Q: My husband had a large (quarter-sized), flat skin tag on his face in his sideburn area. The doctor cut it off once, but it came right back. We decided to try castor oil. He applied it with a cotton swab a couple of times a day.

I don’t remember how long it took, but it gradually shrank until it was completely gone. It’s been several years, and it’s never returned.

A: Skin tags are soft fleshy growths that are most common in spots like the armpit or groin, or under the breasts. As a result, your husband’s large, flat one on his face was unusual. The medical term for these growths is acrochorda. They are not dangerous, but they can be unsightly and annoying.

Dermatologists can remove skin tags surgically. Many readers have used home remedies successfully, however. One favorite is liquid bandage such as New-Skin. Others include castor oil or apple cider vinegar.

Q: I have osteoporosis, so I am reluctant to take PPIs, like Prilosec or Nexium. However, I have suffered from horrible heartburn for years. Sometimes I think I am having a heart attack because the pain is so severe.

I have tried antacids and acid blockers like Pepcid. They haven’t worked well. Do you have any natural approaches that might ease my discomfort?


A: The association between proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) and weakened bones has been contentious. A review of the medical literature concludes that this is a potential relationship between PPI use and fractures (International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, May 5, 2019).

You might ask your doctor to test you for celiac disease. This condition can contribute to osteoporosis as well as digestive difficulties.

Are you taking any medicines that might make you more susceptible to reflux? Some sleeping pills (zolpidem) or anti-anxiety agents (alprazolam, clonazepam, diazepam) may aggravate this condition.

A low-carbohydrate diet may be helpful for controlling your indigestion (Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics, November 2016).

Chewing gum, sipping tea or incorporating ginger in a meal or after-meal drink are other approaches that may help ease heartburn. Some people find that yellow mustard, almonds or even apple cider vinegar can alleviate their symptoms. You can learn about many other remedies in our eGuide to Overcoming Digestive Disorders. This online resource can be found in the Health eGuides section of www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.

Sometimes a heart attack can masquerade as indigestion. Sudden onset of severe chest pain requires emergency evaluation.

Q: I’ve spent several hundred hours researching herbs for COVID-19. Most important of these is Andrographis paniculata, an herb used for hundreds of years in Ayurvedic medicine for a number of ailments. It is used in India for flu and colds. It is also being used in Thailand for COVID-19 treatment. What do you think?

A: According to the journal HerbalGram (February-April 2021), the government of Thailand approved a pilot study of Andrographis in December 2020 to treat the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. It will be given to patients within three days of symptom onset to treat mild COVID-19 infections. Until there is a randomized controlled trial, however, we would not recommend relying upon any herbal approach to treat this potentially deadly infection.