Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Phony Chronic Pain Advice–The Reason You Should Research Everything You Read Before You Act On It

July 9, 2009 by Bonnie Boots  
Filed under General News

do-your-researchMy pharmacy has a wire rack near the front door that's always stocked with free local magazines. Many of them relate to health and wellness. I recently picked up a new one that announced, in it's premier issue, it's goal of being "your most trusted resource for information on living a healthy life."

Inside, I found an article titled, "Honey And It's Many Benefits." The brief article began with some historical references to honey being used as a curative, then gave a list of diseases and conditions that can be cured by a mixture of honey and cinnamon. (Their words.)

The second item on the list read, "Arthritis: A study at Copenhagen University had remarkable results by mixing a cup of hot water with two spoons of honey and one small teaspoon of cinnamon powder before breakfast. The combination greatly reduced pain throughout the body."

How I wish that statement were true! Sadly, it is not.

Because it purportedly came from a seemingly trustworthy source, a health magazine referencing a University study, I initially believed the statement that honey and cinnamon reduce the pan of arthritis. The only thing I questioned was the amount of cinnamon being recommended.

I knew that cinnamon in sufficient quantity is a blood thinner. And it seemed to me that taking a teaspoon of cinnamon every day might have serious consequences. So I began a search for the original study from Copenhagen University to confirm the amount of cinnamon.

To my surprise, Google showed me a list of almost 2000 web sites that had published the exact list of "conditions cured by honey and cinnamon."  The magazine had simply lifted it, in total, from one of those sites. A much deeper search showed me that the original source of this oft-repeated article was the Weekly World News, a now-defunct newspaper known for it's reportage on Big Foot sightings, alien abductions and photos of water stained walls seemingly marked with the image of Jesus. The Weekly World News has never been known as a source for legitimate medical research.

A still-deeper search eventually turned up a statement from the information manager of Copenhagen University stating that the University had never conducted such a study and that their name had unfortunately been used to give a feeling of authenticity to spurious advice.

I was furious! I try to be very careful of anything I read on the internet. After all, people can and do say anything. But I'm a little more casual about information I read in printed books and magazines. That's because when I was writing for magazines and newspapers, they all used fact checkers to verify details like "a study at Copenhagen University." Clearly, it's not like that anymore.

I'm appalled that a magazine presenting itself as a trusted source for health information would print a list taken from the internet without doing even a cursory investigation into the veracity of the material. I'm sure someone at the publication decided, "Honey and cinnamon can't hurt anyone, and it might help." But cinnamon, as I've noted, has blood-thinning properties. Neither I nor the publisher of that magazine has any way of knowing what might happen if someone taking prescription blood thinners added a daily teaspoon of cinnamon to their diet.

I learned a good lesson from this incident. I learned that I have to double-check ALL information before I act on it, not just the information I find on the internet.

And I learned that this new magazine isn't serious about being my "most trusted resource for information on living a healthy life." If they were really serious, they'd be making every effort to be sure the information they publish is accurate. My advice  is to check and double-check everything you hear and ready before you act on it, no matter what the source. Your health is just too important!

### Bonnie Boots publishes Pain Health News to provide information and motivation to people living with chronic pain.  You can stay in touch with her by typing your email address into the subscribe box in the upper right corner of this page.

This article, "Phoney Chronic Pain Advice" as sited by the How To Cope With Pain blog in their July Pain-Blog Carnival.

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32 Responses to “Phony Chronic Pain Advice–The Reason You Should Research Everything You Read Before You Act On It”
  1. Dear Bonnie,

    Your article ‘Phony Chronic Pain Advice” is spot on!

    While there is a great deal of excellent information regarding chronic pain on the web, unfortunately, there is also information that is misleading or incorrect. Therefore, it behooves the reader to ‘do the research’ before acting on the information (no matter who the cited resource maybe).

    Professor Brian A Rothbart
    Author, Forever Free From Chronic Pain

  2. Bonnie Boots says:

    Visitors can read my review of Professsor/Dr. Rothbart’s book, “Forever Free From Chronic Pain,” here: One of the best things about the book is the extensive resources given so readers can do their own research.

