1. Archive

No pain reliever is totally harmless

My mother and I argue about which pain reliever is better, aspirin or Tylenol. She uses aspirin for every ache and pain. I rely on Tylenol almost every day for headache, sore knee or back pain relief. Which is safer?

Regular use of aspirin or other anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen can irritate the digestive tract and lead to ulcers. This is not a problem with acetaminophen (Tylenol).

A study, however, suggests that regular, long-term use of acetaminophen has risks (Archives of Internal Medicine, July 26, 2004). Researchers who followed thousands of women for more than a decade discovered that those who reported taking more than 1,500 acetaminophen tablets throughout their lifetimes ran a risk of reduced kidney function. Although this sounds like a lot of pills, over 30 years it works out to about a tablet a week. The take-home message is that no pain reliever should be taken for granted.

The fruit of the vine

I am a 57-year-old woman. I wanted to break my daily habit of drinking wine from late afternoon through the evening, so I decided to try kudzu. It worked perfectly from the start, although it causes constipation. What else can you tell me about kudzu?

An extract from the root of the notorious creeping kudzu vine (Pueraria lobata) traditionally has been used in China to treat alcoholism. Although research in the United States is inconclusive, kudzu root extract is available in health food stores. Physicians prescribe several drugs (Antabuse, Campral, ReVia, Zofran) to help people overcome a craving for alcohol.

Bean juice canned canker sores

I am thankful to you for recommending green beans for canker sores. I started rinsing my mouth with the juice from canned string beans. That was about four days ago, and now the sores are almost gone.

Another reader wrote in about the value of Gerber's strained green beans against canker sores. Other remedies for this malady include green peas and sauerkraut juice.

Niacin and cholesterol

My doctor told me that niacin is as effective as prescription statin drugs in lowering cholesterol. Is this true?

As effective as niacin is at lowering cholesterol, it is hard to match statins such as Zocor and Lipitor. Niacin can help raise good HDL cholesterol and is less expensive than such prescriptions. Because it can elevate liver enzymes, a doctor should supervise niacin therapy.

We are sending you our Guide to Cholesterol & Heart Health for more information about benefits and risks of niacin, along with other natural approaches. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $2 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (60 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No. C-8, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027.

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 at or via their Web site:

King Features Syndicate