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Originally published October 4 2013

Scientists shocked to find common shrub naturally producing therapeutic doses of painkiller opioids

by Ethan A. Huff, staff writer

(NaturalNews) Deep in the heart of Africa grows a daintily elegant shrub that, beneath its surface, contains a powerful substance long used as a medicine in pain management. And researchers from France were shocked to learn recently that this shrub, known as Nauclea latifolia, actually contains therapeutic levels of said substance, marking the first time ever that a plant containing clinically viable concentrations of a specific therapeutic medicinal compound has been identified.

It is being likened to tramadol, the synthetic opioid drug that first hit the market back in 1977, except that it is not synthetic and occurs naturally in the bark of Nauclea latifolia, also known as the "African peach" or "pin cushion tree." According to Chemistry World, concentrations of this unique analgesic compound are so high in the pin cushion tree that people can actually grow and harvest it themselves without having to get a prescription.

This is what native Africans living in the central and western regions of the continent have been doing for generations, it turns out, and modern science is only just now catching up to the reality of this amazing plant. In fact, native people groups throughout Africa have long used the pin cushion tree to treat not only pain but also chronic conditions such as epilepsy, malaria and various infectious diseases.

Just how effective this shrub really is in pain management piqued the interest of neuroscientist Michel De Waard and his colleagues at the Universite Joseph Fourier in France, who recently published the findings of a study they conducted on it in the international journal Angewandte Chemie. After obtaining a fractionated methanolic extract of the plant using high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and testing its effects on mice, the team confirmed that the pin cushion tree is a pain-killing powerhouse.

"Our results indicate that high amounts of the analgesic drug, tramadol, can be obtained through a simple extraction procedure from Nauclea latifolia found in Cameroon or sub-Saharan areas," says De Waard, adding that multiple analyses conducted by his team confirmed the compound to be tramadol.

Nature once again trumps corporate medicine by producing free medicine

Both the simplicity with which it can be extracted and the concentrations at which it is present in the shrub make natural tramadol an enticing alternative to the synthetic drug variety. According to De Waard, the roots of the pin cushion tree contain some of the densest concentrations of tramadol, measuring over one percent of the original dry content.

"The work described has been performed in a rigorous manner, and the highly experienced investigative team has taken great pains to show that tramadol is actually a natural product produced by its plant of origin, Nauclea latiolia," adds Douglas Kinghorn, a medicinal chemist from Ohio State University who was not involved in the study. "This report ... shows that the subject of ethnopharmacology still has much to offer biomedical research in terms of drug discovery."

You can view the study's abstract here:

You can also learn more about tramadol and how it is used medicinally here:

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