Q: I used to have to use the bathroom three or four times a day at a moment’s notice. This is part of my history of ulcerative colitis.

About two weeks ago, I started taking a couple of tablespoons of blackstrap molasses daily. Since then, my urge to poop is under control. In addition, I only need to use the bathroom once or twice a day.

I am not constipated, and I’m pleased with these changes. Do you have any insight why it is happening?

A: People with ulcerative colitis have an inflammatory disease of the digestive tract. There is some evidence to suggest that the immune system of these individuals is reacting to the microbiome of the gut.

A fascinating article in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine (December 2019) may offer a preliminary answer to your question. A pilot test tube study suggests that sugarcane molasses may enhance the body’s natural anti-inflammatory reaction. It may do this in part by enhancing the good bacteria in the colon. Perhaps the blackstrap molasses is modifying your microbiome in a favorable way.

Q: You have written about rosemary water improving performance on some cognitive tests. What is rosemary water? I have never seen it. Where could I get it?

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A: We wrote about a study in which 80 people were randomly assigned to drink a cup of commercial rosemary water (No. 1 Botanicals, a British brand) or plain water. The differences in cognitive performance were small, but statistically significant.

We don’t know if it is possible to purchase rosemary water in the U.S. Shipping it from London would be very pricey.

You could make your own rosemary water, but we don’t have a way of standardizing the active compounds such as rosmarinic acid. When we make it, we use six 6-inch sprigs of fresh rosemary from the backyard bush and steep it in a quart of water for an hour. We boil the water first. Unfortunately, we don’t know how this compares to No. 1 Botanicals rosemary water product.

Q: My husband takes medication for his high blood pressure. He’d like to find ways to lower it more naturally, so we are intrigued that you have written about beet juice for blood pressure control.

Unfortunately, he also gets kidney stones. From what I have read, beets and beet juice are high in oxalates. Is that true? It would mean we have to find a different way to lower his blood pressure.

A: Four decades ago, scientists found that a handful of foods can increase the oxalate content of the urine (Clinical Science, April 1981). They include chocolate, peanuts, beets, rhubarb and spinach. People prone to oxalate-containing kidney stones should avoid such foods.

There are many other natural approaches to blood pressure control, however. Unsweetened pomegranate or cherry juice can lower blood pressure. Volunteers in a randomized controlled study drank 2 cups of tart cherry juice or a placebo beverage every day for three months (Food & Function, June 20, 2018). Those consuming cherry juice had lower systolic blood pressure and LDL cholesterol.

Other strategies include eating magnesium-rich foods, learning how to breathe slowly and relaxing in a hot tub or sauna. For lots more information about controlling hypertension, you may wish to consult our eGuide to Blood Pressure Solutions. You will find it in the Health eGuide section of www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.