  3. Michael South says:


    would you be willing to provide the source for this:

    “A still-deeper search eventually turned up a statement from the information manager of Copenhagen University stating that the University had never conducted such a study and that their name had unfortunately been used to give a feeling of authenticity to spurious advice.”

    I searched at Copenhagen University, found many articles on arthritis research but nothing with honey (realistically, if this were true, I think the world would know–I mean, seriously, a cure for arthritis? That would be incredible).

    Anyway, I would very much appreciate having a link to the statement you mentioned. Thanks!

  4. david says:

    Bonnie- once again i have to agree with you. It is overdue for the government to require high quality information on pain treatments be made available to the public. The government via DHHS provides either superficial advice on pain care or extrremely technical information which is of little value. DHHS doesnt believe that they public should have access to high quality info on pain care- obviously. I have recommended access via knowledge management systems and reports on different types of pain be made available- but of course DHHS ignored my suggestion

  5. Bonnie Boots says:

    Michael, I did not record the location where I found the statement, only that I found it by searching Google for the terms Copenhagen University + arthritis + honey. It was probably 30 or more pages back in the search results. The first 29 pages all listed links to reprints of the original fake “news.” Seeing that was a good lesson in how few people check facts before reporting information on a blog or web site. And that’s the reason it so important for all of us to do our own checking!

  6. Bonnie Boots says:

    Far from moving towards providing high-quality information, government agencies are moving towards restricting or even prohibiting important information that would allow people to make educated decisions about their own health care. Case in point–the recent attack on Dr. Andrew Weil who responded to reports that there was a shortage of H1N1 vaccine by stating that recent scientific studies widely reported in medical journals showed antioxidents were as effective as the swine flu vaccine. Rather than thank him for helping to quell public fears, the government threatened him. So long as the government relies on profit-driven corporations to determine what information is “acceptable,” we will always have to fight for freedom of information.

  7. Lynnette says:

    Thank you for this article, I was trying to find info on how antioxidant levels compare between Ceylon cinnamon and cassia, and found a reference to the Copenhagen study. Trying to find backup, I found your article instead and couldn't agree more. It is a bummer to have to be so skeptical (not to mention how much time it takes to fact-check,) but it does seem that some people will say anything, and that many others are way too willing to repeat anything.  It seems life has become so complicated, and people crave easy answers. The truth is better.

  8. Bonnie Boots says:

    Yes, and because people crave easy answers, there are always scam artists, hucksters and pranksters willing to give easy answers. We always have to remember the internet is a double-edged sword. On the one side, it brings a world of solid information we couldn’t find any other way. On the other side, it brings a lot of misinformation and outright lies, often from seemingly reputable sources. It can take a lot of research to tell one from the other.

  9. Elspeth says:

    Good article and great advice about the need to check thoroughly into spurious claims on the internet.  I'd like to point out, however, that true cinnamon (also known as Ceylon cinnamon) contains only a neglible amount of  the blood-thinning phytochemical coumarin.  The "cinnamon" most readily available in U.S. stores is actually cassia, which does indeed have high concentrations of coumarin.  Cassia in large doses can damage the liver and kidneys, in addition to thinning the blood.  Unfortunately, since cassia is labeled as "cinnamon" most people would not know the difference. 

  10. Bonnie Boots says:

    Thank you for pointing out the difference between Ceylon cinnamon and the spice sold in most grocery stores. This is a perfect example of why it’s so important to check carefully–preferably with a trusted health care expert–before using any substance for healing. Most people would not imagine that something as ordinary as “cinnamon” could pose a health risk, and wouldn’t think to tell their doctor they’re using it. I recently learned that a friend in her 80’s had stopped taking her prescribed medication and begun taking large amounts of “cinnamon,” (actually cassia, as elsbennet points out) because a neighbor had shown her the exact article I complained about in this post. “It’s just cinnamon,” she told me. “It can’t hurt to try.” I had a hard time convincing her it COULD “hurt to try,” because she’s also a believer in “They couldn’t print it if it wasn’t true.”

