Hot cure for ailments

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 June, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 June, 1994, 12:00am

Q: I heard through a colleague that chili peppers can cure stomach problems. My friend was having stomach trouble during a recent business trip and ate a really hot and spicy meal that alleviated most of his symptoms. Is there any truth to this? What else are chillies good for? How much would you need to take? Dr Rose writes: Chili peppers have been known for centuries in various cultures to treat everything from toothache, respiratory ailments, intestinal parasites, blood clots and fertility problems. It has also been alleged that they act as an aphrodisiac.

Chillies contain the pungent component capsicum, responsible for causing the burning sensation in eyes, the nose and throat. This acts as an expectorant to help clear the sinuses, thin out bronchial secretions and clear the airways. The burning sensation on your tongue induces your brain to produce substances called endorphins that cause pleasurable sensations. This is similar to a runner's high. Capsicum also acts as a local anaesthetic by reducing the levels of a neuro-transmitter conveying pain signals to the nervous system.

To obtain the medicinal benefits of chili peppers, you can take 10 to 20 drops of red-hot chili sauce in a glass of water daily, or eat a hot spicy meal such as Thai or Sichuan food, three to four times a week. If the spiciness is too much for you, have some yogurt, a glass of milk or some beer close by until your system grows accustomed to eating the spicy foods. Q: We are expecting our first child this summer and are nervous about being parents. We would like your advice on what to stock in our medicine cabinet.

Dr Rose writes: It is extremely common for children to have colds with a runny nose, coughing, sneezing, fevers and ear infections during the first year of life.

This is a good basic list of medications and supplies in anticipation for a new baby in the house: tweezers (for removing splinters); ear or rectal thermometer; bandages, band-aids, gauze pads and butterfly tapes; acetaminophen (for treating fevers); cold and cough syrup; decongestant syrup; anti-septic, such as betadine, or alcohol (for cleaning wounds); mild-steroid skin ointment (for nappy rashes); suction bulb and salt water drops (to clear stuffed up noses); a bedside vapouriser; and karo syrup or a natural laxative such as Multsupex.

Be sure to put all medications in child-proof containers if they are within the reach of your child and label expiration dates on all medicines. Clearly stick the telephone numbers of your paediatrician, ambulance service and the local poison centre on the refrigerator in case of emergencies.