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Do No Harm

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Colds are a rarity with me

Colds are a rarity with me. So are minor injuries. But one December a couple of years ago, one side of my face swelled up after a visit to the dentist. My gum had become inflamed. Two days before Christmas, with a swollen and painful cheek, I found myself seeking the aid of a doctor.

I had been rinsing my mouth several times a day with a simple and effective salt-water solution. It wasn't working.

The doctor's recommendation was that I continue with the salt water rinses, but to use a syringe. Fair enough. And for the inflammation he said I should take ibuprofen, full strength, for at least two weeks. He warned of possible side-effects and cautioned me several times to be sure to take the tablets with meals to prevent irritating the lining of my stomach.
I wasn't too keen on the idea of alleviating one problem only to cause another. What ever happened, I wondered, to "do no harm?" At the pharmacy I inquired about the ibuprofen and again was warned of possible side-effects: be sure to take the tablets with food, the pharmacist admonished.

This didn't sound like a healthy approach to me. There had to be a better, safer and equally effective way tohandle the swelling.

Off to the health food store I went. The little shop was crowded and busy. Even so, the proprietor took the time to listen to my concerns. When I asked if she could recommend a safe solution to my problem she smiled and placed a bottle in my hand, along with a pamphlet describing what the product contained and how the ingredients would help. She elaborated and explained the benefits of the herbs and supplements contained in the preparation. And, she added, even if it didn't solve the problem although she felt sure that it would at least it would do no harm. Those were the words I wanted to hear.

Skeptical Success

I admit, I was skeptical. I decided to try the product for 24 hours. If I felt there was no improvement, then I would use the ibuprofen as recommended by the doctor and hope for the best.

That night I took only one capsule (the recommended dose was two), on an empty stomach (food was not required as a buffer) and I honestly didn't expect much improvement by morning.

The pain had kept me awake the previous three nights and because this preparation contained ginseng I was concerned that it might make me even more wakeful. Instead, I slept right through the night. In the morning I noticed that the swelling had receded somewhat and my cheek had some definition to it again there was a hint of a hollow beneath the cheek bone. And even more happily, the pain was just barely noticeable.

What was happening was definitely not a placebo effect. I had no faith or confidence in what I was taking. To be honest, I didn't think it would work, or, if it did, the effect would be marginal.

By Boxing Day the pain was completely gone. My cheek looked almost normal. Some swelling remained in the gum, but there was no doubt I was on the mend. And I wasn't even taking the full amount suggested on the label. It didn't seem to be necessary. It was working and working very well.

Curcumin, an extract of turmeric, was the main ingredient in the preparation. I learned that it is considered to be a potent anti-inflammatory which can enhance the recovery of damaged tissue. The evidence was in my mouth that this was true. The second ingredient listed was bromelain, a protein-digesting enzyme that would help enhance the absorption of the curcumin. Together they would create a synergistic effect, because bromelain displays an anti-inflammatory effect as well. Also included was L-glutamine, a non-essential amino acid that the body needs while repairing damaged tissue. Lastly, Siberian ginseng was included for its ability to enhance cell replication and metabolism and thus induce tissue repair. Quite a powerhouse package.

I continued to take this natural antiinflammatory for a week longer than the two weeks suggested by the doctor for the ibuprofen. During the third week I began to realize I was experiencing a side-effect to this remedy. Actually, it would be more accurate to say I was experiencing a side-benefit. During those three weeks I felt so good, so vibrant, more motivated, more alive. I didn't understand what had made the difference. Maybe it was the ginseng.

I long ago stopped taking the natural anti-inflammatory, but I returned to my health food store for some standardized Siberian ginseng. Thanks to one of those non-life threatening minor annoyances, I learned not only about a safe and effective way to deal with inflammation, but also, as a side-benefit, I discovered one of life's allies.

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