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Originally published Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 6:18 AM

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Yellow mustard eases pain of ice-pick migraines

People’s Pharmacy on yellow mustard to relieve ice-pick migraines; Listerine and vinegar to treat nail fungus; and the pros and cons of red yeast rice to lower cholesterol.


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Q: I have ice-pick migraines. They caused sharp, stabbing pain in my head all day long, seven days a week, until I heard about mustard. I can get two hours of pure pain relief from swallowing a teaspoon of yellow mustard. I have not had this much pain relief in three years.

A: Headache experts describe ice-pick headaches as “jabs and jolts” or “stabs and jabs.” Usually, the pain is severe but short-lived, lasting only a few seconds. That is why there have been very few treatments tested and found effective.

Your headaches are unusual because they occur throughout the day. We trust you have been evaluated by a headache expert or a neurologist to rule out other contributing factors.

Yours is the first report we have received regarding yellow mustard helping against this migraine variant. Another approach might be hand warming. A case published in the journal Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (June 2011) describes a patient who got relief from his ice-pick headaches by warming his hands.

Q: How long does it take Listerine and vinegar to work on nail fungus? I am not sure how long to soak my toes in the solution. Ten minutes or half an hour?

A: As with most home remedies, there is little information on precisely how to optimize the effect of soaking the feet in a half-vinegar/half-Listerine solution. Some people report that soaking their toenails for half an hour or an hour at a time a few days a week works to foil nail fungus. Others prefer the discipline of soaking 15 or 20 minutes every day.

Whichever regimen you choose, you will need patience. To get rid of toenail fungus, you should keep up the soaks until the toenails have grown out completely and are free of fungus. That can take many months, since toenails grow so slowly.

Q: What is your opinion on red yeast rice for lowering cholesterol? I have tried statins and cannot tolerate them.

A: Red yeast rice naturally contains a low dose of statins and has been shown to lower cholesterol (Annals of Internal Medicine, June 16, 2009). Although many people tolerate red yeast rice better than a dose of atorvastatin or simvastatin, some do experience serious side effects. One reader wrote:

“At the recommendation of my doctor, I took red yeast rice to lower my cholesterol. After a month, my arms and shoulders started to hurt. Even after stopping the supplement, the pain has persisted, and it feels like knives sticking into my muscles. I can’t lift a mug of coffee without pain.”

Some people are so susceptible to statin side effects that even red yeast rice poses a risk. Many commercial red yeast rice formulations vary in strength and quality. According to ConsumerLab.com, some are contaminated with citrinin, a potentially toxic substance.

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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