Joe and Teresa Graedon: Onion soup for cough
Q. When we were children, our mother made us a cough syrup by slicing an onion and covering the slices with sugar. The sugar sucks the juice out of the onion and makes a clear syrup.
I have had a raw cough, and my lungs hurt from congestion. I used a tablespoon of the syrup, and it stopped the coughing. I used more as needed, and today my cough and lungs are much better.
Onions are a super-food. The taste of this syrup is like caramelized onions, almost pleasant.
A. This seems to be quite a traditional recipe. A friend told us that her Hungarian grandmother made this syrup for her. American settlers used the juice of roasted onion to treat children with croupy cough in the mid-18th century.
Onion and honey (sometimes used instead of sugar to make onion syrup) are active against some microbes, including Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Klebsiella, Pseudomonas and Candida (West Indian Medical Journal, September 2003).
Q. For several years now, I have kept a bar of soap in my bed under the top sheet for leg cramps. I find that it works.
For almost a year now, I have had severe nighttime pain in my left leg from my waist to my ankle. An MRI indicated bursitis. Most nights, I would get up between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. and sit in my recliner because the pain kept me from sleeping.
Late one night, when the pain was bad, I thought about the soap and wondered if it could possibly help. I put a bar of soap next to the hip/thigh area where the pain started, and within minutes, the pain stopped. I couldn't believe it!
For several months now, I have done this every night. I can finally get a good night's sleep without pain. A friend who has back and hip pain also tried this and was surprised when it worked for him, too.
A. Thanks for the report. Some other readers also have experimented with soap. Here is one story: "I have used soap chips in my socks for foot cramps, especially when traveling. When I'm walking, I put soap in the back pockets of my jeans to relieve hip pain."
Q. I used to eat yogurt, apples or oranges before I went to bed. I am a type 2 diabetic.
Recently, I changed to drinking tomato juice before bed. My morning blood sugar has been below 100 ever since. Before that, it was usually around 120. Could tomato juice be lowering my blood sugar?
A. We are delighted to learn of your success with tomato juice. It might be due to less sugar in the juice compared with your previous bedtime snacks. The few studies that have been done showed no effect of tomato juice or raw tomatoes on blood sugar (Diabetes Care, June 2000; International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, May 2011).
There are many other nondrug approaches that can be valuable for people with type 2 diabetes, including a number of foods and spices. We are sending you our brand-new Guide to Managing Diabetes with 10 key steps for keeping blood sugar in check. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (66 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No. DM-11, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It also can be downloaded for $2 from our website: www.peoplespharmacy.com.
Bitter melon (Momordica charantia) is an Indian vegetable that lowers blood sugar. Tomatoes can be used in a tasty sauce that makes bitter melon much more appealing (Nutrition Journal, July 28, 2011).
In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of this newspaper or email them via their website www.PeoplesPharmacy.com. Their newest book is "Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them."