>Q. I heard a caller on your radio show talk about cayenne pepper to treat migraines. I have been using this treatment myself for a number of years, and I believe I know why it works for me, anyway.
One of my migraine triggers is sinus pressure, usually caused by allergies. The hot pepper helps clear my sinuses and bring relief. Wasabi and other spicy foods work well, too.
I also find that a neti pot keeps my migraines at bay. Since discovering this, I have gone from having migraines that would last for days two or three times a month to one or two migraines a year that I can usually treat and be rid of.
A. Thanks for sharing your story. Some headache sufferers may want to try your preventive approach of rinsing the sinuses with saline. Others may be interested in using cayenne or wasabi to cut a migraine short.
We discuss various medications and nondrug alternatives in our Guide to Headaches and Migraines. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (64 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.
Some readers report that the opposite approach, eating ice cream or a slushy to induce "brain freeze," is effective at stopping a migraine attack in its tracks.
>Q. My son has molluscum on his back. The dermatologist says he can scrape it off, but that might leave some scarring. He also said it will go away by itself in about two years.
Is there a natural remedy for molluscum? Two years is a long time!
A. Molluscum contagiosum -- a small, flesh-colored, pink or white bump with a center dimple -- is a skin condition caused by a virus. There may be one bump or many, and children are most susceptible.
Dermatologists have several possible treatments for the bumps of molluscum, but they do go away on their own. Sometimes they disappear in six months, but it can take as long as four years. Scraping or freezing them off may leave scars.
A few readers have shared herbal remedies that might be worth a try. One wrote: "I successfully used Australian lemon myrtle extract ($8) to cure a dermatologist-confirmed case of molluscum contagiosum on my 5-year-old daughter. The doctors were surprised and shocked." In one small study, topical application of Australian lemon myrtle, Backhousia citriodora, worked within a month (Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy, May 2004).
Another reader treated her child with a homemade salve of Aquaphor ointment (2 ounces) mixed with lavender (20 drops) and thyme (10 drops) essential oils. She warns against putting thyme oil directly on the skin.
>Q. My 86-year-old mother began to suffer with restless leg syndrome in her 40s; the severity has increased through the years. Recently, she realized that the symptoms had decreased markedly.
She tried to isolate the source of her relief and finally hit on crystallized ginger. She began eating a lot of it in recent months to minimize her chocolate intake.
A. We could find no scientific studies demonstrating that ginger can relieve restless leg syndrome. Ginger does have anti-inflammatory properties and has traditionally been used for motion sickness, digestive upset and cold symptoms. Your mother's remedy is a low-cost, low-risk approach for a condition that is hard to treat.