Q: At my last physical, my blood pressure was 158/90, the highest reading I’ve ever had. (I chalked that up to white coat hypertension). It had been running 135/82 or so, which still concerned me.
I bought a high-end BP monitor that keeps records on my smartphone. I started drinking hibiscus tea, 20 ounces iced per day, minimum. After six months, my readings average out to 109/71.
I don’t add salt when I cook, and I also have started to avoid food with added sodium. I’m sure that has helped as well. I read about the DASH diet online and found it very enlightening. I’m a 54-year-old menopausal woman who exercises regularly.
A: Hibiscus tea is made from the petals of the bright-red flowers of Hibiscus sabdariffa. The taste is tart, and many people find it pleasant.
Hibiscus tea seems to act as an ACE inhibitor, similar to the blood-pressure drug lisinopril. It was tested head-to-head with lisinopril in a small study and found to be about equally effective (Indian Journal of Pharmacology, September-October 2015).
The same clinical team found that it worked better than hydrochlorothiazide, a standard blood-pressure medication (Nigerian Journal of Clinical Practice, November-December 2015).
We discuss white coat hypertension, blood-pressure measurement and other nondrug approaches such as chocolate, beet juice, grape juice and pomegranate juice in our Guide to Blood Pressure Treatment. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (68 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. B-67, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It also can be downloaded for $2 from our website: www.peoplespharmacy.com.
Q: As a fifth-generation Floridian, I know that the most effective prevention for chigger bites is sulfur powder applied lightly to the skin below the knees. It lasts all day and is effective.
After gardening or tramping in the woods, take a soapy shower and use a soapy washcloth to scrub the skin, especially around the ankles and behind the knees. No more chiggers. Forget the DEET, except for mosquitoes.
A: Powdered sulfur, also called flower of sulfur, can be purchased online or in some drugstores. Your technique of bathing or showering with a heavy soap lather and plenty of scrubbing also is endorsed by the University of Minnesota extension service.
Now that Zika is spreading in Florida, you'll want to keep the DEET handy and use it whenever you might be exposed to mosquitoes.
Q: I used Crest Complete Cinnamon toothpaste for three days. Now I have sores under my tongue, on my gums and inside my mouth. I feel there should be more of a warning for toothpaste. I love cinnamon and can eat it, but I guess I cannot use it as toothpaste.
A: You are not the first person to report a sensitivity reaction to cinnamon. People have reported mouth irritation from cinnamon in chewing gum, toothpaste, floss, mouthwash and lip balm. The concentration of cinnamon oil in such products may be higher than in food.
Another reader had an unpleasant reaction when she tried to use cinnamon as a facial mask. Here is her story:
“I applied a cinnamon mask to my face just to give it a try after reading about it online. As soon as I had put it on, my face started burning. I quickly washed it thoroughly, but it was too late. It left my skin beet-red and burning. I won’t try that again.”
In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of this newspaper or email them via PeoplesPharmacy.com. Their newest book is “Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.”