  11. Jen says:

    Hi Bonnie
    Glad I stumbled across your article this morning.   I got a little excited about the honey/cinnamon theory for arthritis as my mum has been a chronic rheumatoid arthritis sufferer for years and I thought perhaps this might help her – alas it was too good to be true.  Also interesting to note there is the two types of cinnamon.  Just goes to show it pays to research.

  12. Bonnie Boots says:

    How good of you, Jenny, to be seeking out the facts for your mother. Yes, research is vitally important. It’s important, too, to watch out for our friends and relatives that can’t or won’t do it for themselves. The great gift of the internet is that, with time and effort, you can eventually track down the facts on anything, but the vast majority of people are not very savvy at searching the web. That means those of us that are need to be very generous in offering our help.

  13. Suzanne says:

    I was able to find good links on why honey is good and why cinnamon is good but nothing on the two together.

  14. Bonnie Boots says:

    Thanks, Suzanne, for that information. Honey and cinnamon have been used for their healing properties for centuries. I think that’s what makes it so tempting to believe that false info about cinnamon and honey in combination stopping the pain of arthritis.And as Elspeth pointed out, what’s sold as “cinnamon” in grocery stores is actually cassia, so people wanting to use cinnamon for health purposes need to be sure they are purchasing actual cinnamon. I can recommend Penzey’s spice stores for fresh, high-quality Ceylon cinnamon. Visit them online at

  15. Jennifer says:

    I've had arthritis most of my life and I too got a little excited about seeing the "research" regarding cinnamon and honey.  I have access to a university library and online checked the Copenhagen University research articles about cinnamon and honey… zero.  I checked out all the ones regarding arthritis, and didn't see any mention of honey and cinnamon.  They really don't seem to be the type of research studies that stray away from conventional medicine.  It's sad that so many sources and so-called authorities have reported on this bogus information.  I'll still have my cinnamon anyway, just not mixed with honey before breakfast. 

  16. Bonnie Boots says:

    Cinnamon is certainly a great flavoring agent, but I’ve yet to find any credible studies of “miracle” health benefits from eating it. (Please note from the comments below that the item sold in most grocery stores as “cinnamon” is not true cinnamon.) We all wish that treating arthritis was as simple as taking a spoonful of honey and cinnamon. That’s undoubtedly why this bogus report continues to circulate. People with chronic pain are so eager for relief, we’ll swallow almost anything! That’s all the more reason we have to be so careful to check out all advise, even advise from health care professionals, before we believe it.

  17. alistair mackinnon says:

    I see your looking for credible sources for cinnamon as an anti inflamatory… you will need academic access to view the following
    also curcumin
    These papers are focused on the anti inflammatory aspects, I think a combination of these with other supportive regimes ought to make us think twice before we throw the baby out with the bath water

  18. I greatly appreciate the idea that people should look to a variety of sources to get information regarding pain resolution. My concern lies when most if not all the sources are stating something that is clearly not factual. There is a tendency to believe it is true because so many people or resources agree about the issue.
    Case in point: the common belief that sciatica is the result of a herniated disc. I assure you if you do research, virtually every medical practitioner will agree with this idea. The problem is that it is complete impossible for sciatica to be created by a herniated disc. Irritation of the sciatic nerve can only occur along the path of the nerve and since the nerve begins in the gluteal region and ends at the back of the knee, it is impossible for any tissue to in the spine region to create the pain. This is indisputable. It is sad that a false premise can be maintained for so long just because it is so hard to alter the status quo.
    My plea is for your readers to take a different approach to searching for advice. Don't simply accept ideas just because they can be found in abundance. If the information doesn't make sense to you as a person, then it is probably false; even when stated by the most prestigious medical professional.
    I am always willing to act as an advocate for people to help them make better health decisions.
    Dr. Mitchell Yass

  19. Bonnie Boots says:

    I agree, Dr. Yass. I’ve learned from sad experience that even “the most prestigious professional” can cling to medical opinions long after they are outdated. As a result, I believe it is vitally important for anyone experiencing a serious health issue to get NO LESS than two medical opinions, even if you must pay for them out of pocket, and then do as much research as possible, using the internet, the library and bookstores to widen your reach. There are so many new developments in health care today that not even the most brilliant doctor can keep up with it all. This mean you cannot depend on any doctor, and most certainly not any under-paid and overworked general practitioner, to know and understand everything relating to your health. In many cases, the only one that is really going to care deeply about your health and work hard to uncover all the factors is…you yourself.

