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JOCKS SWEAR BY GURU'S HEALING METHODS\ LIZARD HEADS, SNAKES, NEEDLES, AND ROOTS ARE PART OF THE TREATMENT
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JOCKS SWEAR BY GURU'S HEALING METHODS\ LIZARD HEADS, SNAKES, NEEDLES, AND ROOTS ARE PART OF THE TREATMENT

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NFL players and boxers find results in the work of an Eastern medicine man whose treatments are, well, not exactly conventional.

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If the supermarket tabloids got hold of this one, the headline would be simple: Football Player Eats Lizards for Energy!!

And like most of those stories, there would be at least a shred of truth. There is a football player involved. He's Anthony Smith, a 270-pound defensive lineman for the Los Angeles Raiders, the team's No. 1 draft pick in 1990.The rest of the headline, of course, is absolute nonsense. Smith does not eat lizards. That's ridiculous.

He only consumes their heads.

And he most certainly doesn't eat them.

He drinks them.

And about those needles that Smith occasionally begs to have plunged into - among other places - his forehead: Hey, a guy has to find some way to relax in this crazy world.

Welcome to the world of Neal Stuart Miller, acupuncturist and herbal medicine guru, who heals, his patients say, in miraculous ways.

The treatment: needles, heated glass jars that suck a person's muscle and skin nearly off the bone, smoldering tree roots, the heads and other appendages of Gecko lizards, parts of snakes and many other animals, lots of insects and nearly 1,000 types of flowers, shrubs, roots and leaves.

The patients: Smith, Raider teammates Aundray Bruce and Greg Townsend, and a large and growing number of boxers, including former middleweight champion Michael Nunn, current sensations Gabriel and Rafael Ruelas and once-beaten middleweight Frank Liles.

Bruce, a 6-5, 250-pound linebacker who was the NFL's No. 1 draft pick in the 1988 draft, said shooting pains and severe stiffness in his neck had been a daily part of his life since the early days of his college career at Auburn.

Three treatments by Miller involving acupuncture needles being jabbed deeply into his neck, along with industrial-strength rubdowns with oil made from snakes, has him feeling like a new man, he said. ``He had needles in my neck and needles in my shoulders and he was playing this Chinese music in a dark room and ... I don't understand it, but I do know it worked. Like a miracle.

Smith, the Raiders' 6-3 defensive end and the AFC leader in sacks, sought out Miller early in October, before a game against the Buffalo Bills, because of lingering pain in his left ankle and both shoulders. He said that traditional treatment, heat and ice and whirlpools, hadn't budged the nagging pain.

But a dozen needles and a Gecko head or two had Smith feeling like Superman.

``I went to Neal and he fixed the pain right then,' Smith said.

Smith became a fanatical believer in the power of Miller, who is licensed by the California Medical Board, not to mention the 8-inch long reptile that sacrificed its head and face for the good of the Raiders.

Ingesting lizard heads was not, however, an easy decision, Smith said.

The sight of Miller grinding and then blending the head into a froth was way too much for Bruce, who had accompanied Smith to Miller's Sherman Oaks, Calif., office and China Valley Herb shop. ``I had to leave the room,' Bruce admitted.

But not, according to Miller, before lunging off his wooden stool at the herb and reptile counter and stumbling backward into the wall. ``It definitely made an impression on Aundray,' Miller said.

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