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You're soaking in it

Researchers at the School of Medicine have been asking some patients with stubborn warts to soak them in a mixture of traditional Chinese herbs. Another group will apply a brew of plain grocery store tea to the affected areas. All of them will receive conventional liquid nitrogen treatment as well.

Principal investigator Linda Gooding says the experiment is a "collaborative effort of a viral immunologist, a dermatologist, and a doctor of Chinese medicine to develop a treatment protocol in which a Western approach [cryosurgery] is augmented with topical herbal treatment to provide an effective treatment for recalcitrant warts."

Up to ten percent of the American population eventually seek treatment for warts. Among children, warts usually disappear. Among adults, they generally are successfully treated. But for some people the warts are difficult to treat.

Gooding says her interest in warts was triggered by an experience her son, Jon, went through.

"When Jon was about twelve, I took him to the dermatologist seven different times to treat the warts on his hands. Even freezing the lesions with liquid nitrogen didn't prevent them from recurring. I finally decided to try an herbalist. Jon ended up soaking just one hand in the mixture of boiled herbs. Interestingly, the warts on that hand didn't return, but the ones on the unsoaked hand did. The dermatologist said he'd never seen anything like it."

Patients need not fear drugs

Many cancer patients who could benefit from pain-killing drugs are unwilling to take them out of fear of addiction, according to Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology Anne Marie McKenzie, founder of the Georgia Cancer Pain Initiative.

"Pain is one of the most distressing yet most treatable aspects of cancer," McKenzie says, "[and] very rarely are appropriately prescribed narcotics addicting."

Other factors also contribute to the problem. Some doctors are reluctant to prescribe narcotics because of intense regulatory scrutiny, while pharmacists fear an increase in burglaries if they stock the drugs. Finally, lawmakers are concerned about the potential for illicit drug use.

McKenzie founded the cancer pain initiative in 1994 to improve the quality of life for cancer patients through the promotion of pain relief by education, research, clinical practice, and advocacy. She and fellow organizers hope to identify barriers to cancer pain relief, develop programs to eliminate those barriers, develop educational programs for patients and health care professionals to increase knowledge about cancer pain relief, and encourage research to improve cancer pain management.

Just say no to niacin

For some time, health faddists who wanted to lower their cholesterol have been swallowing supplementary doses of nicotinic acid, better known as niacin. But W. Virgil Brown, director of the Division of Arteriosclerosis and Lipid Metabolism at Emory, says they may be doing themselves more harm than good.

Most niacin users experience a temporary skin flushing shortly after taking the supplement, but that is the least of the side effects. Niacin can also cause heartburn, nausea, diarrhea, itching, hives, and dry skin. It can increase blood sugar and uric acid levels, exacerbate ulcers, lead to arthritis associated with gout, and cause liver damage and fatal liver failure.

"I consider over-the-counter availability [of niacin], particularly in preparations as high as five hundred milligrams per tablet, a public health problem," Brown says. (Twenty milligrams per day or less is recommended.) "It's crazy. High dose preparations should be available only by prescription."

Play's the thing

All work and no play make Jack a dull boy. These days, of course, the same may be said of Jill. What to do? More play! says Assistant Professor of Nursing Linda Moneyham.

Workers who take work home with them at night and on weekends instead of taking advantage of recreation and family time may be deceiving themselves, Moneyham says.

"Once we pass our peak productive hours of the day, our creativity and the quality of our work diminishes. The extra hours . . . may turn into a nonproductive, paper-shuffling marathon."

Regularly working long hours and constantly thinking about work only depletes our creative energies, she says. On the other hand, getting completely away from work through recreation and spending time with people who are important to us can help rejuvenate us.

--Compiled by Andrew W.M. Beierle

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