Question: I am totally disillusioned with zinc lozenges. My son came down with an awful cold. I loaded him up with vitamin C and zinc, but he still sniffled and coughed and was miserable for a week.
Answer: The use of zinc to treat the common cold is controversial. Several studies showed that this mineral helped people recover more quickly, but new research published in the Journal of the American Medical Assn. contradicts this.
Children and teens taking zinc lozenges recovered from their colds in nine days, just like those taking placebo lozenges. Kids on zinc, however, experienced more side effects, including nausea and bad taste.
Q: Can herbs make fibrocystic breasts worse? My family doctor said to avoid estrogen because it might increase my risk of breast cancer and aggravate the cysts. My gynecologist urged me to take hormone replacement therapy to keep my bones strong. I opted for an herbal solution with black cohosh, soy, red clover and dong quai.
Now my breasts are lumpy and tender. I suspect the herbs are responsible. Is there any way to get the benefits of estrogen without the problems?
A: The herbs that you take contain plant estrogens. Many postmenopausal women find they relieve hot flashes and other symptoms. No one knows how these phytoestrogens affect the breast. You might be right that the herbal combination made your breast symptoms worse. No long-term research shows whether any of these herbs protect bones as estrogen does or how they affect the risk of breast cancer.
You may want to ask your doctor if Evista (raloxifene) would be appropriate for you. This medicine acts like estrogen to strengthen bone, but it has anti-estrogen effects in the breast.
Q: Several months ago I began to feel faint and breathless, with my heart beating in my throat. At first this happened only when I was driving my car, but then it happened almost anywhere. My doctor diagnosed me with panic disorder and prescribed Xanax. I no longer have these attacks, but now I am unable to have an orgasm very often.
I think the drug has also affected my coordination. But I won't stop taking it for fear of never being able to drive again. Is there an herb that could counteract the negative side effects?
A: We do not know of any herbs that can restore orgasms or counteract the unsteadiness caused by Xanax (alprazolam). Please reconsider driving while taking Xanax since this drug can affect judgment and reaction time.
You might benefit from another approach to controlling panic. We have been impressed with Dr. Reid Wilson's book and self-help kit called "Don't Panic." For more information, call (800) 394-2299.
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 them via their Web site: http://www.peoplespharmacy.com.