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Q. I used castor oil mixed with baking soda to treat a prominent actinic keratosis that I’d had for years. It was gone after two days and hasn’t come back two years later. I can’t remember where I heard about this remedy, but others might want to know about it.

A. Actinic keratoses are precancerous skin lesions. They are common on aging skin that has been exposed to ultraviolet radiation from the sun and may feel scaly or rough. Sometimes they itch or burn. All such spots should be seen by a dermatologist, as they could be an early form of skin cancer.

You are not the first person to report that castor oil could help an actinic keratosis, though other readers did not include the baking soda. We could not find any published studies of this remedy, but it seems benign. If it doesn’t work, the dermatologist can use a more standard approach such as freezing it off (cryotherapy) or applying a medicine like 5-fluorouracil cream, imiquimod cream or ingenol gel.

Q. When is a good time to take melatonin? Typically I go to bed at 10:30 p.m. and read for an hour before lights out. I often awaken at 1 or 2 a.m. and can’t fall back to sleep.

A. Melatonin appears to be most helpful if taken 30 minutes to an hour before sleep. In your case, that would mean taking it at bedtime.

Although melatonin could help you fall asleep more quickly (Neurological Research, June 2017), we don’t know whether it will help you stay asleep. A prolonged-release formulation might be useful for that purpose (Expert Opinion on Pharmacotherapy, April 2012).

You can learn more about melatonin and other nondrug approaches to overcoming insomnia in our eGuide to Getting a Good Night’s Sleep. Look for this online resource in the Health eGuides section at www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.

© 2019 by King Features Syndicate

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