  20. Angela says:

    was looking for info on that Copenhagen strudy when found your site, Bonnie. am now subscribed, thanks for the good info! figured the honey/cinnamon for arthritis was bunk but tried a daily tablespoon of honey/ 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon anyway. haven't noticed any change in my arthritis but stirring the half a spoon that sticks into my morning coffee sure is tasty! LOL

  21. I was just on scholar's portal searching for the findings about this honey and cinnamon combination. LOL NOTHING! I'm so shocked at how far the misinformation went. ;) THANKS! I did hear something promising about olive oil and pain though. I can't recall the study exactly, but a researcher noticed that the same tingle in the throat he got from ibuprofen, he also got from extra virgin olive oil… there's a lead for ya!
    "Train Without The Pain" –

  22. vera says:

    So, if it's not true about using honey and the (non- real) cinnamin to cure arthritis…Does that mean that using the honey and ceylon cinnamin just MIGHT cure it?  And is this ceylon cinnamin safe for people on blood thinners?

  23. Bonnie Boots says:

    Vera, I’ve made extensive searches on the internet of research sites and I can find no studies or validated information that cinnamon and honey in any form “cure” arthritis. In fact, my doctor has drilled it into me that there is no cure for arthritis because “arthritis” is simple a word that doctors use to describe a group of symptoms. To “cure arthritis,” you must identify the source of those symptoms and cure THAT. Here’s an article my doctor wrote on the subject–
    And to answer your question about blood thinners–people on blood thinners must be VERY careful to ask their doctor (and I recommend at least 2 opinions) before they add any curative agent, food, medications or substance to their diet. Many herbs and spices besides cinnamon have blood thinning properties. Tumeric, for instance, frequently used in the foods of India, Egypt, Africa and the Middle East, is a powerful blood thinner. a member of my family uses blood thinners and I have often been surprised at how few doctors know that some herbs and spices have blood thinning properties. This is why I recommend asking at least 2 sources and also doing deep internet searches before adding any new substance to your diet.

  24. Christa says:

    I LOVE the taste of the honey and cinn on toast and in hot water.  I use the real cinnamin, but didn't expect any benefits, except a treat!  If you want pain relief for arthritis, there are many studies on Omega 3 fatty acids such as fish oil bringing down inflamation in arthritis patients!  I've used it myself and have benefited from it.  Since I have chronic inflammation, I do take a high dose (3,000mg of the EPA and DHA together.  Meaning, I add the EPA + DHA and then take enough pills, split up throughout the day, to equal 3,000mg) and my CRP levels went down and I felt better.  It's also good for the brain!   I advise RA sufferers to read up on it…you won't find any problems finding credible reports.   Also, don't buy cheap stuff!!!  Fish oil needs to be from pristine waters with no mercury!  To you health!

  25. Bonnie Boots says:

    Thanks for sharing your advice, Christa. And I’ll second it. Don’t buy cheap fish oil supplements! It’s very important to research the brand you buy and make sure it’s from clean ocean waters with no mercury.

  26. Ann Kay says:

    Thank you for this article – I found it while trying to track down the original Danish research to see if it was real or not!

