Q. Your column about using sugar on wounds has changed the way I treat the cattle on my ranch. We have nearly replaced tetracycline powder for cattle hoof abscesses and lesions.

We did a test and saw equal results with sugar on the first 100 cows. We’ve now used it for more than 1,000.

It is easy to remember. Just mix 1 cup of powdered sugar with 1/4 to 1/3 cup of any cooking oil to the consistency of cake frosting.

Keep the wound covered for one or two days, and change if necessary.

A. We are fascinated to learn that this remedy for hard-to-heal wounds could be so useful on a ranch. You have described Dr. Richard Knutson’s “recipe” very well.

We also heard this from another reader: “A paralyzed friend with persistent bedsores was cured when the sugar-and-oil mixture was used on them.”


Q. I recently read online that if you cut an unpeeled onion in half and put it in an open jar in the bedroom of a sick person, the onion will absorb the germs and speed recovery. Dishes of onions around the house are said to prevent the flu. Is this true or just a bunch of nonsense?

My daughter and her two children live with us, and we watch two other grandchildren while their parents work. All the kids, ages 5 and under, have been sick with bronchitis and bad coughs that will not go away. Would putting cut-up onions around the house help or just stink up my house?

A. This time of year, the onion story circulates on the Web. It is hooey.

Onions cannot attract the viruses that cause colds and flu, and leaving an onion in a room will just make it smell.

This urban legend may have its roots in a folk remedy that uses onions to make cough syrup. Grandmothers used to chop onions finely and simmer them with a small amount of sweetener for a few hours. The resulting syrup was administered as cough medicine.

Perhaps a little extra vitamin D will help protect your grandchildren. New data suggest that supplemental vitamin D (4,000 IU daily for adults) can cut the number of infections and the amount of antibiotic needed (BMJ Open, Dec. 13, 2012). Studies in schoolchildren also demonstrate that vitamin D (300 IU per day; 1,200 IU per day) can help reduce respiratory infections (Pediatrics, September 2012; American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, May 2010).


Q. After reading a column about turmeric for plantar warts, I began treating a very large wart that covered my entire heel. I am happy to report that it has stopped growing and is slowly healing. Thank you.

A. Other readers report success treating plantar warts with fresh or powdered turmeric. It will stain, however, so be careful to wear old socks.

Other approaches include hot-water soaks, vinegar, duct tape and instant glue. Less-common approaches include banana peel, grated ginger and eggplant.