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Is Coral Calcium Just A Craze?

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Q. A friend of mine swears by coral calcium that she orders through the mail. She says it cures her aches and pains. What makes coral calcium different from the inexpensive calcium I buy in the grocery story?

A. Coral calcium comes from dead coral from the seabed, while the inexpensive calcium you buy may come from oyster shells or limestone deposits. Some marketers are promoting coral calcium as a cure-all for many chronic and serious conditions. The FDA and the FTC are beginning to clamp down on unsubstantiated claims.

Q. I have been drinking two cups of green tea a day for about eight years. Will green tea help me or hurt me?

A. If green tea were hazardous, hundreds of millions of people in Japan and China would be in serious trouble. This hot beverage is as popular there as coffee is in the west.

Green tea contains a number of anti-oxidants that seem to provide some protection from cancer, chronic inflammatory diseases and even heart disease. In studies of human populations, though, these benefits are usually associated with more than two cups of tea daily.

Q. Is there a natural sexual lubricant that is safe? I don't like the idea of using petroleum jelly or any other synthetic product internally.

A. Readers of this column have recommended using vegetable oils such as olive or almond oil.

Q. My husband's doctor prescribed fish oil to lower triglycerides. From what I have read, these oils may also increase good cholesterol and have anti-inflammatory action.

Is it true that these omega-3 fats are good for the heart and conditions like arthritis? I'd like to know more about the health benefits of fish oil.

A. A quick review of the medical literature reveals thousands of articles on the health benefits of fish oil. You are quite right that these omega-3 fats lower triglycerides and may improve the ratio of total cholesterol to good HDL.

The omega-3 fats in fish also reduce inflammation and lower levels of C-reactive protein, a marker for inflammation in the heart and arteries.

So you can learn more about dosing issues and other health benefits, we are sending you our Guide to Heart Health and a CD of a one-hour radio show on the topic of fish oil. Anyone who would like copies, please send $15 in check or money order to: Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No. CCD-408, P. O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027.

The only concern about fish oil is possible contamination with PCBs. Pharmaceutical-grade fish oil should be free of such industrial pollutants.

Q. I suffer from fibromyalgia, which is extremely painful. Lately I have found that the herb Boswellia is very helpful for morning stiffness. There are no side effects, and the results are very quick. It doesn't eliminate pain, but reducing my stiffness makes the morning less difficult. Others with fibromyalgia might want to know about this.

A. Thank you for sharing your experience. Boswellia is an Indian herb from the Ayurvedic tradition. It has anti-inflammatory activity, which might explain why it helps reduce stiffness associated with this debilitating chronic condition. Most studies have found no significant side effects.

Q. Thanks for suggesting fennel seed tea for gas pains. It's wonderful and works quickly every time.

A. A teaspoon of bruised fennel seeds steeped in a cup of hot water is a time-honored remedy for gas.

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