People's Pharmacy answers queries about home remedies for athlete's foot; natural ways to alleviate severe night sweats; and magnesium supplements to treat rosacea.

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Q: Do you have any home remedies for athlete’s foot? I have been using over-the-counter antifungal creams, with marginal success.

A: Home remedies are rarely tested in a head-to-head manner against Food and Drug Administration-approved medications. Back in November 2000, however, the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology published a study comparing the active ingredient from garlic (ajoene) with topical terbinafine (Lamisil).

Venezuelan soldiers with athlete’s foot were randomly assigned to apply 0.6 percent (low-dose) ajoene, 1 percent (high-dose) ajoene or 1 percent terbinafine to their feet twice daily for a week. Two months later, three-fourths of those who had used low-dose ajoene and 100 percent of those on high-dose ajoene were still clear of athlete’s foot. Ninety-four percent of those who had used terbinafine were clear.

You can’t go out and buy high-dose ajoene, but you can soak crushed or minced garlic in olive oil and apply that to your feet. A few people may be allergic to topical garlic and develop a rash, so be alert.

Q: What is a safe home remedy for severe night sweats and hot flashes? I’m burning up and sleepless.

A: There is some research to suggest that herbal remedies such as Pycnogenol (French pine-bark extract), black cohosh and St. John’s wort (hypericum) may offer relief. Eating yams or fermented soy products such as miso or tempeh also may be helpful.

We are sending you our Guide to Menopause. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (61 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. W-50, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It also can be downloaded for $2 from our website:

Regular exercise and turning down the thermostat are both simple approaches that might reduce the annoyance of hot flashes.

Q: I am intrigued by the report that washing with an Epsom salt solution (magnesium sulfate) could ease rosacea.

I took antibiotics and Accutane, but neither of them cured the problem. Recently, I started taking a magnesium supplement for high blood pressure. It banished the rosacea. My skin is clear and incredibly soft.

A: Rosacea causes redness of the cheeks, nose and forehead. Fine red lines often can be seen just under the skin, and some people also experience pimplelike blemishes.

The usual treatment for this condition includes antibiotics such as doxycycline, minocycline or tetracycline. Doctors also may prescribe topical antimicrobials (metronidazole) or azelaic acid (Finacea).

We could find no studies of magnesium supplements to treat rosacea, though we are glad to hear it works for you. Other readers have taken omega-3 fatty acids with good results, and Italian researchers have reported that supplements with silymarin (from milk thistle) and MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) helped ease symptoms (Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, March 2008).

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them c/o King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., 15th floor, New York, NY 10019, or via their website: