The People's Pharmacy

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

Q. I read in your column recently about using milk of magnesia topically for rosacea. I have been using metronidazole to treat my acne rosacea for several years. It costs a lot of money, but I’ve not had much success.

I tried milk of magnesia on my face starting three days ago, and my rosacea has almost completely disappeared! Best of all, it cost me only $2 a bottle versus a $200 copay for metronidazole.

A. Metronidazole is an antimicrobial medication commonly used to treat rosacea. In this inflammatory skin condition, the face flushes easily and may stay reddened. There may be bumps that look like pimples. Thickened bumps may form, especially on the nose.

We could not find any published studies of the effects of milk of magnesia on rosacea, although many readers have been equally enthusiastic. It certainly is less expensive than your metronidazole gel.

If you need that prescription refilled, ask the pharmacist how much it would cost for you to pay out of pocket instead of using your insurance. You might be able to save money.

Q. For several years, I’ve had bouts of constrictive esophagus, which meant an emergency trip to the emergency room to have it “ballooned” (expanded). The episodes became more frequent; the last ones were weeks apart.

Since I’m a long-time user of soap in my bed for leg cramps, as the symptoms began again, I placed a bar next to my throat, and the tightening immediately stopped. When I needed help after that, it was always soap to the rescue. Soon the episodes stopped completely. It’s been over three years since that last ER visit.

In addition, my husband had a hacking cough morning, noon and night. Nothing would stop it. During one bout, I put a bar of soap on the front of his throat, and the cough stopped. I made him a “necklace” with a knee-high nylon stocking that has chips of soap knotted into it. As long as he wears it, he doesn’t cough.

A. We are intrigued by your report. It is quite similar to another amazing story we heard from a person with laryngospasm. That reader also made a necklace to allow wearing a chip of soap at the throat to prevent the spasm.

We don’t know how soap would work in such situations, but we suspect it is activating TRP (transient receptor potential) channels in the nerves. That may prevent them from going into overdrive and causing unwanted spontaneous muscle contractions — cramps in your legs or spasms in your esophagus.

Q. I was using a cane to walk due to the pain I was experiencing in both knees from arthritis. I was seeing a chiropractor for back pain from a fall and told him I wished he could help my knee pain as well.

He told me about grape juice and Certo. I’ve tried this remedy for two weeks now. The results are amazing! I take it twice a day, and the pain has subsided completely.

A. The mixture of 2 teaspoons of Certo (liquid fruit pectin) in 3 ounces of purple grape juice twice a day is a popular remedy for arthritis. Concord grape juice has anti-inflammatory activity, and so does pectin. Home canners are familiar with Certo, used to thicken homemade jams and jellies. Others may have to search the supermarket for the canning section to find it.

You can learn more about this and many other remedies for joint pain in our little (104-page) book “The Graedons’ Guide to Alternatives for Arthritis.” It may be purchased for $12.95 plus $3 shipping and handling from The People’s Pharmacy, Dept. AFA, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717. You can find it online at

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803, or email them via their website: Their newest book is “Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.”

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