The People's Pharmacy

Joe Graedon, M.S.,and Teresa Graedon, Ph.D.

Q. As a kid and into adulthood, I was susceptible to athlete’s foot. I finally got rid of it with advice from a World War II vet I knew. He said that in the Navy, the men were advised to pee on their feet while showering.

I did this off and on for a few months and haven’t had a recurrence of athlete’s foot since then. (It’s been about 30 years.) However, within the past few years, I contracted the dreaded toenail fungus.

I went back to the old Navy advice, but am doing it one better. I save up about a liter of urine and pour it into a plastic container that is the right size. While showering, I simply soak one foot and then the other while shampooing and washing my body. Then I wash my feet. The nail fungus cleared up in weeks, but I still do the treatment about once a week just to make sure it doesn’t come back.

A. You are not the first person to try out this bit of military lore. Urine contains urea, which is used at high concentrations to remove fungus-infected toenails (Dermatology, online, May 2013). The concentration of urea in urine is far weaker, but we have heard similar stories from other readers. It may take months of foot soaks to get rid of nail fungus.

You can read more about this and many other tried-and-true treatments in our book “Quick & Handy Home Remedies.” It may be purchased from Graedon Enterprises, Dept. QHHR, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027 for $16.95 plus $3 shipping and handling. You also can order it online at

Q. I suffered frequently with cold sores, starting when I was a teenager. One day, although the pain was excruciating, I felt the urge to sting it with a nettle. When the nettle sting wore off, I stung it again and again.

Surprisingly, the symptoms began to subside. Every time thereafter I felt the beginnings of a cold sore, I stung my lip. I no longer suffer from cold sores. I must have found a way to kill the herpes virus.

A. What a fascinating story! As it turns out, in central Italy stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is part of a traditional treatment for the herpes infection chickenpox (Journal of Ethnopharmacology, April 26, 2005). Stinging nettle extract appears to have antiviral activity, especially when it is combined with extracts of licorice and lotus (Virology Journal, July 26, 2012). It may prevent the virus from attaching to cells (Antiviral Research, April 2011).

The remedy you devised is likely to cause pain, and we doubt that anyone else would want to try your experiment. There are effective antiviral drugs for treating cold sores.

Q. I was blending boiling hot soup. The blender cover has a removable cap in the center that was off (dumb!). I had my hand on the lid when I turned on the blender, and the soup splashed through the hole and burned my hand.

I immediately put the hand in cold water, but since I had to go on cooking, I wiped off my very painful red palm and applied soy sauce. Thanks to The People’s Pharmacy for that home remedy! I reapplied the soy sauce several times because I could still feel the burn.

Then I forgot about it entirely. The soy sauce took all of the burning and redness away. I surely would have had a large, extremely painful blister had it not been for the soy sauce.

A. Thank you for sharing your success. Many readers report that cold soy sauce can ease the pain and redness from a household burn. Yellow mustard also may help.

(In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, Fla., 32803, or email them via their website:

Load comments