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Originally published Saturday, April 2, 2011 at 7:01 PM

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The People's Pharmacy

Licorice licks psoriasis

People's Pharmacy addresses reader letters on psoriasis, high blood pressure and Certo for arthritis relief.

Syndicated columnists

Q: I suffered from psoriasis on my hands and elbows for more than 22 years. I accidentally discovered a solution for this miserable malady.

I had an unusual craving for black licorice and asked the owner of our local nutrition center how to eliminate this craving. She suggested taking an herbal form of licorice. This immediately solved my craving.

To my surprise, I realized I had gotten an added bonus. My psoriasis disappeared. The licorice worked better than the steroid creams my doctor prescribed for so many years.

A: Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) is part of a traditional Chinese herbal mixture that is considered effective for psoriasis (American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, Aug. 1, 2010). We don't suggest taking it orally, though, since licorice can lead to low libido, fluid retention and high blood pressure. Herbal experts such as James Duke have recommended applying licorice extract topically to psoriasis lesions for relief.

Q: You recently answered a question from a person with high blood pressure and cholesterol who wanted to know about natural management. I'm in that boat as well.

With my family history, I'll probably be on meds someday, but I'd like to delay that as long as possible. My doctor has recommended daily exercise, 3 grams of fish oil, red yeast rice and a magnesium supplement for high cholesterol. I also watch my intake of sugar and alcohol.

For high blood pressure, I watch my salt intake (no processed foods) and drink water laced with lemon as a constant mild diuretic. I've lowered my cholesterol from 275 to 206 and dropped my blood pressure from borderline high to normal with this approach.

A: Everything your doctor has suggested makes sense to us. Exercise is a powerful tool in losing weight and controlling blood pressure. Fish oil and red yeast rice are proven approaches for cholesterol control. The lemon-laced water is a new idea for us, but it seems like a safe option, and if your blood pressure is controlled, you must be doing something right.

Q: I have read in your column about using Certo in white grape juice for arthritis relief. Does it have to be white grape juice, or would purple grape juice or pomegranate juice work just as well?

A: Many readers have had similar questions. Most people who use Certo in grape juice use purple or red grape juice rather than white grape juice. One reader who tried pomegranate juice with Certo found it helpful: "I've read about grape juice and Certo for easing joint pain, but I don't like grape juice. I tried pomegranate juice with Certo instead.

"After just a couple of days, the results are amazing! I can comfortably make a tight fist now, which means I can throw punches in aikido class again without jamming an arthritic knuckle.

"As an EMT, I'm definitely in tune with conventional modern medicine. This remedy has me stumped, but there is no doubt that it really worked quickly and effectively for me."

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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