  27. Bonnie Boots says:

    I’m all for using nonprescription means whenever possible and practical. However, blood thinners are prescribed in very exact amounts. People using blood thinners have their blood tested monthly, at least, to calculate the amounts to be prescribed. Because we could never know the amount of active ingredients in herbal or spice preparations (or live plants, for that matter) it would not be possible to precisely determine to what extent they would thin the blood

  28. P.Samaras says:

    The contextual orthology of this site urged me to post some annotations.
    Agreeably people must be skeptical on any piece of information they read. ''Oversimplification'' in combination with ''amazing news" is the recipe for dangerous misguidance. Most of us, if not all, know that, so why do we all get manipulated. People with chronic pain no matter the cause seek relief and are inclined to be open to any new approach. Therefore con-practitioners who are legitimately deprived of ethics, as they do not need to abide to any medical protocols, flourish.
    So trying to defuse any inappropriate information becomes easier by knowing for fact that if something is genuinely discovered and reviewed you are going to learn about it, most possibly from your doctor. Additionally a single finding of properties (e.g. cinnamon acts as anti-inflammatory) , does not mean that it is appropriate for yours or any other case. Finally to resolve the issue of ''cured'' cases it is simply of psychological nature well known in most clinical trials using qualitative data (subjective measures) as the placebo effect. Placebo effect could present striking results.
    I would rather say this case of "phony chronic pain advise" has more ethical and psychological attributes rather than medical. The use of meta-cognition would be phenomenal in the avoidance of future same-like cases.
    Kindly consider my post as a non-professional opinion, as my field of expertise is not on pain and analgesia.

  29. Angeleyes says:

    Hi Bonnie,
    Wow! I was Shocked when I read all the comments/ feedback from your readers and all your helpful  research.  I had read a ton about the "Miracle Cure" using Cinnamon & Honey.  I actually went so far as to create in Open Office a Document (4 pgs. long) & was planning on sending it to 7 or so loved ones, friends, etc.  Um, needless to say:  I will not be doing that. I am extremely Outraged at all the phony internet articles I have read/researched on this matter and I am so glad I stumbled upon you when trying to figure out "dosages" on certain illnesses.  I could have actually "killed" the person(s) instead of what I was intending to do (helping them.)  My brother suffers greatly with Arthritis & I have 2 people I was going to help with losing wt.  WRONG!!!  I use 100% Pure Cherry Concentrate which I take 2 Tablespoons on a daily basis before bed.  I also take Fish Oil (Omega -3) 1000 mg gel caps (2 in morning & 2 at night.)  This has helped Me for my Cholesterol, arthritis pain in my legs, and is also good for the Heart!  I will agree with one of your other readers:  Don't go cheap when it comes to Fish Oil as you do NOT want too much Mercury in your body.  I will end this now with a HUGE Thank You and God Bless!

  30. Bonnie Boots says:

    Sour cherry juice has been well researched for use in arthritic joint pain, as has fish oil. But as you and other readers have pointed out, it’s important to use quality products. And finding quality products can take a huge amount of internet research! A few months ago, I stopped taking fish oil and started taking krill oil, because krill oil is a cleaner source of Omega-3. After reading a survey that showed high levels of mercury and other toxins in fish all over the world, I started researching. It took me more than 30 hours over two months to read about toxins in ocean fish, look for alternative sources, learn about krill, then locate a source of arctic krill oil. Quality doesn’t necessarily need to be expensive. In some cases, I have been able to replace a brand-name supplement with a comparable supplement of superior quality for the same price. But I paid a price in hours spent researching. I’d gladly pay a health care professional to advise me on these matters, but have been unable to find anyone qualified in my area, so thank goodness for the internet!

  31. Hi Bonnie, I'm really glad you've debunked this honey/cinnamon nonsense.  I'm also (like the other Michael) looking for the link to the information manager at the University of Copenhagen.  The combination of this post being three years old, and weak "google-fu" on my part, is only turning up reiterations of the claims.
    I've tried a variety of searches, including looking for "information manager" specifically with reference to "university of copenhagen" arthritis, honey, and cinnamon.

    I have of course not found any trace of an original study, just regurgitations, but I'd really like the information manager link if you have any more search terms, or any leads that could point me in the correct direction.

  32. Bonnie Boots says:

    I found NO link anywhere, so emailed the actual University of Copenhagen to ask about the study. Their reply was a form letter stating that there is no such study, their name was used without their permission (seemingly to make the claims sound more credible) and that they get so many request about this non-existant study that it has become a burden to respond. That University has no such position as “Information Manager.”

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