Q: I noticed that President Donald Trump was given melatonin during his hospital stay for COVID-19. I was not aware of a role for melatonin in its treatment. Can you tell me if there is any science to support this? I take melatonin to help with sleep.
A: We, too, were surprised to see melatonin on the list of the president’s anti-COVID treatments. In addition to the prescription and experimental medications he received, the doctors also gave him zinc, vitamin D, aspirin and famotidine (Pepcid).
Although we could find no clinical trials of melatonin against COVID-19, there is evidence that this hormone has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and immune-modulating properties (Nutrients, Aug. 24, 2020). There are also data suggesting that melatonin helps regulate the sleeping cycle and may even have some indirect antiviral activity (Sleep and Vigilance, Sept. 26, 2020). Some doctors advocate the use of melatonin to help older people sleep better, thus strengthening their inherent immune response.
If you would like to learn more about melatonin, you may be interested in our eGuide to Getting a Good Night’s Sleep. In it, we discuss this and other nondrug approaches to overcoming insomnia as well as pros and cons of sleep medications. This online resource is available in the Health eGuides section at www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.
Q: I recently read your column on favorite hiccup remedies. It was interesting, but my remedy is totally different and never fails: get them by surprise!
For years I have approached hiccupping people with a sudden, unexpected question, such as, What’s your uncle’s middle name? The hiccups stop instantly! It’s the unexpectedness that does it. Try it. You’ll like it!
A: We have been collecting hiccup remedies for nearly 50 years. Although people often do recommend surprise as an effective approach, it usually revolves around loud noises or scare tactics. Your suggestion to ask a surprising question is intriguing. Perhaps others who try it will let us know how well it works.
Q: Do you know about D-limonene for acid reflux? They make it from orange peels and sell it as a supplement.
This stuff takes time, but it works. I know people who have been on PPIs for years to treat their reflux and were able to get off them using D-limonene. I did this myself, and my symptoms are completely gone. If I feel any heartburn at all, which rarely happens now, I take a couple of capsules after dinner for a day or so, and the pain disappears.
A: Thank you for telling us about a heartburn remedy we had not encountered before. D-limonene is derived from many citrus oils, and it is used in numerous foods and beverages. It is also a fragrance found in soaps, shampoos and other personal care products.
This agent has been used to treat gastroesophageal reflux and dissolve cholesterol-based gallstones (Alternative Medicine Review, September 2007). It is considered quite safe, although people can develop allergies to most substances (Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B, Critical Reviews, 2013).