(NaturalNews) The black mamba is the longest, fastest, and most poisonous snake in Africa, and its venom is a ferocious neurotoxin that paralyzes and kills small animals. According to French scientists at the Institute of Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology in Nice, though, this venom also contains a natural painkiller so powerful that it puts morphine to shame.
The researchers, whose report was published in the journal Nature, were investigating the venom of approximately 50 species of snakes before coming upon the black mamba's painkilling compound, a peptide called mambalgin. Unlike morphine, which is addictive and contains side effects such as muscle twitching, migraines, brain fog, and vomiting, mambalgins contain few if any side effects due to the different routes by which they block sensations of pain.
"When it was tested in mice, the analgesia was as strong as morphine, but you don't have most of the side-effects," said Dr. Eric Lingueglia, co-author of the study. "It is the very first stage, of course, and it is difficult to tell if it will be a painkiller in humans or not."
Dr. Nicholas Casewell, a snake venom expert at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, admits that it is "really odd" that the black mamba venom contains pain-killing compounds. He suggested that mambalgins might work in conjunction with other toxins contained in the venom to "prevent the prey from getting away." It is also possible that the peptide affects different animals in different ways.
"It's very exciting, it's a really great example of drugs from venom, we're talking about an entirely new class of analgesics," he concluded.
Natural origins, unnatural results
Despite the questionable means by which the scientists discovered the effects of mambalgins (animal testing), their revelation is significant because it highlights, once again, the natural origins of many allopathic drugs.
Although Big Pharma would like us to believe otherwise, a lot of their best-selling drugs are derived from natural sources that are far cheaper and safer to utilize in their uncorrupted form. One of the main ingredients in the popular painkiller aspirin, for example, is salicylic acid, a compound derived from the salicin contained in white willow bark. Similarly, many throat lozenges are made from licorice, a natural painkiller. And of course there's morphine, which is made from a compound found in opium poppies. If Dr. Lingueglia's team finds that mambalgins work just as effectively on humans as they do on mice, it's possible that these peptides will find their way into up-and-coming painkillers as well, despite the harm this might do to ourselves (and, indeed, the black mamba population).
About the author: Michael Ravensthorpe is an independent writer whose research interests include nutrition, alternative medicine, and bushcraft. He is the creator of the website, Spiritfoods, through which he promotes the world's healthiest foods.