Q: When my mother ran out of glucosamine and chondroitin, she had trouble getting around. Her fibromyalgia pain and plantar fasciitis pain went through the roof. Her plantar fasciitis pain previously only hurt when she walked. Now it was hurting a lot when she was sitting still.

We got her double-strength glucosamine and chondroitin with boswellia. In less than 24 hours, her pain was gone, including the fibromyalgia and plantar fasciitis!

A: Studies of glucosamine (with or without chondroitin) and of boswellia have focused primarily on pain due to osteoarthritis. A meta-analysis determined that chondroitin can reduce pain, while glucosamine helps control stiffness (Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery and Research, July 6, 2018). Boswellia also lowered pain and inflammation of arthritis in a placebo-controlled trial (Phytotherapy Research, May 2019). So far as we can tell, none of these supplements has been tested for the pain of fibromyalgia or plantar fasciitis. It’s great your mother got such relief.

Q: I heard through the grapevine (but I know that’s unreliable) that taking my vitamins with coffee means I won’t get the benefit. Is there any truth to this? How can I be smarter about vitamins?

A: In searching the medical literature, we found no evidence that coffee poses problems for vitamin absorption. In fact, Dr. Tieraona Low Dog suggests taking vitamin and mineral supplements with breakfast is sensible.

Coffee can interfere with the absorption of thyroid supplements (levothyroxine). Tea reduces the absorption of iron.

To learn more about optimizing your vitamin regimen, you may wish to consult Dr. Low Dog’s book, “Fortify Your Life: Your Guide to Vitamins, Minerals, and More.” You will find it at your public library, or you can obtain a paperback version at www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.

Q: I have read and heard a lot about ginseng. What are the health benefits? I have high blood pressure and wonder whether this herb would make my blood pressure worse.

A: Ginseng has been a popular tonic in China for thousands of years. Western scientists have classified it as an adaptogen, a product that helps people respond to stress. Clinical trials suggest that it may help boost immune function and blood-sugar control, as well as improve psychological outlook (American Family Physician, Oct. 15, 2003).

In addition, a placebo-controlled trial found that Wisconsin ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) was effective for cancer-related fatigue (Journal of National Cancer Institute, Aug. 21, 2013).

A systematic review concluded that ginseng does not raise blood pressure (Journal of Human Hypertension, Oct. 2016). Some evidence indicates, however, that ginseng might interact with anticoagulants. We recommend that people taking warfarin (Coumadin) avoid ginseng. Those on other blood thinners should discuss it with their doctors.

Q: I read about tart cherries in a recent column. I began taking Montmorency tart cherry in 1,200 mg potency gummies. The results were amazing in that my muscle and bone soreness subsided within a few days. I hope this will also help my blood sugar levels.

A: Thanks for sharing your experience. Montmorency tart cherries have been studied for exercise performance and recovery (Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, July 2018). These cherry supplements lower blood pressure modestly as well as improving end-sprint performance in elite athletes. Research indicates that they also may be helpful for managing type 2 diabetes (Food Chemistry, June 30, 2018).