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For years, all I had to do was wince in the presence of my mother-in-law and out came the Advil. Mom was caring for her parents and her in-laws in their declining years; fighting pain was a big part of her life. And that's how she found Topricin, an anti-inflammatory pain-relief cream that's become her new standby. "It's been like a miracle for Patrick's grandmother," she told me. "And I put it on the grandkids as soon as they get bumps or twists. It works wonders." As for me, I was convinced when it brought solid relief to an aching lower back. That's what led me to call Topical Biomedics (800-537-7246; www.topicalbiomedics.com ) for a chat with Topricin inventor and CEO Lou Paradise. "I was my own experiment initially," said Paradise. "I had contracted a severe case of carpal tunnel syndrome and necessity became the mother of invention." The result of his experimentation is a cream that "treats lower back pain as well as the pain associated with arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, repetitive motion, and trauma or sports injuries."

Paradise conducted his search for relief in the realm of homeopathy. "Homeopathy offers us an opportunity to use some significant pharmacological agents. Some of the medicines come from pretty toxic things in nature, but because homeopathy uses a microdose, obtained through serial dilution, there is no noxious potential. In Topricin, for instance, there are four different venoms. Venom is basically highly concentrated digestive juice, so it creates incredible enzyme action in tissue. Take graphites, which come from the rattlesnake. It causes capillary hemorrhaging in the bitten animal, which immobilizes it. But from a homeopathic point of view, graphite strengthens the capillary and makes it resilient -- the defense system in the body gets stimulated. Naja, which is cobra venom, is a neurotoxin that causes paralysis; in homeopathy, it strengthens nerve tissue. What I was looking for when I put Topricin together was synergy between the medicines, a benefit bigger than the individual parts." (Paradise was careful to point out that the homeopathic medicines are derivatives of venom, and that no actual venom is present in Topricin.)

As for the nature of that benefit, Paradise told me that "Healing is the ultimate form of pain relief. It's the body that's the miracle, not the product. Topricin works by helping to balance the chemistries in the soft tissue, where the pain is, so that the body can start the process of healing the damage in the cellular membranes."

Paradise gave an example. "When you twist your ankle, the body wants to immobilize the tissue. It sends everything -- red blood cells, white blood cells, all the inflammatory fluids. There are some free radicals in there, and that's very good for dealing with damaged tissue and any bacterial buildup. But if it stays more than 24 to 48 hours, now you're not only suffering from the injury, but also from free-radical damage. The body then wants to send more blood flow to the region, but if all that inflammation has overwhelmed the tissue, it can't do that. Things that were good initially for the body are now turning on the body."

With Topricin, said Paradise, "we are not trying to eliminate or cause inhibition of the inflammation. Rather, we want to allow the part of the physiology of inflammation that's vital for healing and then release it from where it's captive in the tissue. What Topricin does first is to detoxify the tissue" by normalizing the interior balance of the body necessary for "stimulating vasodilation and lymphatic drainage." The former increases blood flow; the latter helps to release toxins.

Normalizing the interior balance is a matter of chemistry. "There are 11 medicines in Topricin," said Paradise. "They're molecular, and they're closely matched to the body's chemistry" -- to the point of mutual attraction. "As soon as the body senses the medicine on the skin, it pulls them down into the deepest recesses of the tissue. Topricin works from the inside out -- it wants to expel all the loose toxins." Once absorbed, "what the medicines in Topricin do is excite the prostoglandins in the body -- they're hormonal compounds that regulate every conceivable bodily function. The medicines sort of fill in where the body needs extra chemical reactions. Belladonna, for example, is an antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory agent." Paradise also stressed the advantage of early application, saying that Topricin helps the body keep from going overboard on inflammation in the first place.

This emphasis on helping the healing process sets Topricin apart from "most analgesic products, which numb or nullify the sensation of pain in the skin receptor. They shut down the excitement the body needs to bring about healing chemistry in the tissues. Further, if you nullify the pain and think you're okay, you start using the injured region. Then, when the analgesic wears off, your pain comes screaming back, only more so." And because most analgesics "contain grease, fat, or petroleum-based oils, they smother the skin. The skin needs to aspirate -- it needs to breathe and perspire so that it can expel toxins. We use only highly refined vegetable oils, triglycerides, and highly purified water."

Today, said Paradise, "Topricin is used in major metropolitan hospitals around the country. It has become a mandatory protocol for surgical outpatients because of the fabulous job it does on trauma. It can literally get patients better after the trauma of surgery in less time. My mother went in for a hip replacement, and she got Topricin as a postsurgical treatment. When she went back for her first visit, the doctor was astonished. She was in her early 80s, and her range of motion and function scores were way ahead of where they should have been for her age -- or any age. And the healing on the incision was remarkable."

Topricin is available through the company website (topricin.com) or by mail. Locally, it can be found at Keil's food store in Clairemont ( $15.59 for a 2 oz. tube) or SeaCoast Vitamins & Herbs in Imperial Beach ( $24.99 for a 4 oz. jar).

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