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The People’s Pharmacy: Banana peel soothes poison oak rash

Q. I am very allergic to both poison ivy and poison oak. After three days of a painful, burning itch on my wrist from an encounter with a dried poison-oak vine last Thursday, I read about using banana peel. I applied banana peel early this morning, and now at 5:30 p.m., my wrist is still cool, comfortable and itch-free!

The one thing I did before using the banana peel was to wash my wrist with warm salt water and pat it dry. I have contacted my gardening friends to let them know about this wonderful banana peel remedy.

A. We haven’t been able to find any scientific research to support using banana peel on a rash caused by poison ivy or poison oak. However, we have heard from other readers that it can be helpful. There also are recommendations online to use cold watermelon rind to cool and soothe the rash.

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Q. You’ve written about soap preventing leg cramps. I successfully used soap in the bed for more than a year, with good results (not perfect). Then the cramps moved from my calves to my ankles and feet. The soap wasn’t helping as much.

Several weeks ago, on the idea that a strong odor helps, I started rubbing lavender oil around my ankles. No more foot cramps!

A. Your story sent us on a quest to see if there is any research on lavender oil for treating cramps. We discovered a study in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Research (May 2012) showing that when lavender oil (plus clary sage and marjoram) was applied topically, it alleviated menstrual cramps. This was a randomized, double-blind trial involving 48 subjects.

Another study used soap-scented oil to ease the pain of fibromyalgia (Journal of Multidisciplinary Healthcare, Sept. 8, 2008). Perhaps the essential oils in the soap scent are able to relax muscles that are cramping.

The People’s Pharmacy radio broadcast airs at 2 p.m. Saturdays on WBFO-FM 88.7.