Q: I eat my daily oatmeal with a sprinkling of cinnamon, hoping to lower my cholesterol. I didn’t imagine that this would also help my Raynaud’s syndrome, but this winter my fingers have given me very little trouble, even when it gets cold. Is the cinnamon responsible, as I suspect?
A: There is no research to support the use of cinnamon for the symptoms of Raynaud’s disease. In this condition, blood vessels constrict when exposed to cold, so fingers and toes may become white and painful.
Cinnamon has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity and promotes circulation (Pharmacognosy Magazine, October 2011). Other readers with Raynaud’s also report benefits from using cinnamon. One said: “I live in a warm climate, so I was puzzled to be diagnosed with Raynaud’s. My physician offered a calcium channel blocker, but when I read about cinnamon, I tried it. This was a godsend.”
Q: Recently, you discussed black cohosh for hot flashes. I used it when I had that problem, but my liver enzymes became elevated, and I needed further tests.
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A: We have heard from other readers that black cohosh can affect the liver, so it is wise for women to have their liver enzymes monitored if they decide to take this herb for hot flashes. There have been cases of liver failure that have led to liver transplantation after the use of black cohosh (BMJ Case Reports, July 5, 2013).
Other natural options for easing hot flashes include Pycnogenol (Journal of Reproductive Medicine, January-February 2013), maca root (Maturitas, November 2011) and rhapontic rhubarb, sold as Estrovera (Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, November-December 2008).
Q: I recently heard from a friend that she was having frequent bladder infections and didn’t want to take any more antibiotics. She decided to try cranberry pills and found they work great. Her blood pressure is lower, too. What do you know about cranberry pills?
A: Cranberry juice has a reputation for preventing urinary-tract infections that goes back decades. Recent research has been somewhat inconclusive (Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Oct. 17, 2012). A recent small study in Wisconsin found that women eating sweetened dried cranberries had fewer infections (Nutrition Journal online, Oct. 18, 2013). Researchers have suggested that using cranberry products to prevent recurrent urinary-tract infections might help reduce antibiotic overuse and resistance (Advances in Nutrition, November 2013).
Q: I suffer from constipation. I have never had a bowel movement without a laxative. Needless to say, I have taken just about all the medications on the market at one time or another for relief.
I have found that eating cashews or peanuts alleviates my constipation. What is in nuts that would cause this miracle?
A: We have no idea why peanuts or cashews would help against constipation, but this seems like a benign treatment for a common problem. Perhaps others will let us know if it works for them.
In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them c/o King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., 15th floor, New York, NY 10019, or via their website:www.peoplespharmacy.org