelope to Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No. E-219, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, N.C. 27717-2027.

Helping hands

Q. I work in a hospital and have to wash my hands every time I go into a patient's room. I'm also cautious about picking up germs from telephones, doorknobs and elevator buttons. I already had one bad cold this winter and don't want another.

My hands are in terrible shape -- chapped, rough and red from all the washing. A few of my fingertips have split so that it hurts to write with a pen.

I have tried lots of moisturizers including Vaseline Intensive Care, Moisturel, Jergens and Nivea. They are all OK but have not solved my problem. Someone at work said you have written about cheap but effective animal moisturizers. I have never heard of an animal moisturizer. Please tell me more.

A. The animal in question is a cow. Readers of this column sing the praises of Bag Balm and Udder Cream for dry, chapped hands. Although these products were originally developed for barnyard use, they seem to work well for people. Bag Balm has an antiseptic ingredient but is very greasy and has a distinctive odor. You may find that Udder Cream is more cosmetically acceptable.

Whatever moisturizer you choose, we suggest you apply it liberally at bedtime. Protect your sheets with cotton gloves available from a photographic supply store.

If the cow creams don't help, you may need to see your doctor. A checkup and a prescription for Lac-Hydrin might be in order.

Zyban vs. Wellbutrin SR

Q. My doctor wrote a prescription for Zyban to help me quit smoking. The pharmacist filled it with Wellbutrin SR. What gives?

A. They are identical drugs (both bupropion) except for the name on the package. The pharmacist may have been out of Zyban, hence the substitution.

Write to Joe and Teresa Graedon in care of The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240.

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