Q. I am very allergic to both poison ivy and poison oak. After three days of painful, burning itch on my wrist from an encounter with a dried poison-oak vine, 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 saltwater and pat it dry with a paper towel. I have contacted my gardening friends to let them know about the 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 or banana peel to cool and soothe the rash. Perhaps someday we'll learn why this treatment might help some people.
Lavender oil for cramps
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. The anti-cramp effect was significant.
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.
Magnesium for depression
Q. I have taken antidepressants my entire adult life, but wanted to get off them. I weaned myself off about nine months ago. I have started moving more, and that has helped a lot. I recently have started taking magnesium, and that has made a noticeable difference in my mood. It is as if that dull, constant sadness has lifted. Others may want to know about this way of dealing with depression.
A. Physical activity is known to help counteract depression. The effects of magnesium may not be as widely recognized, but studies have shown that people who get too little magnesium are more susceptible to depression (Journal of Affective Disorders, March 15, 2016).
People who want to try magnesium should start with a relatively low dose. Doses above 300 mg may result in diarrhea for some individuals. People with reduced kidney function should not take magnesium supplements at all.
Joe and Teresa Graedon: www.peoplespharmacy.com