Q: I have been using Saigon cinnamon for about two months as a supplement to my diet and medication for diabetes. I put it in coffee, cereal or oatmeal (at least one of these each morning). I have found that a sprinkle of cinnamon daily keeps my blood sugar from spiking.
I still must maintain a low-carb diet without sugar, but my glucose remains fairly constant (between 70 and 140). Without cinnamon, it would spike sometimes as high as 230 for no apparent reason. My HbA1c also has dropped to 6.1 from the low 8s during this time.
A: Normal fasting glucose levels are about 100, and doctors like to see HbA1c under 7 in patients with diabetes. Your results with a low-carb diet and cinnamon suggest that your type 2 diabetes is under much better control than before.
Saigon cinnamon is a form of cassia cinnamon, which has been shown to lower blood sugar (Nutrition and Metabolic Insights, Dec. 13, 2012). We discuss diabetes and diet, tell how to safely add cinnamon to morning coffee and describe supplements and many other nondrug approaches in our Guide to Managing Diabetes. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (66 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No. DM-11, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It also can be downloaded for $2 from our website: www.peoplespharmacy.com.
Q: I read a question from a reader who wanted to know how to stop hot flashes without taking estrogen. I myself tried absolutely everything, believe me. Finally a friend told me about Estrovera, which is made of some sort of rhubarb.
After three months, my hot flashes have diminished to just occasionally getting warm, but the night sweats are gone. It takes a while for natural things to work, but this stuff is well worth a try.
A: The active ingredient in Estrovera is a standardized extract of rhapontic rhubarb (Rheum rhaponticum). The rhubarb that grows in the backyard is a different species, Rheum rhabarbarum.
German doctors have been using Estrovera to help their menopausal patients for 20 years. Scientists tested the rhapontic rhubarb extract in a placebo-controlled trial and found that it reduced menopause symptoms significantly more than placebo over 12 weeks (Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, January-February 2009).
Research in rats shows that this extract does not stimulate the growth of uterine tissue or increase bone density (Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, January 2012). This suggests that it doesn't act like estrogen and should not cause side effects like those associated with hormone replacement therapy.
Q: I found hibiscus tea with wild raspberry at the supermarket. This makes a refreshing afternoon pick-me-up without caffeine or sugar. Drinking a cup in the morning and another in the afternoon made an immediate difference in my blood pressure. In fact, the one day I didn't drink the tea, my blood-pressure measurement went back up.
A: A review of the research on Hibiscus sabdariffa shows that an extract of this flower lowers blood pressure in animals (Fitoterapia, March 2013). In humans, daily hibiscus-tea consumption lowers blood pressure (Journal of Nutrition, February 2010). This herb works by blocking the same enzyme (ACE) as drugs like captopril or lisinopril.
In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them viaPeoplesPharmacy.com. Their newest book is "Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them."