Q. I have read that high-dose vitamin D did not make a difference when people were admitted to the hospital with COVID-19. Perhaps you should have higher levels of vitamin D circulating in your body when you are first exposed to COVID-19, instead of receiving a massive dose of D after you are already sick and in the hospital. Higher levels of D at the get-go might prevent the inflammation and immune system overreactions that make COVID-19 so serious for some people.

A. You are referring to a Brazilian study (MedRxiv, Nov. 17, 2020). In it, 240 hospitalized COVID-19 patients got either placebo or 200,000 IU of vitamin D in a single giant dose. There was no difference between the groups with respect to hospital stay, intensive care or ventilator use.

Other research suggests that people with low vitamin D levels in their bodies may be more vulnerable to COVID-19 (Health Security, Dec. 14, 2020). Vitamin D helps calm inflammation. As a result, some scientists hypothesize that people without enough vitamin D are more likely to suffer deadly immune-system hyperreactions if they become infected (Aging Clinical and Experimental Research, Sep. 2, 2020). In other words, they agree with you.

You can learn more about vitamin D in our eGuide to Vitamin D and Optimal Health. This online resource is found in the Health eGuides section of www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.

Q. I’ve gotten muscle cramps in my shins, of all places, for at least 20 years. I tried every conceivable fix without success. Then I heard about mustard on the People’s Pharmacy. Voila! That was the answer!

Some people keep mustard packets in their nightstand. I just hobble to the kitchen cursing.

A. We first heard about this remedy for muscle cramps from a caller to our syndicated radio show. This person reported fast relief for nighttime leg cramps by swallowing a teaspoonful of yellow mustard.

Since then, we have heard from hundreds of other people who have found this remedy useful. One cyclist always carries packets of mustard on his long-distance races. If his legs start cramping, he sucks the mustard down while riding and is able to complete the ride.

Q. I suspect people would like hangover remedies around this time of year. As a chemist, I can suggest that people rehydrate! Dehydration is the primary cause of a hangover.

A. Dehydration has been blamed for hangover symptoms for decades. But a study from Germany suggests that other factors may be more important (BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health, April 30, 2020). The scientists ran a double-blind placebo-controlled trial of a “food for special medical purposes.” It consisted of a combination of plant extracts, vitamins and minerals. There were two placebos: one with vitamins and minerals only and the other with glucose.

More than 200 volunteers drank enough beer or wine to trigger a hangover. Then they consumed one of these solutions and recorded their symptoms.

The participants who got the plant extract solution had less headache, nausea and restlessness the next day. The plants in the remedy were ginger root, ginkgo leaf, willow leaf, prickly pear fruit extract and acerola berry extract. The authors suggest a few other plants that might also be helpful: Asparagus flavonoids, fenugreek seeds, mango polyphenols and ginseng extract.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803, or email them via their website:

www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.

— King Features

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