Q: My blood sugar was 101. I did some reading on the internet and found out that I might be able to reduce it by taking cinnamon.

Every morning, I put less than a teaspoon in my coffee. After a month, my blood sugar, cholesterol and triglycerides all went into the normal range. My blood sugar is now 81.

A: Cinnamon can help lower blood sugar, according to a recent meta-analysis (Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice, online, Aug. 16, 2019).

There could be negative effects from regular cinnamon consumption, however. Cassia cinnamon contains coumarin, which can damage the liver. The amounts of this compound are variable, and Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylonicum) does not have any coumarin.

This compound is not water-soluble, however. Consequently, if you put ground cinnamon in your coffee filter rather than directly in your coffee, you get the benefits from cinnamon without the danger of coumarin.

You can learn more about using cinnamon and other natural flavoring compounds in our book “Spice Up Your Health: How Everyday Kitchen Herbs and Spices Can Lengthen & Strengthen Your Life.” It is available at peoplespharmacy.com.


Q: I became interested in vitamin K2 about a year ago when my nurse practitioner told me to take it for my joints. Curious, I started researching it to see what it could do. And boy, what it can do! I take it every day now for general overall health and my joints.

I found two clinical trials on vitamin K2 with very encouraging results. Vitamin K2 supplementation increased bone density in older women in one trial (Osteoporosis International, July 2007).

In another trial it reduced stiffness in women’s arteries (Thrombosis and Haemostasis, May 2015).

Granted, it took three years of daily supplements to achieve these effects, but they are impressive results nonetheless.

A: Thank you for highlighting research on this compound. A review of the medical literature on vitamin K2 (menaquinone) suggests that it may play an important role in getting calcium into bones and keeping it out of arteries (Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine, Feb. 5, 2019). That could help explain both benefits you describe.

Danish investigators are now conducting a trial of menaquinone-7 supplements to see if they can alleviate aortic valve calcification (BMJ Open, Aug. 23, 2018). However, another recent study found that such supplements might actually increase calcification of blood vessels (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, online, Aug. 6, 2019). The researchers didn’t report any adverse effects, but it seems we still need more clinical trials to understand what this compound can and cannot do.


Q: I have controlled my knee pain and other aches by applying DMSO liquid. It is available by prescription or at your local feed store. (It is used on horses’ legs.)

A: DMSO (dimethyl sulfoxide) is a chemical solvent that is useful in many diverse applications. It is easily absorbed through the skin and has anti-inflammatory activity.

Clinical trials are hard to conduct because many people report a garlic-like taste and odor. As a result, a placebo for double-blind studies is challenging.

A review of animal and human research concluded that DMSO may have some utility in the treatment of arthritis, but better clinical trials are essential (PLoS One, March 31, 2016). We would discourage people from buying DMSO veterinary products. Prescription DMSO is available as Rimso-50 for interstitial cystitis. It is pricey, though. A 50-ml bottle is over $600.