Q. I read your newspaper column about using a bar of soap to curb restless legs. I do not have restless legs, but I used to wake up in the middle of the night with a charley horse. My heart doctor recommended a bar of soap, but it never helped with the leg cramp.
A. We have heard from hundreds of readers that soap under the bottom sheet can prevent leg cramps and even restless legs. It doesn’t work for everyone, but there is some science that supports the use of soap. A skin patch with soap-scented oil eased the pain of fibromyalgia and of menstrual cramps (Journal of Multidisciplinary Healthcare, Sept. 1, 2008; Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, July 2008).
One possible explanation for the soap effect is the fragrance. A chemist suggested to us that the most popular soaps all seem to have the fragrant compound limonene in their scent.
Q. I am a healthy, active 44-year-old man. Recently, my blood pressure has been higher than normal. First, it was noticed in the doctor’s office with routine readings a little high.
Then, with each visit, the measurements remained high. I’ve been taking metoprolol daily for a few months, but my blood pressure still reads high. I am concerned. My doctor says that high blood pressure is “the silent killer.” Knowing that just makes my pressure higher!
Are there any suggestions for diets, supplements or home remedies that would help me in my struggle to regulate these readings?
A. New guidelines from the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology call for blood pressure to stay lower than 130/80. This can be quite a challenge.
Fortunately, a number of nondrug strategies can help you get your numbers down. Scientific studies support following a DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stopping Hypertension) diet rich in vegetables and fruits (Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, online, Oct. 27, 2017). Regular exercise and weight loss also are effective. Studies also support consuming beet juice, dark chocolate, pomegranates or hibiscus tea.
Q. I was recently diagnosed with prediabetes. I was aware, from reading previous People’s Pharmacy columns, that cassia cinnamon can be toxic unless put in a paper filter with coffee grounds. I have been mixing 1 teaspoon of cinnamon in my coffee grounds before brewing my coffee every morning.
In a recent column, a reader wrote that he wound up in the emergency room after consuming the same amount of cinnamon on a daily basis that I have been taking. Is it no longer considered safe to put cinnamon in coffee, as I have been doing?
A. The reader who developed liver damage from taking cinnamon didn’t say how he took it. That experience underscores the potential toxicity of coumarin in plain ground cinnamon.
Consuming the “aqueous extract,” as you do when you put cinnamon in your paper coffee filter, should be safe. Ceylon cinnamon, although it is pricier, would be even safer, as it contains little or no coumarin (BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Sept. 23, 2014).