Q: I am interested in trying a remedy you've written about for joint pain, Certo in juice. Must pectin be used only in grape or cherry juice? These drinks tend to be high in sugar, which I try to avoid. I can't take artificial sweeteners.
A: We suspect that the anti-inflammatory compounds in grape or cherry juice may boost the effects of this remedy somewhat. Some readers have successfully used pomegranate juice mixed with Certo. Unsweetened pomegranate juice is quite tart but very pricey.
We heard from another reader who found a different approach: "We can't drink the fruit juice because of sugar problems, but have found the same relief by mixing a pouch of Certo along with two large boxes of sugar-free Jell-O and making a big bowl. We eat about half a cup of this Jell-O mix with our lunch each day, and it seems to work just fine for arthritis."
Sugar-free Jell-O contains artificial sweeteners, so it is not appropriate for you. We encourage you to try mixing the Certo in a beverage you can drink and let us know if it works.
Q: You have written about using cornmeal for toenail fungus. According to Bob Webster, a south Texas gardening expert, the reason ground cornmeal works against fungus (including grass fungus as well as foot fungus) is because a fungus called Trichoderma grows on cornmeal.
Trichoderma attacks and destroys other nonbeneficial fungi. Bob Webster recommends covering the fungus-affected area with a cornmeal paste for one hour each day for seven to 10 days. It works.
A: We've always wondered why cornmeal might fight nail fungus and are grateful for the explanation. There are more than 80 species of Trichoderma; the one used to control fungi that attack plants is T. harzianum. It grows especially well on cornmeal.
Q: I had 38 chigger bites on both my feet. I thought a little burning would be much better than the monumental itching. Capsaicin ointment worked, and there was absolutely no more itching, which sometimes lasts for months.
A: Some people are extremely sensitive to the enzymes chiggers inject when they bite. The immune response creates intense itching and sometimes leads to severe inflammation in the area of the bite.
Capsaicin is essence of hot chili peppers. It is used topically to ease arthritis pain or the persistent pain and burning associated with shingles and neuropathy.
Another option that might be even more effective is a topical corticosteroid. An over-the-counter cortisone cream is probably not strong enough, though. Ask your doctor or dermatologist about a prescription for a more powerful topical steroid. Applying a dab of betamethasone, fluocinonide or triamcinolone at the very first sign of a bite may prevent that terrible inflammatory reaction.
Q: I was skeptical about liquid bandage to get rid of a skin tag, but when I found out my doctor's office would charge me $95 for removal, I decided to try your remedy first. The only brand at my store was New-Skin. I started treating the skin tag yesterday, applying New-Skin twice a day. The top half of the skin tag is shriveled up.
This is working, and I am going to keep at it until the skin tag is gone.
A: Skin tags are small, fleshy growths the same color as the surrounding skin. They are not dangerous, but they can be annoying.
Years ago, we heard from a reader who kept small adhesive bandages on skin tags for about 10 days to get rid of them. Another used castor oil once daily on skin tags. Some people tie the skin tag off tightly with dental floss, and it shrivels and falls off after several days.
Other readers have had success with liquid bandage. Here is one recent comment on our website: "I have removed several skin tags from my neck with store-brand liquid bandage. It worked every time."