Applying ice to cold sores may help heal them faster.

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Q: With regard to treating cold sores, I use pure vanilla. At the first sign of a cold sore, I pour a small amount of vanilla extract on a cotton ball and hold it on the cold sore for one or two minutes. If I do this a couple of times a day, the cold sore heals quickly.

A: We have been unable to find any scientific studies to explain why vanilla extract might be helpful against herpes labialis (cold sores). This may be an urban legend, or it simply might not have been studied.

However, several readers report that applying ice helps heal cold sores faster. One person wrote:

“Until I was in my late 30s, I used to get cold sores every winter. Back then, there were no antivirals or pain medicine to treat them.

“Somehow along the way, I found a way to keep them at bay. At the first tingle, I’d put several ice cubes in a plastic sandwich bag and held it over the offending area. I kept this up for anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes. The sores didn’t fully develop when I did this. Nowadays, I rarely have an occurrence, and, if I do, it’s mild. Any explanation for why this might work?”

We have found no explanation for its possible effectiveness, but we did find a very brief flurry of letters about ice for cold sores in The Lancet in 1978 and 1979. It began when a physician recommended applying ice for 90 to 120 minutes within the first 24 hours of an outbreak.

Another doctor remarked: “Why has this treatment not been more widely reported and objectively tested? If physicians knew of a chemical remedy that seemed effective against so unsightly and unpleasant a lesion, they would file for an investigational new drug permit and find a drug company to support research. The public has the right to expect the same level of testing for simple remedies for which there is no pharmaceutical pay-off” (The Lancet, Dec. 9, 1978).

Q: I have arthritis in my knees and back. To minimize the pain, I have been using hemp oil, rosemary and turmeric.

I created a shaker with rosemary, turmeric and black pepper, which I use on my eggs and salads. Hemp oil is my replacement for olive oil and butter. I drizzle the hemp oil on toast and shake my rosemary-turmeric mix onto it. It is delicious and, more importantly, I do feel less discomfort. This is not a cure-all, but it does make a difference, for which I’m thankful.

A: This is an intriguing combination. Rosemary and turmeric both have anti-inflammatory properties, which may be why your arthritis is less painful. Adding black pepper to your mixture along with hemp oil aids the absorption of turmeric.

To learn more about these and other ancient healing herbs, you may wish to consult our book “Spice Up Your Health.” It is available for $15.95 plus $4 postage and handling from: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, Dept. SUYH, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. You can find it online at

Q: I have had nocturia for many years. I tried numerous treatments, including two surgeries. My sleep was frequently interrupted, sometimes five or six times a night. I didn’t know what it would be like to get a good night’s rest.

Nothing helped until I tried eating a handful of raisins before bed. The first night, I only had to get up one time. The second night I got up one time and last night I didn’t have to get up a single time. I only hope that this continues. Thank you for sharing this inexpensive and safe remedy.

A: We are glad this worked to help you sleep better. We don’t know if the benefit will persist.