Q. I have a history of high cholesterol dating at least to bypass surgery about 12 years ago. My cholesterol was running around 290. Several months ago I decided to try cinnamon, about a quarter-teaspoon every morning. I usually put it on my oatmeal or in my coffee. Sometimes I use more because I like cinnamon. After I started eating cinnamon, my cholesterol went down to 225. My next test was four months later, and the reading was 175. Most recently, in June 2005, the reading was 122. I also have diabetes. I have noticed no effect on my blood-sugar readings.
A. We first heard about the potential health benefits of cinnamon several years ago. Research in animals showed that the spice could improve insulin sensitivity. Scientists have confirmed that cinnamon can improve blood-glucose and lipid levels in human beings (Diabetes Care, December 2003). We are very impressed with your results. A study in rats showed that one ingredient in cinnamon, cinnamate, lowers cholesterol and triglyceride levels even better than the statin drug lovastatin by working through the same mechanism (Journal of Medicinal Food, Fall 2003). Some readers who have tried taking cinnamon report that it can cause heartburn. We're glad you're not having any trouble with the amount you are taking. Anyone who uses this spice medicinally should monitor blood sugar and be under medical supervision.
Q. My feet are a mess. What's the best thing for athlete's foot and thick nails? I have tried creams that I bought over the counter, but I still have itchy, red, cracked skin between my toes. If I put on sandals so my feet can air out, my family complains about the smell. What do you recommend?
A. Sandals are a good idea in the summer, since they allow the feet to breathe. But if the smell is offensive, you need to tackle it along with the athlete's foot. Soaking your feet in a vinegar (1 part vinegar to 2 parts water) or baking-soda solution (1/2 cup baking soda in a tub of warm water) for 15 minutes daily may help. Epsom-salt solution is another time-honored soak to help with smells. To fight off the fungus, tea-tree oil may be helpful. Topical garlic in olive oil can also discourage athlete's foot.
We are sending you our Guides to Nail Care and Solutions for Smelly Feet for more details. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $2 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (60 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No. HF-312, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, N.C. 27717-2027.
Q. I read one of your articles about a successful method to remove warts. I have an 11-year-old granddaughter with warts on her hands. She is self-conscious about them, and I would like a natural way to get them off.
A. One approach that has been written up in the medical literature is duct tape. Cut a piece of tape just the size of the wart and put it on the wart, leaving it in place for a week. Remove it, soak the wart in warm water, scrape it with an emery board and apply a new piece of duct tape the following day. This may take a month or two to work.If duct tape is not "natural" enough, you could try painting the warts with white iodine or castor oil and covering them with an adhesive bandage. Some parents report success with taping the inside of a banana peel to the wart for a few days.
XIn their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, N.Y. 10019, or e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org or via their Web site: www.peoplespharmacy.org.
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