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Garlic can't replace cholesterol drug

Question: For several years, my cardiologist has had me on Lescol to lower my cholesterol. Lately I have noticed muscle pain and weakness that I think are tied to this drug. When I had my blood tested, my overall cholesterol was 146.

I worry about taking medicines and would prefer a more natural approach. I recently read that garlic can lower cholesterol and might even reduce my risk of prostate cancer. My uncle died a painful death from this disease, and I would love to lower my risk. Is garlic really beneficial, and how much is enough? Do garlic pills work as well as fresh garlic?

Answer: New research from China (Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Nov. 6) indicates that men who get more garlic, onions and scallions in their diet appear less likely to develop prostate cancer. This effect was most noticeable when Chinese men ate at least one clove of garlic per day.

Garlic might have a modest effect on cholesterol reduction, but it can't compete with drugs such as Lescol. Please let your doctor know about your muscle problems.

Not all garlic pills are equally effective. A recent analysis of commercial products found wide variation in the active ingredient, allicin. If you'd like details, you can find the report on the Internet at Issues of quality control should be less of a problem if you stick with fresh garlic, onions or scallions.

Arthritis remedies

Question: I never thought I would get arthritis the way my parents and grandparents did. But now that I am past 50, I have noticed soreness and stiffness in my fingers and knees.

I tried ibuprofen, and it helped, but my stomach started to hurt. When I switched to acetaminophen, I discovered that my blood pressure went up. I seem to recall you mentioning some natural approaches to arthritis. I will be most grateful for any information you can send.

Answer: Regular use of ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, etc.) and naproxen (Aleve) can cause stomach upset and even ulcers. And new research suggests that frequent use of such pain relievers and acetaminophen are associated with high blood pressure (Archives of Internal Medicine, Oct. 28).

There are lots of natural approaches for arthritis. Glucosamine and chondroitin can help, and scientific studies support these dietary supplements. Many readers of this column use kitchen table treatments such as Certo and grape juice (1 tablespoon Certo in 8 ounces grape juice daily) or gin-soaked raisins. Others have benefited from Sam Houston's mixture of cider vinegar, apple juice and grape juice.

We are sending you our guide to home remedies, with details on these and other arthritis treatments. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $2 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped, self-addressed envelope to: Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No. R-1, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027.

Stop the hiccups

Question: My dad has had hiccups off and on for four months, and no one knows what to do. The doctors don't know what causes them and don't have a cure for this annoying occurrence. Any remedy you can offer would be appreciated.

Answer: Our favorite remedy requires your dad to sip water from a glass while someone stands behind him and holds his ears closed by pushing on the little flaps (tragi) in front of the ear canal. Currant jelly under the tongue or a lemon wedge doused with angostura bitters might also help.

Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist. Teresa Graedon holds a doctorate in medical anthropology and is a nutrition expert. Write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019, or e-mail them via their Web site,

King Features Syndicate