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Am Fam Physician. 2003;68(8):1475

Licorice root could provide a treatment for severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). As reported in a research letter in The Lancet, researchers in Germany assessed the antiviral activities of ribavirin, 6-azuridine, pyrazofurin, mycophenolic acid, and glycyrrhizin against two clinical coronavirus isolates from patients with SARS who had been admitted to the clinical center at Frankfurt University. Glycrrhizin, an active component of licorice root, was the most active in inhibiting replication of SARS-associated coronavirus. Glycrrhizin also inhibited viral adsorption and penetration. The compound was most effective when it was given during and after the adsorption period. Glycrrhizin had few toxic effects, even at high doses.

Learning to play the music of Bach and Chopin may improve a child's verbal memory. In a study conducted in Hong Kong and published in Neuropsychology, researchers tested the verbal memory of 45 boys six to 15 years of age who had up to five years of music training and 45 boys of the same age who had no music training. The children who studied music were better able to recall words from a list and learned more words. The longer the music training, the greater the improvement; when music lessons stopped, so did the improvement. The researchers noted that music training stimulates an area of the brain that also supports verbal memory—for an added benefit to piano practice.

You may want to loosen your tie after reading this…! A study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology found that a tight necktie increases intraocular pressure (IOP). Measurements of IOP were obtained in 20 men with normal vision and 20 men with open angle glaucoma while the men were wearing an open shirt collar, three minutes after they had tightened a necktie, and three minutes after they had loosened the tie. After the tie was tightened, mean IOP increased by 2.6 mm in the men with normal vision and by 1.0 mm in the men with glaucoma. The researchers noted that the increase in IOP could affect the diagnosis and management of glaucoma, and that a tight tie should be included as a confounder of accurate IOP measurement.

“I must, I must, I must increase my bust!” Although “bust-enhancing” herbal products are widely marketed, their use should be discouraged because of safety concerns and lack of evidence for efficacy, according to commentary published in Obstetrics & Gynecology. These products contain variable combinations of natural ingredients (e.g., grains, hops, saw palmetto, dong quai, chaste-tree berry, wild yam, kava, fennel, black cohosh, fenugreek). Some of the ingredients, such as hops, are hormonally active. Many supplements contain hops or grains that are substrates for Fusarium, a zearalenone-producing fungus that has been associated with breast enlargement disease in humans and pigs.

“Whoa, baby!” A survey conducted for Jiffy Lube International and reported in American Medical News found that about one in 300 women gives birth in a car on the way to the hospital. Bad weather, heavy traffic, and poor planning are reasons some women don't make it to the hospital on time. The survey of 1,000 adults also showed that 15 percent of expectant mothers drive themselves to the hospital, which may be unsafe because of the hormonal changes of childbirth.

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Copyright © 2003 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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