Q: I read about the benefits of cinnamon several years ago and tried it. I believe it helped lower my blood sugar, cholesterol and triglycerides, but after two years I realized...

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Q:

I read about the benefits of cinnamon several years ago and tried it. I believe it helped lower my blood sugar, cholesterol and triglycerides, but after two years I realized it was also causing heartburn. When I stopped the cinnamon, the heartburn stopped immediately.


A:

We have been intrigued by research showing that cinnamon can help with cholesterol and blood-sugar control. Traditionally, this spice was used for intestinal upset and diarrhea.

Large quantities, however, can be toxic. Heart rate, breathing and intestinal contractions become faster. Allergic reactions have also been reported. How smart of you to recognize that your body was reacting badly to this spice.

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Bitter orange affects medication



Q:

What can you tell me about bitter orange? I see that it is an ingredient in weight-loss products and wonder if it is safe.


A:

Bitter orange (Citrus aurantium) has replaced the controversial herb ephedra in many natural weight-loss products. Our biggest concerns involve drug interactions. Like grapefruit, bitter orange can boost blood levels of many medications and increase the risk of side effects.


Q:

I have been suffering with Peyronie’s disease for the past three years. My doctor only told me to take huge amounts of vitamin E. It hasn’t worked.

This curvature means I have no sex life, and it is horrible. Can you tell me anything more about treating this condition?


A:

Peyronie’s disease occurs when fibrous tissue forms on one side of the penis. This tissue does not expand, and the resulting erection is crooked. In severe cases, an erection can be painful and intercourse impossible.

One new treatment that may be successful is a series of injections of alpha-interferon (Intron A). A small study found that up to 75 percent of men treated this way had less curvature and were pleased with the results. Several other studies have shown benefit, but more research is needed to confirm this approach.

Drug discount programs



Q:

How beneficial are patient-assistance programs involving free medications?


A:

The drug manufacturers offer free or low-cost prescription drugs for low-income patients. For those who qualify, they can be very helpful, saving hundreds of dollars a year. Go to www.helpingpatients.org for more information.



Q:

I want to thank you for saving me from a most embarrassing situation. I am president of a small corporation, and we were making a pitch to an important client. I’d had a cold for about a week and was blowing my nose a lot. Fifteen minutes before we were to start our presentation, I developed a nasty nosebleed. No matter what I did to stop the bleeding, nothing worked. Then I remembered reading in your column about putting cold keys down the back of the neck. Within seconds the bleeding stopped.


A:

So many readers have written about their success, we are sure that this technique works at least some of the time. Putting a large, cold metal key or ring of keys down the back of the neck to stop a nosebleed is an old folk remedy that seems to have come to this country from Europe.


Q:

Do you have information on the popular hot drink rooibos? I love it and drink it in both its regular and green forms. Does green rooibos have the same health benefits as green tea?


A:

Rooibos is a South African beverage from the leaves of the “red bush” shrub, Aspalathus linearis. Unlike standard tea, rooibos has no caffeine or other stimulants. It does contain antioxidant flavonoids and a relatively large amount of vitamin C. Because it does not seem to contain the same compounds as green tea, it is unlikely to have the same benefits, but it is not toxic.


Q:

A man who once owned the Dallas Cowboys gave me his arthritis remedy, and it’s been a godsend. I stir 1 teaspoon of a half-and-half mixture of apple-cider vinegar and honey into a 6-ounce glass of water with a teaspoon of orange powder stirred in and dissolved. Exact measure of the three does not seem to be critical. I just eyeball them, stir and swallow.

Within a few weeks of drinking this mixture daily, I regained virtually 100 percent use of my knuckles. They had really become stiff, sore and painful to use.


A:

Thank you for this remedy. Because of the apple-cider vinegar and honey, it resembles some other arthritis remedies we have collected through the years. But we have never seen a recipe that calls for orange powder.


Q:

When I was younger, I would drink gallons of orange juice with no problems. Now I’m in my 50s, and I can’t drink OJ or anything else with a lot of acid without getting mouth ulcers, cracked lips and heartburn.


A:

Prelief might solve your problem. It is a dietary supplement containing calcium glycerophosphate. It neutralizes acid from foods like orange juice, coffee and tomato sauce. This product may be taken as tablets or mixed into food as a powder. For information on Prelief and where to find it, call 1-800-994-4711 or check the Web site: www.prelief.com.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them c/o King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019, or e-mail them at pharmacy@mindspring.com or via their Web site: www.peoplespharmacy.org