Q: For 30 years, I’ve been plagued with horrible itchiness. Multiple dermatologists and allergists have been unable to give me a diagnosis. However, one brilliant dermatologist finally suggested Sarna Anti-Itch Lotion, original scent (with camphor and menthol).

If I start applying it as soon as I begin to feel itchy, I can get relief. I do have to apply it many times a day, but I’ve been itch-free for four or five years using this regimen.

My scalp has also been itchy. Sarna Lotion is too messy to apply in my hair, but original Listerine has a very similar smell. I tried it on a chronic itchy spot on my scalp behind the right ear, and it worked.

Applying it straight from the bottle is awkward. Instead, I put it in a plastic squeeze bottle like the ketchup or mustard containers used in diners. With a hand towel over my shoulders to catch any runoff, I lightly squeeze a small amount onto the itchy spot on my scalp. I often need to use it for a week or so to overcome the problem. The bottle certainly helped with the application process.

A: Camphor and menthol are classic ingredients in anti-itch formulations. These old-fashioned compounds stimulate TRPM8 receptors in the skin to provide a cooling sensation.

Listerine also contains menthol in addition to eucalyptol, methyl salicylate and thymol. Many other readers report that it can help ease scalp itching. Thank you for describing an ingenious method of applying this mouthwash to the scalp.


Q: My sister sent me your article about Certo and grape juice for arthritis. Ever since, I have been taking this combination once a day. Certo and 100% Concord grape juice help me so much! I have shared this with other people, and they have gotten relief from inflammation and arthritis pain.

A: We have been writing about the “purple pectin” combination of Certo and grape juice for more than two decades. Although not everyone gets relief from joint pain with this remedy, many people do.

Certo is liquid plant pectin used to make jams and jellies thicker. It is sold online or in the canning section of the supermarket.

Many readers have experimented with this remedy. Some use powdered pectin, such as Pomona’s, while others have substituted pomegranate or cherry juice for grape juice. All of these fruit beverages have anti-inflammatory properties. You can learn more about this and many other natural approaches to easing joint pain in our booklet “Graedons’ Guide to Alternatives for Arthritis.” It is available in the book section of the store at www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.

Q: You’ve written about the benefits of walnuts. How do they affect people who are taking thyroid meds? I read that walnuts and thyroid medicine are incompatible. Is this true, or can I eat walnuts later in the day? I take my 75 mcg of levothyroxine about 5 a.m.

A: There has been surprisingly little research on this topic, but the Mayo Clinic suggests that patients hold off on eating walnuts for several hours after taking their thyroid medication. Iron and calcium supplements can interfere with levothyroxine absorption, as can antacids with aluminum or magnesium, the ulcer medicine sucralfate and the cholesterol-lowering medication cholestyramine. People taking levothyroxine should also wait an hour or so before drinking their morning coffee (Pharmaceuticals, March 2, 2021).