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Is There a Doctor in the House?

New Self-Care Health Handbook is the Next Best Thing

by Kathleen Scalise, Public Affairs
posted November 18, 1998

BookAuthors of a new Berkeley "do-it-yourself" health handbook, out in bookstores this month, sifted through mountains of scientific studies and conflicting medical advice to come up with recommended home remedies for 160 common health problems listed in their new guide.

"The UC Berkeley Wellness Self-Care Handbook: The Everyday Guide to Prevention and Home Remedies" can tell you what to do if you're stung by a jellyfish, the best cure for jet lag and everything you ever wanted to know about wrinkle creams.

But it doesn't neglect how to recognize, treat and prevent more standard ailments, from hay fever and hair loss to skin cancer and snoring.

Clinical Professor of Health and Medical Science John Edward Swartzberg and Professor Emeritus of Public Health and Nutrition Sheldon Margen, chair of the editorial board of the long-standing University of California at Berkeley Wellness Letter, wrote the guide.

Their handbook is an A-to-Z compendium of ailments and disorders that "covers virtually every complaint that you can do something about on your own," said Margen.

Each entry briefly describes the disorder and its cause, then discusses what will happen if left untreated, as well as home remedies, prevention and when to call your doctor.

Also included is an outline of health-related milestones, from birth to old age, and preventive strategies that can be practiced at any age to improve the quality of life and lessen the chance of developing chronic, long-term illnesses.

Some surprises await in the 576-page book. For instance, sufferers of poison oak and poison ivy should not turn first to aloe vera or other popular salves, but to that old standby in the medicine arsenal, rubbing alcohol.

Alcohol "inactivates any remaining urushiol," the oil that is the source of the allergic reaction, says the handbook.

"Don't use a washcloth. This can spread the urushiol. Instead, dab your skin with alcohol-soaked cotton balls," the handbook says.

As for those wrinkle creams, the handbook compares, in easy-to-understand language, retin-A, retinol, retinyl palmitate and other vitamin A derivatives, glycolic acid and other alpha-hydroxy acids, nayad -- a yeast derivative touted as a skin restorative -- and liposomes.

"No area is as rich in hype and hokum as the market for 'anti-aging' and 'antiwrinkle' skin-care products," the handbook says.

"Though the claims made for many of these creams and lotions are without substance, the ingredients in some products described here are being seriously studied by scientists and may hold some promise."

Published by Rebus and distributed by Random House, Inc., the handbook sells for $34.95 and is presently available only in hardcover.


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