Today, a patient of mine returned from a trip to Australia.  She relates how her vacation was interrupted by the recent flooding in that country, and by something else– a nasty spider bite.

Now, if you’ve ever watched Discovery Channel and saw one of those nature shows on extreme insects, you’ll know that many come from Australia.  There’s something about that country, perhaps its isolation that makes it a haven for dangerous, poisonous creatures.

Anyways, this patient says she was bitten on the leg by a black spider (probably a funnelweb spider).  She said she “saw” the poison slowly work its way up her leg towards her knee (there was probably some reddening/ inflammation that spread outwards from the spider bite).  Her companion told her not to move her leg, as it would spread the poison faster.  Panicking, she took out the only first aid item she had on her– a small tin of Burt’s Bees Res-Q ointment— and rubbed it around the spider bite.

Almost instantly, she started to feel relief.  An hour or so later, the swelling was gone.  She said that the product literally “saved her life.”  She was absolutely thrilled, from not knowing whether she would die from this bite, to feeling much better in a matter of minutes.   She couldn’t say enough good things about the Res-Q ointment, and made sure I knew about it.

Curious, I decided to check it out.  The main ingredient in Res-Q is comfrey, a controversial herb that has shown to have therapeutic benefits, but may also cause liver toxicity if taken internally.  Comfrey contains allantoin, a cell proliferant that speeds up the natural replacement of body cells.

Historically, comfrey was used in an attempt to treat a wide variety of ailments ranging from bronchial problems, broken bones, sprains, arthritis, gastric and varicose ulcers, severe burns, acne and other skin conditions. It was reputed to have bone and teeth building properties in children, and have value in treating “many female disorders”.

Most recently, in a placebo controlled study comfrey was found to decrease back pain when used topically.

If you visit the Burt’s Bees website and check out their Res-Q product, you will notice a lot of positive reviews– people raving about how the product helped reduce the “red nose of colds,” bruises, skin irritations, minor burns, bug bites, and cracked and chapped skin.

While these reviews are no substitute for a properly conducted scientific study with control group, most doctors agree that anecdotal evidence can be equally compelling when evaluating a particular therapeutic product or procedure.

Now, time to sign off to buy a can of Res-Q myself…

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