Q: Recently, I heard that there was a cream or ointment for getting rid of age spots. I think I heard it referred to as Hydroxycordone. I would like to get rid of my brown sunspots.
A: The compound you heard of is hydroquinone. It is a bleaching agent that is applied to darker areas of skin (such as age spots or liver spots) to lighten them. Such spots are usually a result of sun damage.
The Food and Drug Administration proposed a ban on hydroquinone several years ago but has not yet taken action. More research has been initiated, but it will be years before there is a definitive answer about the safety of this chemical.
One possible alternative is tretinoin (Avita, Retin-A, Renova). This prescription acne cream also can smooth wrinkles and help fade age spots (American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, August 2009). Although the brand name is pricey, you can get this cream as a generic for around $40 a tube. Regardless of how you try to lighten your spots, avoid the sun or use a sunscreen.
Q: I have been on Evista for two years to prevent breast cancer after surgery and radiation for DCIS (pre-cancer in my breast). I have suffered the whole time with terrible hot flashes.
One month ago, I tried pine bark extract after trying everything else from antidepressants to sleeping pills to herbs. Pycnogenol has worked wonders! The hot flashes are gone.
A: Research is limited, but one placebo-controlled study indicated Pycnogenol may offer relief from hot flashes (Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica, August 2007).
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist, and Teresa Graedon is an expert in medical anthropology and nutrition. http://www.peoplespharmacy.com