Q: My spouse and I have begun drinking dragon fruit juice. We both like it very much, but we also find that it has a fairly strong diuretic effect. Is this a result of the fruit?

A: Dragon fruit comes from a type of cactus (Hylocereus) native to southern Mexico and Central America. It now grows throughout the tropics. The red-fleshed version of this fruit (also called pitaya) is rich in the plant compound betalain.

We have not been able to find any evidence that it encourages urination. However, it does seem to improve blood vessel flexibility (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, March 10, 2022).

Another food that is rich in betalain is beet root. There is now ample evidence that beet root juice also improves blood vessel elasticity and lowers blood pressure.

Q: I’ve had unbelievable success completely eliminating my insomnia by taking ashwagandha. I’ve been an insomniac all my life, with intrusive thoughts and worries consistently keeping me from sleeping well.

I started using ashwagandha on a daily basis about five years ago. Gradually, I started sleeping better and better. I’d been taking an assortment of sleep meds with little relief. Now, I need absolutely nothing else to help me sleep.

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The only hard part is getting up in the morning. I could easily sleep eight hours or longer! For me, Ashwagandha is pure gold when it comes to combating insomnia.

Furthermore, I’ve tested it: If I don’t take ashwagandha, I almost immediately revert to poorer sleep again.

A: Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) has a reputation for calming a restless mind and promoting sleep. Some readers, like you, get good results. But others have experienced unpleasant side effects.

Digestive upset is not uncommon. One woman wrote: “My husband tried this supplement for anxiety and better sleep and was sick as a dog for 24 hours after taking one capsule. He had horrible cramps and diarrhea.” Other complications may include drowsiness, headache, liver problems or a drop in blood pressure.

To learn more about the pros and cons of ashwagandha and many other natural approaches for overcoming insomnia, you may wish to consult our eGuide to Getting a Good Night’s Sleep. This online resource is available under the Health eGuides tab at www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.

Q: I had a splinter in my finger under the surface of the skin where I couldn’t get at it. After I saw a suggestion to pour hydrogen peroxide on it, I put my finger over the sink and poured on a generous amount. I was amazed to see the splinter emerge so that I could grab it easily with tweezers!

A: This remedy is new for us. Hydrogen peroxide has been used as an antiseptic and wound cleaning agent for more than 100 years. The foaming action of hydrogen peroxide may clear out debris after a wound, but physicians now consider this approach outdated. That’s because they fear that hydrogen peroxide could damage delicate tissue and impair healing.

Other approaches for splinter removal include applying a salicylic acid wart plaster to the area. The dermatologist who published this remedy left the small disk on the skin for 12 hours (Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, April 1, 1989). Some readers report that applying white glue to the area over the splinter for a few hours allows for easy removal. Still others use duct tape to accomplish the same result.