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Q. I have been using gin-soaked raisins for joint pain. However, the clerk at the store said that if I want benefits from gin-raisins, I must buy higher-quality, more-expensive brands. I have been buying the lowest-price distilled gin. He said that I am wasting my money with the less-expensive gin.

Does the price of the gin make any difference in getting benefits from gin-soaked raisins, or does this clerk want to increase his profits?

A. The cheapest gin uses juniper flavoring added to neutral grain alcohol. You want gin distilled with real juniper berries.

No one knows exactly why gin-soaked raisins may ease joint pain, but we think that juniper berries are an essential component of the remedy. One reader sent this comment: “Gin traditionally was flavored with juniper berries, orris root, cardamom and coriander. Gin was originally considered a medicine, a new way to deliver the benefits of juniper berries, which had been used for centuries as a remedy for arthritis and rheumatism.

“Modern gin manufacturers, particularly the cheaper brands, don’t flavor with any actual natural flavorings at all. So someone who simply soaks the raisins in the cheapest grocery-store brand of gin is going to be missing out on the whole point of soaking the raisins in something – the anti-inflammatory benefits of juniper berries.”

If you are indeed buying distilled gin – not simply the cheapest gin in the liquor store – you probably are getting the benefit.

Q. I am having a problem with dandruff. I have tried everything on the market for it, including a prescription from the dermatologist. Ketoconazole 2 percent shampoo had a long list of possible side effects that included baldness!

I did use it as directed, though reluctantly. It changed the color of my hair, and I had some of the listed side effects. It did absolutely nothing but cause me grief, and I still have the dandruff.

Please tell me about home remedies using milk of magnesia or amber Listerine. I read it, cut it out and misplaced it.

A. Many readers have told us that old-fashioned Listerine can be used to banish dandruff. Others apply milk of magnesia in the shower and let it soak in for a few minutes. Apple cider vinegar is another favorite.

We are sending you our Guide to Hair and Nail Care, with a homemade dandruff shampoo and many other ways to deal with an itchy scalp or unsightly flakes. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (66 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. H-31, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It also can be downloaded for $2 at www.peoplespharmacy.com.

Q. I was born in 1931, the youngest of four siblings. Mother would slice onions and cook them in “sugar water” for cough syrup.

Warm cooked onions would be wrapped in flannel or old blanket pieces and applied to our chest as a “poultice” for cough. I would fake a cough so I could have that delicious syrup!

A. Most people assume that onion syrup would taste terrible, but we have heard from many readers that this old-fashioned cough remedy actually tastes delicious.

Q. I have a suggestion for the person who wrote about being addicted to nasal spray. I was hooked on Neo-Synephrine for more than 30 years.

Then I read that a prescription for Flonase could help. I was very skeptical, but my doctor had no problem writing me a prescription.

I put one spray in each nostril, and by that evening, I had not used the Neo-Synephrine and threw the bottle away. That was in 1999. I had tried every method I heard about, and nothing worked until I used Flonase, which I still use occasionally. I have shared my experience with other folks who are hooked on nasal sprays.

A. Fluticasone (Flonase) is a corticosteroid nose spray that helps reduce inflammation. It’s usually prescribed to treat seasonal allergies such as hay fever. It also can ease the rebound congestion that causes such misery when a decongestant nasal spray is halted suddenly.

Write to the Graedons via their website: www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.