The People’s Pharmacy folks suggest curcumin, an important component of the yellow spice turmeric, might help with the statin problem. Also: greasy brew won’t help your toenails, and kiwis might cure canker sores.

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Q. I am caught in a dilemma. I have Type 1 diabetes and heart disease.

After I got two stents in my coronary arteries, my doctor insisted that I take a statin. High-dose atorvastatin was intolerable. Even a low dose (10 mg) made my muscles ache so much that I could not exercise as I would have liked. Is there anything I can do to counteract this muscle pain? I don’t want to become a couch potato.

A. Muscle pain and weakness are among the most common reactions to statins that prompt people to drop the drug (European Heart Journal, May 1, 2015). Some doctors lower the dose of statin, as yours did, while others switch the patient to a different medication.

Another possible approach is to consider adding curcumin, an important component of the yellow spice turmeric. Preliminary research suggests that this natural product may be able to reduce muscle soreness without interfering with the lipid-lowering benefits of statins (Journal of Cachexia, Sarcopenia and Muscle, February 2017). Ask your doctor if this is an appropriate strategy for you.

You can learn much more about curcumin and turmeric in our book “Spice Up Your Health.” It is available at

Q. I just saw an ad on the internet about a toenail-fungus product containing baking soda, animal fat and coconut oil. The visual was of someone’s feet soaking in a solution.

Does any natural treatment solve toenail fungus?

A. We are not familiar with this greasy-sounding approach to nail fungus. There are, however, many natural approaches that can be helpful against this problem. They include applying tea tree oil or Vicks VapoRub directly to the nails. Some people report success from soaking their feet in a 50/50 solution of amber Listerine and white vinegar.

Q. I get canker sores when my system is too acidic from eating lots of sweets and simple carbs. One to two kiwis a day heals them overnight.

A. Many readers report that kiwi fruit speeds healing of canker sores inside the mouth. We could find no scientific support for this home remedy, but it seems benign as long as you are not allergic to kiwi fruit.

Q. Cinnamon is toxic to the liver. I ended up in the emergency room after taking 1,200 mg of cinnamon daily for several weeks. I’ll never do that again.

A. Cassia cinnamon, the type you normally find on the spice shelf in the supermarket, contains variable levels of coumarin (Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Oct. 13, 2010). This compound can harm the liver (Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, February 2010).

Anyone who wants to use cinnamon to lower cholesterol or blood sugar would be well advised to stick with an aqueous extract, because coumarin is not water-soluble. A person could purchase this in capsule form and avoid coumarin.

Another option would be to use Ceylon cinnamon (true cinnamon or Cinnamomum zeylonicum). This is a different species that does not contain significant amounts of coumarin. It is more expensive, however. There is some preliminary evidence that it too can help lower blood sugar and cholesterol (Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, November 2016). People who include spices or dietary supplements in their regimen should monitor their progress with regular blood-sugar tests.