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Your Good Health: Wolfberry, frankincense don't prevent cancer recurrence

Wolfberry, also called goji berries, has been touted as a cancer curative and preventive
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Dr. Keith Roach

Dear Dr. Roach: I am a female over 90 years old who has been urged to take an essential oil wolfberry supplement with a drop of frankincense to prevent cancer. I recently had a mastectomy in my left breast. Please comment.

D.H.

Wolfberry, also called goji berries, has been touted as a cancer curative and preventive, but there is no data to support this. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration wrote warning letters to distributors of this product because they “establish[ed] the product as a drug intended for use in the cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of disease” when it has not been proven to do so. According to the FDA, goji juice was “not generally recognized as safe and effective for the referenced conditions [i.e., anticancer properties].”

Many people find goji berries delicious, and a diet high in fruits and vegetables definitely helps prevent cancer from returning. But please do not think of wolfberries or a drink made from them as medicine.

Finally, frankincense (Boswellia serrata) has some weak evidence, showing it might have benefit in relieving arthritic pain. It is not a medication to treat or prevent breast (or any other form of) cancer.

Please talk to your oncologist. There are prescription medications that may reduce your risk of cancer recurrence.

Dear Dr. Roach: How long do the effects of a low dose of lorazepam last in one’s system?

J.G.

Lorazepam (Ativan) is a commonly used sedative and antianxiety medicine. It is best for occasional use, such as airplane trips or other stressful events. I do not prescribe medicines like this for continuous, long-term use, although some of my colleagues in psychiatry do.

The half-life of lorazepam (the amount of time the body needs to remove half the lorazepam, largely through the kidney) is approximately 12 hours. The maximum amount will be present in the blood two hours after taking it, and about half will be gone 14 hours after taking it.

For most people, the bulk of the noticeable effects wear off even sooner, after about 6 to 8 hours, but there still may be a measurable amount of the drug in the blood even 24 hours later. That’s why it is so important to be careful with alcohol, which, in combination with lorazepam, can cause both excess sedation and memory trouble. The memory loss, either retrograde (before the drug) or anterograde (after the drug), can be permanent.

Dear Dr. Roach: A very long time ago (I am 94), I had a severe constipation problem. My solution was a rice krispie recipe made with added bran. It produced a nice bar, and I ate one with every meal. At a picnic, a woman who grew up on a farm asked what it was. I explained, and she proclaimed that it looked like a meadow muffin. After that, I added red food coloring to disguise the muffin.

J.M.

City folk like me may have to look up “meadow muffin” (it’s a cow patty), but it’s very easy to add fibre to many recipes. Fibre is a great way of relieving constipation. Perhaps paradoxically, it helps many people with loose bowel movements as well. Always start slow and let your body get used to increased fiber to avoid bloating.

Dr. Roach regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but will incorporate them in the column whenever possible. Readers may email questions to ToYourGoodHealth@med.cornell.edu

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