London: Scientists have found that a rare natural product obtained from the bark of a plant widely employed in traditional medicine in China, Thailand, and India shows potent pain-killing properties.
The team from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute has for the first time accomplished laboratory synthesis of the rare natural product conolidine.
This advance may provide the scientific foundation to develop an effective alternative to commonly prescribed narcotic pain treatments.
Based on data from mouse models, the study also suggested that synthetic conolidine is a potent analgesic as effective as morphine in alleviating inflammatory and acute pain, with few, if any, side effects.
The rare natural product is derived from the bark of a widely grown tropical flowering plant Tabernaemontana divaricata (also known as crepe jasmine).
Extract from the leaves has been used as an anti-inflammatory applied to wounds, while the root has been chewed to fight the pain of toothache.
Other parts of the plant have been used to treat skin diseases and cancer.
Glenn Micalizio, an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry, initiated and directed the study.
The pharmacological assessment, performed in the laboratory of Scripps Florida Associate Professor Laura Bohn, showed that the new synthetic compound has surprisingly potent analgesic properties.
"Her pharmacological studies confirmed that while it`s not an opiate, it`s nearly as potent as morphine," said Micalizio.
The study was published May 23, 2011, in an advanced online edition of the journal Nature Chemistry.