Q: In your article about treating jellyfish stings, you suggested applying vinegar. That is bad advice!

I dug into my memory and computer files for an article from The Sydney Morning Herald. A friend in Australia sent it to me in 2014, when I had just returned from a trip to the Great Barrier Reef.

We had discussed research that contradicted the use of vinegar. Aussie researchers have found that vinegar is not a good option for box jellyfish.

A: You are absolutely correct. The Australian scientists found that vinegar increased the amount of venom released by box jellyfish, Chironex fleckeri (Diving and Hyperbaric Medicine, March 2014). Vinegar is also contraindicated for stinging sea anemone, as is ammonia (Toxins, Jan. 1, 2022).

It seems that vinegar is helpful for the stings of some jellyfish species and harmful for those of others (Toxins, July 21, 2021). Consequently, swimmers shouldn’t use vinegar on jellyfish stings unless they know precisely which species has caused the sting and whether vinegar will be helpful.

Hot water is often recommended. It should be hot enough to be painful but not so hot that it will burn the skin (110 to 113 degrees).


Q: I have a terrible case of dandruff that I can’t get rid of. Months ago, you wrote about milk of magnesia on the scalp for seborrheic dermatitis. As I understand it, that is basically dandruff.

Do you have any details about how to use milk of magnesia? Is it applied to the scalp prior to shampooing for a number of minutes, then shampooed out? Or, is there some other regimen? Thanks for any information you can offer.

A: There are no studies on milk of magnesia against dandruff, but several readers have praised it. They apply it in the shower and leave it on the scalp for several minutes while they shower. Then, they wash it out.

Another popular approach involves rinsing the scalp with old-fashioned amber Listerine. It has antifungal activity that may be helpful against yeast.

You can learn more about these and other dandruff remedies in our book, “The People’s Pharmacy: Quick & Handy Home Remedies.” It includes hundreds of remedies for common ailments. If your local library does not have a copy, you can find it in the books section of the store at PeoplesPharmacy.com.

Q: What do you think about supplementing with Bacopa monnieri extract? I have taken a number of anticholinergic drugs for years, and I worry about the potentially negative impact on my brain. I have heard that this Indian herb might be beneficial.


A: Anticholinergic medications are not good for the brain. They have been linked to a higher risk for cognitive decline. You can search PeoplesPharmacy.com for a list of anticholinergic drugs.

We first heard about the Indian Ayurvedic herb Bacopa from neuroscientist Dr. Dale Bredesen. He recommends it for some of his patients who are experiencing cognitive difficulties. There is growing evidence that this natural product has neuroprotective properties (Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy, September 2022).

Animal research suggests that Bacopa reduces the accumulation of amyloid beta plaques in the brain. It has also been shown to improve memory in rodents (Frontiers in Nutrition, Aug. 18, 2022). Before it becomes popular for treating Alzheimer’s disease, however, we will need larger, well-designed randomized controlled clinical trials.