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Originally published Sunday, April 6, 2014 at 6:16 AM

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Vinegar stops burning of fire-ant bites

People’s Pharmacy on remedies for fire-ant bites, red yeast rice for lowering cholesterol and desiccated liver tablets to stop the spread of plantar warts.

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Q: I decided to mow. When I stopped to pick up a limb, I felt hot stinging and looked at my hand to see fire ants on it.

I brushed them off and went inside to find something to treat the stings. They make me itch and burn; they create white pimplelike pustules and red, swollen areas.

I reached for the spray bottle of vinegar I keep in my kitchen for cleaning and disinfecting. I sprayed my hand and left the spray on the skin. In a few seconds, the burning stopped, then the itching. I had a little redness, but pustules never did form.

This is the fastest and best remedy I’ve ever found for fire-ant bites.

A: Thanks for sharing your success. We didn’t know that vinegar (acetic acid) could overcome the venom of fire ants (Solenopsis invicta). A recent study showed that crazy ants (Nylanderia fulva) use formic acid they produce themselves to detoxify fire-ant venom when the two groups fight each other (Science, Feb. 28, 2014).

Other readers report success against fire-ant bites with topical witch hazel, the OTC acne drug benzoyl peroxide, Vicks VapoRub, castor oil or a cut onion.

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

A: Red yeast rice contains natural statins at a low dose and can lower cholesterol (Annals of Internal Medicine, June 16, 2009). In that study, most (but not all) people who did not tolerate statins were able to handle red yeast rice (RYR).

A more recent study demonstrated that combining red yeast rice and a Mediterranean diet is more powerful than RYR alone, especially for people with type 2 diabetes (Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine online, Dec. 23, 2013).

If you try RYR, be alert for symptoms such as muscle pain.

Q: You had a question from a reader about plantar warts. From the age of 14 through about 30, I was plagued with them. Doctors used cryosurgery (freezing) and scraping, but the warts kept coming back and multiplying.

Finally, a doctor tried an alternate method. He said there was something in my immune system that was not fighting off this virus. He told me to go to the health-food store and get desiccated liver tablets. I took six daily while he treated my warts. He told me the tablets would not get rid of the warts, but would keep them from spreading while he treated them.

This worked for me! I haven’t had a wart in 20 years.

A: There is no research on this unusual approach to eradicating plantar warts. We heard about it decades ago, and it was old-fashioned even then. Thanks for the reminder of this nontoxic treatment.

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

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