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Green tea proving its effectiveness

Published December 12. 2009 09:00AM

The nineteenth century English essayist William Hazlitt called youth "a feeling of eternity."

The feeling can be a powder keg of promise. Unfortunately, you never know until it blows.

Just as often, that feeling of eternity creates an action of stupidity.

I know this is true. I see the evidence of it in abundance every single day in the Palmerton Area Junior High School.

But I should not hide behind my students to address this phenomenon. I once was young.

Sadly enough, the story I'm about to recount is not from my days in junior high school. It's from a time that someone approaching 50 sees as the fringe of youth: the early 20s.

I ran the Philadelphia Marathon on a whim after my senior cross-country season in college, and my first thought upon finishing was: never again. But my college coach felt a time of 3:07, given my lack of appropriate training, was promising and that he could see me going sub-2:40 in the future.

I became intrigued with the thought of running slightly more than 26 miles at a six-minute-per-mile pace, so I trained in earnest as soon as baseball season ended. Everything was going as close to perfect as possible until that youthful feeling of eternity created a youthful decision of stupidity.

I agreed to playon the Monday before the Sunday marathon!in a basketball scrimmage against my old high school team.

Basketball was my first love, and our breakup still bothered me. After leading Berks County's Section One in scoring my senior yeardespite considering myself a better passer than scorerI did very little of note in college.

While part of that was the result of a friendship-ending embezzlement issue between the coach who recruited me and the head coach of what's now called DeSales University, I still felt like a failure.

Maybe that's why I took to running long distances with such fervor. And maybe that's why I agreed to participate in a scrimmage seven days away from the marathoneven though it had been months since I touched a basketball.

Surprisingly enough, the old skills came back quickly. I did well and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Until the final minutes of the scrimmage when I twisted my ankle. Really twisted my ankle.

Despite applying ice immediately, it swelled considerably. As I limped to my car, I felt that running the marathon that Sunday was impossible.

But I had been reading about two antioxidants of some note: green tea and a topical balm called dimethyl sulfoxide (better known as DMSO). The latter also was supposed to be effective in treating minor burns, bruises, arthritis, and sprains, so as I sucked down cup after cup of tea that night, I applied a liberal amount of DMSO to the swollen ankle.

Immediately, my mouth tasted of garlic, so much so that I asked my mom if she had used the tea cup for such a purpose. She didn't answer.

She put up her hands as a shield and turned her head.

That's how strong the garlicky odor was that I was tasting. I read more about DMSO and discovered that this was one of its side effects.

The next day I swore I felt garlic oozing out of my pores as I swore I would never use that stuff again. I sucked on breath mint after breath mint as I subbed for a teacher at Reading High that day, but I'm sure my breath caused the students in the first row (and maybe even the second) to turn away more than once.

I did keep drinking green tea, however, and by Thursdaymiracle of miracles!I ran with only moderate pain and minimal swelling. By the Sunday marathon, I was fairly close to fully healed and ran a 2:49.

While I was never sure to what degree the DMSO and the green tea accelerated my recovery, I do know this. The use of DMSO quickly fell out of favor.

Green tea, however, just keeps proving its effectiveness in study after study.

Before this year, there were studies that found green tea to be at least somewhat successful in combating arthritis, asthma, certain types of cancer, diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension, menopausal symptoms, and viral infections, as well as aiding in mental performance and weight loss, but that's the past. Here's a sampling of the favorable news about green tea in 2009.

An article in the November issue of Environmental Nutrition lists drinking it as one of the ways to promote brain health as you age.

A presentation at the Experimental Biology Conference in New Orleans introduced a study that found green tea use decreased bone loss in animals where low-grade inflammation was used to create the bone loss. In humans, low-grade bone loss often creates osteopenia which often leads to osteoporosis.

The use of a green-tea extract in a Mayo Clinic study was able to shrink the enlarged lymph nodes of 11 of 33 patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia by half in six months.

Research published in Experimental Dermatology found that a spray made of green tea protects against skin cancer by reducing the damage done by the sun's ultraviolet rays.

A study conducted at Louisiana State University suggests that drinking green tea may not only reduce the incidence of prostate cancer but also slow the progression of the disease.

Green tea has been used by the Chinese for approximately 5,000 years. Unlike DMSO, it has clearly withstood the test of time.

Drinking a couple cups a day is an easy way to safeguard yourself from more than just foolish things that happen when you're youngor not so young.

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