Ease arthritis pain

Q. After reading that dark chocolate has health benefits, I learned to enjoy it. Eating it didn’t reduce my arthritis aches, though.

Then I read in the newspaper that researchers discovered that gut microbes convert some chocolate ingredients into anti-inflammatory compounds.

Apparently, 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder a day is sufficient. This must be plain 100 percent cocoa powder, such as is used in baking, not Dutch-processed cocoa.

Chemist John Finley, the researcher, said he avoids the sugar and fat that would come from eating so much chocolate candy by putting cocoa in his oatmeal. Since following his example, I’ve rarely had arthritis pain.

A. Your letter sent us on a search for Dr. Finley’s research. We found a press release regarding Bifidobacterium in the digestive tract producing anti-inflammatory compounds by fermenting cocoa powder. Other research has demonstrated that cocoa compounds can reduce immunoglobulin secretion in the intestine (Frontiers in Nutrition, June 27, 2017). This research demonstrated a benefit in experimental arthritis in rats, but we don’t have clinical trials in humans.

Q. Several years ago, I was diagnosed with a skin condition called granuloma annulare. It manifests itself on the arms, legs, and back with round red or purplish circles that look like ringworm. There are no other symptoms. It’s just very unsightly.

I have been to several dermatologists who tell me that GA is idiopathic and that there really is no effective treatment for it. Light therapy sometimes helps; however, since I have had a melanoma, this is not recommended. Medicines and ointments are useless. Do you have a suggestion for a natural treatment that will help?

A. Doctors do not know what causes granuloma annulare, and there is no accepted medical cure (American Family Physician, Nov. 15, 2006). Apparently, GA goes away on its own about half of the time. But what can you do about the other half?

There is no research on home remedies for GA. Consequently, our recommendations are based solely on other readers’ testimonials.

Some have reported that applying white or apple cider vinegar to the rash daily speeds healing. Others have used the antifungal cream Vagisil for the same purpose. Since GA is not a fungal infection (though ringworm is), we don’t know why or how this would help.

Q. I had a hideous cold with a racking cough on a layover at the Amsterdam airport about 20 years ago. I went to the pharmacy for help and was given a cough medicine that tasted exactly like a thymol-based cough syrup that worked well on chronic bronchitis when I was a kid. This Dutch elixir worked just as well. I’m guessing oil of thyme may be the magical ingredient.

A. Thymol, essential oil of thyme, is an effective cough suppressant. To make your own thyme cough syrup at home, here is Dr. Tieraona Low Dog’s recipe:

Add 2 tablespoons dried thyme to 1 cup near-boiling water and steep for 10 minutes. Strain and add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice and 1/2 cup organic honey. Take 1 tablespoon as needed. Store in the refrigerator.

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