Taking the Medicine


A weekly column looking at common treatments

Hytrin - an alpha blocker, for benign prostate enlargement

What is it? Hytrin (terazosin) is a drug known as an alpha blocker.

What is it good for? This drug is used in the medium- to long-term management of benign prostatic enlargement.

How does it work? Alpha blockers work by interfering with the nerve signals that govern muscle contraction. They relax smooth muscle within the prostate and may shrink the size of the gland, thereby improving urine flow. Use of this type of drug can relieve symptoms and delay the need for surgery.

Any contraindications? This drug can interact with antihypertensive drugs and diuretic medications. It should not be used in patients with a previous history of syncope (fainting) or liver impairment.

Possible side-effects? Dizziness, postural hypotension (dropping of blood pressure on standing), tiredness and ankle swelling.

Dr Muiris Houston

Alternative Remedy: Liquorice, for bronchial problems

What is it? Liquorice is a herb, the dried root of which is used in decoction (i.e. drunk as a tea) or tincture (concentrated drops in water) in Western herbal medicine. It is also widely used in Chinese herbal medicine.

What is it good for? It is used to treat bronchial problems and in the treatment of gastritis and ulcers. It can also be used for the relief of abdominal colic, and is believed to reduce inflamation in arthritis and rheumatism.

How does it work? Liquorice has expectorant, demulcent, anti-inflamatory and anti-spasmodic properties which treat inflamed and infected tissues in the respiratory or digestive system. Liquorice also has a constituent similar to the body's adrenal steroid hormones, which has an anti-inflamatory action on conditions such as arthritis and rheumatism.

Are there any contraindications or drawbacks? Due to the steroid-like action of the plant, it is not recommended for those with high blood pressure or in cases of acute abdominal swelling.

Are there any side-effects? Too much liquorice can cause abdominal discomfort, including bloating. As it is often used in combination with other herbs, this is generally doesn't happen.

Sylvia Thompson