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Health Agencies Update
February 27, 2018

Plant-Chemical Shows Promise for Pain Relief

JAMA. 2018;319(8):760. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.0425

A chemical from the cactuslike plant Euphorbia resinifera found in Morocco reduces postsurgical pain in rats, according to a study by researchers from the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH’s) Clinical Center.

These findings are the latest in a string of studies that suggest resiniferatoxin may offer an alternative to opioid pain relievers. In fact, the NIH’s Clinical Center already has a phase 1 clinical trial under way to test whether an injection of the chemical into the central nervous system eases pain associated with advanced cancer. Resiniferatoxin is chemically similar to capsaicin, the chemical that makes hot peppers hot, but is 500 times more potent, according to the NIH. It blocks pain-related signaling in nerve cells while leaving movement unaffected.