Health & Family

People’s Pharmacy: Iced cappuccino heads off headache

Q. I have suffered for years from almost daily headaches, some of them migraines. I used to go through a bottle of Excedrin a month. About four years ago, I drank an iced cappuccino by coincidence while I had a headache. The headache immediately went away. Ever since, almost daily, when my headache starts I either make or buy and drink an iced cappuccino. I put a tray of ice cubes made from coffee in the blender and cover them with refrigerated liquid coffee and 2 ounces of coffee creamer. I blend this mixture two minutes, and it works 99 percent of the time. I haven’t had to take Excedrin for a headache in years. Why does the iced cappuccino work?

A. There is scientific evidence that consuming a cold drink quickly constricts blood vessels in the roof of the mouth. This can cause “brain freeze,” or an ice-cream headache. Many readers report that drinking an icy beverage or eating ice cream can stop a migraine, particularly if they do so as soon as they detect the beginnings of a headache.

Lavender oil for sleep

Q. After years of poor sleep, I now rub lavender-scented baby lotion and a drop of lavender essential oil on my forearms before bed. I finally get a good night’s sleep without medications.

A. Lavender oil derived from the Mediterranean plants Lavandula angustifolia or Lavandula stoechas has had a reputation as a sedative or calming treatment ever since medieval times (Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Vol. 2013, Article ID 681304).

A review of the research showed an improvement in sleep quality among people exposed to the odor of lavender oil compared with a placebo aroma. A study of 60 patients in a coronary ICU also found that those offered lavender oil to inhale slept better and were less anxious than those on usual care (Nursing in Critical Care online, July 27, 2015).

Another reader has found a solution similar to yours: “I put lavender essential oil in baking soda and add that to my bathwater along with Epsom salts. I rub lavender oil on an acupuncture point near my knee at night, and the last several nights I have slept like a baby. This is most welcome because sleep has always been a struggle for me.”

Aloe vera for blood sugar

Q. I have started taking aloe vera gel capsules. My blood sugar has dropped from 220 down to 120. I think that’s something worth reporting. Have you ever heard of such a reaction?

A. Aloe vera leaf gel has been shown to lower blood glucose. In one randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, aloe vera gel lowered blood sugar, HbA1c and cholesterol significantly (Planta Medica, March 2012).

Anyone who wants to try this should stick with aloe vera gel. Aloe vera leaves also contain a latex compound that is a powerful laxative. This may be found in some aloe vera juices and could cause severe diarrhea.

Reach Joe and Terry Graedon at