Also: the Graedons discuss lavender oil for restless leg syndrome, and why fish oil and anticoagulants don’t mix.
Q: My doctor says I have pre-diabetes. I have read your columns about the advantages of Ceylon cinnamon for people with diabetes. Would this help me with my pre-diabetes?
Ceylon cinnamon is hard to find. Would Saigon cinnamon work as well? Are there other natural herbs or spices I should consider taking?
A: Cinnamon and other spices and herbs rich in plant polyphenols can help control blood sugar and insulin spikes after meals (Diabetologia, July 2015). One placebo-controlled trial found that a supplement containing cassia cinnamon, chromium and carnosine successfully lowered fasting blood sugar in people with pre-diabetes (PLOS One, Sept. 25, 2015).
Most studies of cinnamon to lower blood sugar have used ordinary cassia cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia) rather than the more expensive Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylonicum). Saigon cinnamon is closely related to cassia cinnamon. You shouldn’t need Ceylon cinnamon to get the blood-sugar benefits.
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If you take either cassia or Saigon cinnamon, though, we suggest a water extract rather than the powdered spice. Both cassia cinnamon and Saigon cinnamon contain coumarin, a natural compound that can harm the liver when taken in large amounts. Coumarin is not water-soluble, however.
There are a number of other spices that can be helpful. They include caraway, cumin, ginger, fenugreek and turmeric. You can learn much more about these spices and their beneficial effects from our 200-page book “Spice Up Your Health.” It is available at www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.
It is important to monitor your blood-sugar levels very carefully. Your doctor will want to monitor your progress, so a daily diary with glucose levels will enable her to make sure you are within normal limits. If natural products, exercise and a low-carb diet don’t work, you may need medication.
Q: A few months ago I bought lavender soap to put in my bed for my restless leg syndrome. I experienced a good bit of relief.
When I told a friend about it, she decided to try lavender oil. She had been unable to sleep well due to RLS and achy legs. She rubs lavender oil on her feet and legs, and she has been sleeping through the night.
I have tried putting lavender oil on my knees and experienced even greater relief than I had with the bed soap. I hope this approach will help others.
A: Aromatherapy with lavender oil has a long history as a sleep aid to ease restlessness. Lavender-oil massage has been shown to work better than a placebo in easing symptoms of RLS (Nursing and Midwifery Studies, December 2015).
Q: In a recent health newsletter, I read that you should avoid fish-oil supplements if you take a blood thinner. Is this true? If it is, why hasn’t my cardiologist suggested that I stop taking fish oil?
A: A lot depends upon which anticoagulant you are taking. Years ago there were case reports suggesting that fish-oil supplements might “thin” the blood too much if someone were taking warfarin (Coumadin). Increased INR values on a blood test could indicate a higher risk for hemorrhage (Annals of Pharmacotherapy, January 2004).
Fish oil may have mild anti-clotting activity of its own. It probably would be prudent not to take fish-oil supplements if you are taking any anticoagulant medication. Eating fish should not pose a problem.