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Originally published Sunday, June 1, 2014 at 6:18 AM

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Hair dryer eases chigger-bite itch

People’s Pharmacy on itch relief, cinnamon to normalize blood sugar and “pine mouth.”


Syndicated columnists

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Q: Our backyard backs up to the woods, and we have a huge chigger problem every year. Here’s my remedy for the terrible itching.

If you try this, be very careful and don’t burn yourself. I turn a hair dryer on low heat and aim it at the bite, fairly close. It itches as if I’m scratching it. I pull the hair dryer away before the skin hurts. The itching stops for about six hours.

The heat must numb the nerves. I have never burned myself with this, but I can’t use it on my kids because I might burn them.

A: Heat seems to be an effective way to temporarily stop itching. We first learned about using hot water to soothe itchy bug bites from a 1961 textbook called “Dermatology: Diagnosis and Treatment.” The physician who recommended this approach noted that the water should be hot enough to be uncomfortable, but not so hot that it burns. Your hot-air technique is a related approach. Caution is essential to prevent burns!

Q: I have type 2 diabetes. Last summer, my triglycerides were dangerously high (300), my cholesterol was 288 and my HbA1C was 8.2. I was taking Janumet and Trilipix, but they were not working.

I decided to try taking ¾ teaspoon of cinnamon mixed with 1 teaspoon of apple-cider vinegar and 1 teaspoon of honey every day. My triglycerides are now down to normal — 121! My cholesterol has dropped to 260, and my HbA1C is good at 6.5. So this is really helping.

A: The use of cinnamon to normalize blood sugar is controversial, but there is research to support it (PLoS One, Feb. 14, 2014).

Powdered cinnamon may contain a natural compound, coumarin, that can harm the liver. To avoid it, try making a hot-water extract of cinnamon using a paper filter. The constituent that improves insulin sensitivity is water soluble, while coumarin is not.

Q: Both my husband and I ate pine nuts last Sunday. On Tuesday, we both began to experience a horrible bitter taste. Now, nothing tastes good. Mint tea is the only thing that doesn’t taste bad.

Reading on your site that some pine nuts can cause this problem was helpful. I think it is imperative that we tell the grocer where we got the nuts about this problem.

A: Pine nuts are a delicacy that has been treasured for thousands of years. Native Americans prized pine nuts for their taste and nutritional value.

There are at least 20 different species of pines that produce nuts people eat. In Europe, they are popular in pesto, salads and desserts such as baklava.

“Pine mouth” can be triggered by eating nuts from Chinese white pine (Pinus armandii). The unpleasant metallic taste can last for days or weeks but eventually goes away. Although the underlying cause of this mysterious disorder has not been determined, researchers have suggested that chemicals used in the processing of these Chinese pine nuts might contribute to the taste disturbance (Journal of Toxicology online, March 10, 2011).

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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