Q. I began taking turmeric to see if its anti-inflammatory properties would relieve joint pain. I had to stop because my fingers would get bruised without any real trauma.
While I was taking it, though, I unexpectedly found that my mild depression diminished. I don’t take anything else and wondered if 500 mg of turmeric could have antidepressant action. A little Internet searching turned up a few mentions of using it for that purpose. Perhaps this will help someone else.
A. We were as surprised as you to discover that there are numerous references in the medical literature to the antidepressant effects of curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric (Journal of Psychopharmacology, December 2012). Sadly, most of the research has been done with rodents. We could find no clinical trials testing this spice for antidepressant properties in humans.
Q. My husband has been on metformin and glyburide to control his blood sugar. After several years on this combination, he started getting increasingly severe digestive upset, especially heartburn, gas and diarrhea. Some days he has to run to the bathroom half a dozen times.
He would like some other ways to get his diabetes under control. Are there any natural approaches that might help?
A. One of the more serious side effects of metformin is something called lactic acidosis. Symptoms include nausea and stomach pain, along with fatigue and rapid heart rate. His doctor should rule this out promptly.
In addition to exercise and a low-carb diet, your husband may wish to consider some natural approaches to blood-sugar control. They might include cinnamon, mustard, vinegar, oolong tea, bitter melon, fenugreek and nopal cactus. He should not undertake such a project without careful medical supervision and blood-sugar monitoring several times a day.
He’ll find more information about diet, drugs and alternative approaches in our Guide to 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 recently developed shingles, and the pain was excruciating. My doctor was slow to diagnose the problem because I didn’t have blisters. Once I got a prescription for acyclovir, the pain became bearable. Please tell your readers to get a quick diagnosis so they can get fast relief from this medicine.
A. Acyclovir, famciclovir and valacyclovir all are antiviral medicines that work against cold sores and shingles. The sooner they are taken, the better they work.
Q. I’ve been prone to nosebleeds most of my adult life. I’m 62 now, and I can’t remember when it started.
They seem to be most prevalent in spring and fall. Is there anything I can do to reduce the likelihood of these incidents? Also, is there a way to shut them off quickly? (The worst ones take me 15 minutes or more to stop.)
A. Keeping the nasal passages from drying out may help prevent nosebleeds. Saline sprays are safer than petroleum jelly for this purpose.
Readers have offered lots of suggestions for stopping nosebleeds. One of the most popular is something cold on the back of the neck. Some people use cold metal keys.
Ice might work as well, as this story suggests: “Years ago, I was serving lunch to some seniors. One woman started bleeding from her nose. She picked up her table knife and seemed to be stabbing herself in the back of the neck. A man across from her exclaimed, ‘Cold! She needs something cold!’
“I went into the kitchen, grabbed a large cloth, filled it with crushed ice and placed it on the back of her neck. In seconds her nosebleed stopped completely.”