Scientists may have come up with a lead on a new painkiller-a compound derived from an Asian tree bark that appears to alleviate serious pain without causing addiction or serious side effects.. which often occur with opium-based painkillers (such as morphine, hydrocodone and oxycodone).

Can A Stick Do The Trick?

At The Scripps Research Institute in Florida, researchers have undertaken a study of Tabernaemontana divaricata, also known as crepe jasmine, a tropical flowering plant that has long been used in traditional medicine in China, India and Thailand. Natural practitioners in these countries prescribe various parts of the plant (from flowers to leaves, roots and bark) to heal wounds, fight toothaches and treat skin diseases, fever, pain, scabies and dysentery, notes Andrew L. Rubman, ND. When it comes to pain, it turns out that one of the most promising elements in crepe jasmine is conolidine, an extremely rare constituent of the stem bark of Malayan T. divaricata.

In the Scripps laboratory, researchers looked for a way to get sufficient quantities of this hard-to-obtain substance and for the first time created a synthetic conolidine compound. Once they accomplished this feat, they tested its effectiveness on mice. In various pain models (the researchers used acid to cause pain and inflammation on the paus of the mice), investigators found that the newly synthesized compound…

  • Was present in high concentrations for up to four hours after administration and passed readily through the blood-brain barrier. This is important as many areas in the brain are involved in the perception of pain.
  • Effectively relieved acute inflammatory pain in mice. Scientists measured this by observing such things as how often mice attended to and licked injured paws.
  • Did not show harmful side effects. Mice demonstrate certain characteristic movements when exposed to morphine-for instance, they become disoriented and walk in circular patterns-which did not happen after conolidine injections.

These findings were published in Nature Chemistry.

Researchers are not sure exactly how conolidine relieves pain. It does not bind to opiate receptors in the body and thus is not an opiate like morphine. But it certainly appears to be effective. Much more study is needed, but this may finally turn out to be the alternative to opiates we've been hoping for. Its broad and effective usage over time in India, Thailand and China is yet another reason for hope.

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