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People’s Pharmacy: Will ginger cure prostate cancer?

Q. I’m 68 years old and had my prostate removed in May 2007. I have been cancer-free for seven years, but now the cancer has returned.

I’m on Lupron to control it. Several family members sent me an article indicating ginger root has been shown to cure prostate cancer. Is there reliable data to support this claim?

A. Unfortunately, that claim is premature. There are promising cell-culture studies showing that various components of ginger can inhibit the growth of prostate cancer cells (Anti-Cancer Drugs online, Sept. 19, 2014; Cancer Prevention Research, June 2014; British Journal of Nutrition, Feb. 28, 2012).

But we don’t have clinical studies to show whether taking ginger would be beneficial, or whether it might interact with your Lupron. We also don’t know how much you might have to take.

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Q. My husband and I swear by a product called cayenne, an herbal extract of Capsicum annuum.

We both use it for leg cramps, and it works in seconds. I mix about 12 drops in a small amount of water, and within seconds I can feel the cramps going away.

A. The compound that gives cayenne and other chili peppers their heat is capsaicin. Although we’ve heard of many uses for it, including topical rubs for muscle and joint pain, yours is the first report we recall of using cayenne orally against muscle cramps.

Many readers swear by the benefits of a teaspoon of yellow mustard for quick relief of muscle cramps, while others prefer a sip of pickle juice or apple-cider vinegar.

There is more information about these and other remedies in our Guide to Leg Pain, which also includes detailed instructions on how to stretch the calves to prevent charley horse cramps at night. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (70 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. RLS-5, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It also can be downloaded for $2 from our website: www.peoplespharmacy.com.

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Q. I adopted a vegan diet early this year, and now I have begun experiencing a burning sensation on one side of my tongue. It is quite uncomfortable.

This happened once before when I was single and not eating well. Could this be related to my diet?

A. Sometimes a vegan diet does not provide adequate vitamin B-12, which is found only in animal products or yeast. A deficiency of this essential nutrient can cause problems with the nerves, including burning mouth or tongue. Ask your physician for a blood test to check your level. A methylmalonic acid test (MMA) may be helpful along with the B-12 test. If your vitamin B-12 level is low, supplements may be needed.

We also heard an intriguing remedy for burning tongue from another reader: “I have read letters in your column from people suffering with burning tongue. I, too, had this problem once, and the pain drove me crazy. I tried all kinds of vitamins, and nothing seemed to work.

“I finally mixed some apple-cider vinegar into water and drank it down. My burning tongue went away within minutes!