Q: Could leg cramps be reduced or eliminated by eating homemade soup with cabbage, crushed tomatoes, chilies, carrots, onions, celery and spices? My wife made two series of such soups, and I have not had leg cramps while we were eating them.

I take a potassium pill daily. I’ve tried a commercial pill that is supposed to stop leg cramps, to no avail.

A: Scientific evidence supports the idea that certain strong flavors, such as hot peppers and other spices, can relieve muscle cramps quickly (Muscle & Nerve, September 2017). They activate ion channels associated with nerves and can override the misfiring that causes muscle cramps.

You can learn more about the science behind this and other home remedies in our eGuide to Favorite Home Remedies. You will find this online resource in the Health eGuide section of www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.

Q: Over many years, I have consulted seven physicians, including two dermatologists, about a condition on my face and neck identified alternately as folliculitis and acne. I have used numerous antibiotics, antifungals and steroids (including direct injection, patches and topical creams) as well as Retin-A and Finacea, plus topical anti-inflammatories.

I have also tried every over-the-counter product that seemed likely to work and spent hours soaking in Epsom salts. Nothing has cleared my skin.


In despair, I turned to home remedies. Listerine began to get the lesions under control. But milk of magnesia (MoM) has made the biggest difference. I read about it in your column.

MoM has a strong drawing effect. Thank you for writing about it.

A: As far as we can tell, dermatologists have not studied milk of magnesia for blemishes. That is despite a provocative letter to the editor of the medical journal JAMA Dermatology (Jan. 1, 1975).

Milk of magnesia is an oral laxative that has been used for more than 140 years. Other readers report that topical MoM works well as a deodorant and to treat under-breast rashes.

Q: I have gotten carsick for as long as I can remember. I used to take Dramamine or wear the patch behind my ear, but those medications made me so drowsy that I couldn’t enjoy my trip. Now I use ginger for every road trip. Once I started taking ginger capsules, I haven’t had to take Dramamine anymore.

A: Ginger has a longstanding reputation for settling the stomach and warding off motion sickness. Chinese sailors used to eat ginger to prevent seasickness thousands of years ago. Some controlled studies confirm its usefulness (Food Science & Nutrition, Nov. 5, 2018).


Medicinal chemists have determined that it works through activating TRPV1 ion channels (British Journal of Pharmacology, September 2019).

Q: Sometimes I get what I call “midnight motor mind.” I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep because my mind insists on churning over thoughts from the day.

I grow lemon balm, aka Melissa, a member of the mint family, in my garden. I take equal parts lemon-balm leaves and boiling water. After steeping it for 15 minutes and straining it, I add the same volume of sugar and boil the concoction to make a syrup. Then, if I wake up at night, I take a spoonful. It usually does the trick.

A: Thank you for this suggestion. A pilot study found that people having trouble sleeping due to anxiety did better when they took Melissa officinalis (Mediterranean Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, December 2011). In a more recent pilot trial, people with mild insomnia slept better when they took lemon balm in combination with melatonin, vitamin B6, California poppy and passionflower (Complementary Therapies in Medicine, August 2019).