Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. This week: drinking hibiscus tea to control blood pressure; lathering with Greek yogurt to combat seborrheic dermatitis; and does using the microwave kill nutrients?

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Q: My husband’s blood pressure was creeping up when I read your article on drinking hibiscus tea to lower blood pressure. He has been drinking three cups of Tazo Passion tea with hibiscus every day since then, and his blood pressure has gone back to the normal range!

Thank you so much. It’s great to be able to avoid taking a medication. I shared this info with his doctor; she said she wasn’t familiar with it and wanted the article, as she, too, is interested in nonpharmaceutical fixes whenever possible.

A: We’re delighted that your husband’s doctor is interested in evidence-based nondrug alternatives. Hibiscus has a long history as a folk remedy, but there is substantial research on its ability to help control blood pressure (Frontiers in Pharmacology, Jan. 19, 2016).

This lovely red flower works in part by making blood vessels more flexible and by blocking a compound called angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE). That means it works somewhat like popular blood-pressure pills such as lisinopril.

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Anyone who would like to know more about other nondrug approaches may find our “Guide to Blood Pressure Treatment” helpful. For a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (70 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. B-67, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, N.C. 27717-2027. It also can be downloaded for $2 from our website:


Q: I had been diagnosed with seborrheic dermatitis, and I also had dandruff. One day I read in a magazine that Greek yogurt could help.

I decided to give it a try and shampooed with it, also applying it to my face. The next day the dermatitis was gone. I continue to apply yogurt before washing my hair.

That was over eight years ago, and I haven’t had dandruff or dermatitis since. I use Chobani, but I suppose any brand of Greek yogurt would work.

A: There is a community of microbes that normally live on our skin and scalp. When the balance is disrupted, the result can be dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis. This skin condition is similar to dandruff on the face, causing itching, redness and flaking.

We have not seen any studies of your approach, but research on a probiotic solution applied to the scalp showed that it helped restore microbiome balance (Journal of Microbial & Biochemical Technology, August 2016). The acetic acid produced by the probiotic in the studied solution was thought to be beneficial. While yogurt may not have acetic acid, the lactic acid in yogurt might work in a similar fashion.

People have found other home remedies to be helpful for dandruff. They include soaking the scalp in old-fashioned amber Listerine or a baking-soda solution. Some people have had success with saltwater, apple-cider vinegar or milk of magnesia.


Q: Some time ago, a reader mentioned not wanting to use the microwave to heat cocoa. I frequently heat coffee, cocoa and other foods in my microwave. Should I be concerned about destroying nutrients when I use a microwave?

A: So far as cocoa is concerned, you don’t need to worry about damaging cacao compounds by using a microwave. New extraction techniques include microwave technology (Tropical Life Sciences Research, February 2016). Presumably, the compounds are not damaged in the process.

Heating food does impact nutrients like vitamins C and B-12. But microwaving food may be less likely to destroy such vitamins than other cooking methods.