Question: How much folic acid do you need? I know this vitamin is important, but I am not sure how much to take.
Answer: Folic acid is crucial for women who might become pregnant because it reduces the risk of a serious kind of birth defect called spina bifida. This B vitamin is also valuable in the prevention of heart disease.
Foods rich in folic acid include lentils, split peas, brewer's yeast, spinach, collards, broccoli, peanuts and green peas. To ensure you get enough, though, you may want to take a supplement containing 400 to 800 micrograms daily.
Q: My arthritis seems to be getting worse, even though I have tried glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate. They were expensive and I didn't notice any benefit.
Drugstore treatments like Advil, Aleve, Relafen and Voltaren upset my stomach too much and aspirin makes my ears ring as well.
I need to exercise to stay fit and control my weight, but my knees hurt. I remember my grandmother used to make an apple cider vinegar drink that she said kept her spry. Do you know anything about this old-fashioned remedy?
A: Dr. D.C. Jarvis popularized vinegar in his 1958 book, "Folk Medicine: A Vermont Country Doctor's Guide to Good Health," which is available in reprint editions and in libraries. He learned it from the farm families he cared for. Jarvis claimed that a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in water with honey was an excellent remedy.
We heard from a neighbor of his in Barre, Vt., that he was an ear, nose and throat doctor, ardent organic gardener, scholar and musician.
Many readers tell us that they mix vinegar and honey with juice. Vesta Davis of Lashmeet, W.Va., combines one-third cup honey, one cup vinegar, 16 ounces grape juice and 32 ounces apple juice. She drinks an ounce or two daily.
Q: My mother always insisted that chicken soup was the best possible cold remedy, and she made marvelous chicken soup. But I never learned how she did it.
Cold remedies I buy in the pharmacy make me too drowsy and don't seem to help that much. Do you have a good chicken soup recipe I can try?
A: Chicken soup is a time-honored treatment for colds the world over. The trick to making good chicken soup is using enough chicken. Get a big stewing hen (if you can) and throw in extra backs and wings.
Put in enough water to cover plus another two inches. Add onions, carrots, celery, parsnips, parsley, bay leaf, peppercorns and salt to taste. Adding at least four cloves of garlic will enhance the soup's cold-fighting power.
Once the soup has simmered for several hours, let it cool and strain out the chicken and vegetables. You can cut up the meat of the chicken and add it back, with noodles, rice, peas or other embellishments, or you can savor the broth as it is. Refrigerating overnight makes it easy to remove the fat.
* Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist. Teresa Graedon holds a doctorate in medical anthropology and is a nutrition expert. Send questions to them at People's Pharmacy, c / o King Features Syndicate, 235 E. 45th St., New York, NY 10017, or e-mail PHARMACY@mindspring.com.