This week, the People’s Pharmacy takes on alternative therapies for lice and heartburn. Plus: A reader shares a surprising treatment for toenail fungus.

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Q: Rather than a question, I offer a note about toenail-fungus treatment. I have treated my toenails with Listerine for a few years, but saw only slight improvement. A couple of months ago, I started applying castor oil to my toenails after showering. The improvement was clear within a few days.

I continue to apply castor oil to my toenails once or twice a week. My toes and feet haven’t looked so good in years. I hope this helps someone else.

A: We could find no scientific research to support the use of castor oil (Ricinus communis) against nail fungus. The leaves of this plant, however, have been shown to possess both antibacterial and antifungal activity (BMC Research Notes, Dec. 1, 2017).

Castor oil is greasy. Applying this oil to the toenails could be messy. Be careful not to slip.

There are many other home remedies for nail fungus that readers may find helpful, including Listerine and white-vinegar soaks, topical hydrogen peroxide, cornmeal, tea tree oil and white iodine. Learn more about these and other nail-fungus treatments in our book “Quick & Handy Home Remedies.” It is available at your local library or at

Q: After using an OTC lice treatment, I still saw live bugs in my daughter’s hair. Ugh! I went looking for other options.

I found Dr. Dale Pearlman’s article on a way to suffocate lice. He has a website,, with complete instructions on the “Nuvo Method.” This tells exactly how to use Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser. Timing is important, and three treatments at one-week intervals are required.

I wish I had found this method right away. I have shared it with numerous friends!

A: Dermatologist Dale Pearlman conducted two open trials on this approach (not randomized, placebo-controlled or double-blind). He published the results demonstrating a 96 percent cure rate in Pediatrics (September 2004).

He recommends soaking the hair with Cetaphil and then using a blow-dryer to “shrink-wrap” the lice. The dried cleanser is left on the hair and scalp for at least eight hours.

Many over-the-counter lice products have lost their effectiveness. Researchers have noted that lice have developed resistance to ingredients such as permethrin (Clinical Microbiology and Infection, April 2012).

We also have heard from many readers that soaking the hair in amber Listerine can kill live lice. This treatment requires nit combing to be effective, however. Like the Cetaphil approach, it will require regular retreatment until all lice are eliminated.

Q: I use almonds to stop heartburn. After years of being on Prilosec and thinking there was no way off it, I took the plunge and stopped. I keep almonds with me wherever I go.

At home I also drink aloe vera juice and take licorice root pills (DGL). Every once in a while, I have to take a Zantac, but not often.

A: Scientists writing in the World Journal of Gastroenterology (March 14, 2011) characterize almonds as a traditional heartburn remedy in Israel. We haven’t seen any studies on whether eating a few almonds actually helps heartburn, but scores of readers attest that it does. An extract of licorice has been shown to ease indigestion (Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Volume 2012). DGL is a safer version of licorice because the glycyrrhizin that can raise blood pressure has been removed.