The People's Pharmacy

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

Q. A long time ago I visited a friend in the mountains. I stepped on a wasp in the shower stall, and the sting was horribly painful.

My friend put a paste made from water and meat tenderizer on the sting. Within 10 minutes, the pain and swelling had totally disappeared.

Now I don’t go anywhere in the summer without meat tenderizer. Believe me, it’s come in handy, especially if I drive with the window open. Just use a pinch of it, use your spit to make a paste and put it over the sting to feel it do its magic. It’s never failed, even for a bumblebee sting.

A. We first read about using a quarter teaspoon meat tenderizer mixed with a teaspoon of water for a painful insect sting in the Journal of the American Medical Association (April 24, 1972). The doctor recommending this remedy suggested that the papain in meat tenderizer breaks down the venom.

If you’ve been stung by a bumblebee or honeybee, however, the first step is to flick the stinger out with the edge of a credit card.

People who are allergic to stings should not rely on home remedies. They must keep an epinephrine injector available and seek emergency medical attention.

Q. My teenage son has tree pollen allergies and also plays a stringed instrument. His fingertips were peeling, so I thought it might be an allergy to the bow rosin, a pine tree product. We tried over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream for a bit and saw mild improvement. Then I read about eating cilantro for eczema or psoriasis. He does not like the taste of cilantro, so I crushed it and mixed it with olive oil and applied it to one hand. I tested the theory by putting organic coconut oil on the other hand, in case moisturizing was all that he required.

We were both impressed with the results the next morning. The cilantro hand was appearing to heal already, and the coconut oil hand looked about the same as before. After three nights of use his fingers were nearly healed.

A. Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) is popular in Mexican, Indian, Chinese and other cuisines. It is rich in antioxidants and has antibacterial and antifungal properties.

Your story sent us to the medical literature to see if topical cilantro had been studied for skin irritation. Iranian scientists have found it helpful against diaper rash (Malaysian Journal of Medical Sciences, August 2017). Some people may develop allergic reactions to cilantro leaves (Contact Dermatitis, December 2001).

Others have found that eating fresh cilantro leaves can reduce the redness and itching of psoriasis plaques. It doesn’t work for everyone, but many have reported benefit.

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 visit

Load comments