Q: I have deep cracks on the sides of my thumb and first finger. They get so sore that I am barely able to hold a pen or pencil to write.

A friend of mine urged me to use manuka honey, then cover it with a bandage. Manuka honey is used in burn units to aid healing. My crevices closed up within a couple of days. It’s amazing.

A: Manuka honey comes from New Zealand, where bees visit the flowers of the manuka bush, Leptospermum scoparium. This special honey has antimicrobial and antioxidant activity. As a wound dressing, it stimulates the immune system to help build new tissue (Current Drug Metabolism, October 2017). A systematic review of randomized controlled trials concluded that honey dressings are helpful for treating burns (Burns, February 2017).

Q: I started taking turmeric pills after reading that this spice might be helpful against pain. I work sitting in front of a computer all day and had terrible pains in my hip, leg and back.

A few weeks after taking one pill a day my pain was greatly relieved. I’ve been taking three pills a week and have had no recurring back problems for three years.

A: Many readers report that turmeric or its active ingredient curcumin can ease pain from a variety of causes. There are risks, though, as this reader relates:


“The turmeric/ginger tea I have been drinking has been very helpful in easing my headaches and fibromyalgia pain. But a rash is driving me crazy! It started on the left side of my neck and has moved down to my chest. I have never had anything like this before.

“I searched the web, and bingo! I learned that turmeric can cause skin rashes. What else can I use as a natural anti-inflammatory without risking a terrible skin rash?”

Some people are allergic to turmeric. Another risk is liver enzyme elevation. People taking anticoagulants should also avoid this yellow spice.

To learn more about the benefits and risks of turmeric and other natural anti-inflammatory herbs, we suggest our book “Spice Up Your Health.” You will find it in the Books section at www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.

Other natural anti-inflammatory medicines come from the ayurvedic tradition: ashwagandha and boswellia. Herbs and spices that can help ease joint pain include cayenne, ginger, juniper and rosemary. You’ll find more information about them in “Spice Up Your Health.”

Q: You have had questions about vaginal dryness from women who are past menopause. I am well past myself. At 87, I consider myself a crone.


Coconut oil works for me. It doesn’t have the side effects that estrogen, oral or topical, can present. Plus it is cheap and available over the counter. You should suggest it for your readers.

A: Many women agree with you that coconut oil is an easy and effective topical treatment for vaginal dryness. They apply it intravaginally.

We heard from another reader who was enthusiastic about sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides). She sent us a link to a study conducted in Finland (Maturitas, November 2014).

This placebo-controlled trial included more than 100 postmenopausal women. Unlike coconut oil, sea buckthorn oil is consumed orally, as a supplement (3 grams per day). The investigators concluded: “SB [sea buckthorn] oil showed beneficial effects on vaginal health, indicating it is a potential alternative for mucosal integrity for those women not able to use estrogen treatment for vaginal atrophy.”