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Originally published Saturday, February 12, 2011 at 7:06 PM

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The People's Pharmacy

People's Pharmacy: Barnyard beauty aids

People's Pharmacy: some topical products designed for animals also are quite helpful and affordable for people; tips for a better night's sleep; and the diuretic effects of dandelion greens.

Syndicated columnists

Q: I read a question about fingertips cracking near the nails. For years, I've been using, with near overnight success, a product called Corona Ointment (original formula). It's for horse and cow hoofs, and cuts on large and small animals.

This product is 50 percent lanolin. It's surprisingly inexpensive.

A: We have been writing about "barnyard beauty aids" for decades. Some topical products designed for animals also are quite helpful (and affordable) for people. One caution, though: Lanolin allergy may be a problem for some.

Another reader offered this: "The person with dry skin around fingernails might benefit from Hoofmaker. Groomers use it on horses' hoofs. I rub it around my nails while I am watching the evening news. I also put a little on my feet and toenails just before I hop into bed."

We also heard this from a reader: "The teacher who needs to heal her raw hands without making them greasy should try Udderly Smooth Udder Cream. It's the best thing I've found. It really makes a difference, and the skin absorbs it so the hands are not greasy afterward." The reader noted that it is advertised on our website. (Udderly Smooth also sponsors our syndicated radio show.)

Q: I keep reading how important it is to get a good night's sleep. I seldom get four hours at night, and I feel tired during the day. Sleeping pills leave me too groggy to function.

A: Sleep experts often suggest a hot bath an hour before bedtime. As you cool down, your body gets the message to go to sleep. A small, high-carb snack before bed also may help. Many readers report that a magnesium supplement or melatonin can be beneficial. Sedating herbs include valerian, lemon balm, passionflower, catnip and hops.

A short-acting prescription sleeping pill called zaleplon (Sonata) may not leave you feeling groggy in the morning. Ask your doctor if it would be appropriate.

Q: I discovered after eating dandelion greens that they act as a mild diuretic. I confirmed my experience through a Web search. I also discovered that they provide a rich source of vitamins and minerals. I am wondering if their diuretic properties would help to lower blood pressure. I could not find any information to confirm this hypothesis. Also, would dandelion supplements work as well as freshly cooked dandelion greens?

A: Eating dandelion greens might seem strange to some Americans, but they are quite nutritious. They have had a reputation as a mild diuretic for decades. A small study in 2009 suggested that there is some basis for this belief (Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, August). Although some sources suggest dandelion might lower blood pressure, we could find no clinical studies to support that claim.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them c/o King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., 15th floor, New York, NY 10019, or via their website: www.peoplespharmacy.org

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