A reader reports that the decongestant helps with facial pain. Plus: Beets for high blood pressure.

Share story

Q: I have been very interested in the messages about using soap containing limonene to help with cramplike pain. I have been plagued with such pain on my face.

I did research on products that contain limonene. Vicks VapoRub is one. I have been using that around my eyebrows and forehead, and it helps relieve pain.

A. We are fascinated by your report. That could help explain why Vicks VapoRub is considered helpful for soothing sore muscles. A chemist who specializes in volatile compounds reported to us that the soaps people find useful against leg cramps usually contain limonene in their fragrance. This compound from essential oils has analgesic effects (Inflammation, April 2017).

We should offer one word of caution: Dermatologists have reported one case of skin depigmentation (vitiligo) triggered by the application of Vicks VapoRub (Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, November 2008). Be alert for any changes in skin tone where you are applying the Vicks.

Most Read Life Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

Anyone who would like to learn about other ways to utilize this common but extremely versatile product may be interested in our “Guide to Unique Uses for Vicks.” Please send $1 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (71 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. DJL-24, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It also can be downloaded for free from our website: www.peoplespharmacy.com.

Q: I started having hot flashes at 40 years old and I’m now 55. My hot flashes have become unbearable — 10 or more severe hot flashes with full-body sweating every day.

Black cohosh has not been of help, and I do not want to take estrogen. I went searching online for other natural remedies and found maca. It is a root from Peru. After about three days, my hot flashes have been reduced to just one or two a day, with no full-body sweating. Can you tell me anything about maca for menopause?

A: Thank you for your testimonial. Many women would prefer not to suffer hot flashes but may be reluctant to use hormone-replacement therapy. Some randomized controlled trials have shown that Pycnogenol and maca extract (Lepidium meyenii) can help control hot flashes (Maturitas, February 2014).

There is little, if any, data on the safety of this plant compound, especially taken out of its indigenous context (Journal of Ethnopharmacology, Jan. 30, 2018). It is now being grown in China as well as Peru because of its reputation as an aphrodisiac.

Q: I have read that beets lower blood pressure, but there is controversy about whether only raw, ungrated (i.e., not oxidized) beets lower blood pressure or also grated and cooked beets do. Can you clarify this question?

A: Most of the research involves beetroot juice. A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials concluded that the juice lowers blood pressure (Advances in Nutrition, Nov. 15, 2017).

We have not seen research comparing grated or cooked beets with beetroot juice. One reader offered this testimonial:

“I recently had my blood pressure increase (140 over 90). I started taking beet powder. I add this to food or water. It has a pleasant taste, not very beety. My blood pressure now is in the normal range.”