Rainforest remedy to cure toothache: Amazonian plant is turned into painkilling gel
The plant has no known side effects and might even replace uncomfortable anaesthetic injections
00:58 GMT, 14 March 2012
The agony of toothache can leave you willing to go to the ends of the earth in search of a cure.
But you may need to look no further than the depths of the rainforest.
A rare red and yellow plant from the Amazon could offer more effective pain relief than existing drugs and treatments, scientists have claimed.
Achmella oleracea: Could this Amazonian plant, left, be the end to toothache On the right is the home of the tribe in Peru that uses it for pain relief
The ancient herbal remedy is so potent
that it might even replace uncomfortable anaesthetic injections for
certain procedures – and provide a natural remedy for teething babies.
Cambridge University anthropologist Dr
Francoise Barbira Freedman came across the budded plant more than 30
years ago when living with a secretive Peruvian tribe known for
During her trip she suffered severe
pain in her wisdom teeth. She was given the remedy by the tribe’s
medicine men and the discomfort ‘went away immediately’.
The plant used by the tribal medicine men is set to revolutionise worldwide dental treatment
Years later, she was asked to provide
Cambridge with some examples of rainforest remedies, and added the
Acmella oleracea plant to the list.
Describing the inclusion as an
‘afterthought’, she said: ‘It was added to the bottom of the list, but
somehow the list got reversed, and it was the first one tested back in
the UK. It was immediately successful and we’ve never looked back.’
Using extracts from the plant, the
researchers have developed a gel which blocks the pain receptors found
in nerve endings – and could be on the market in only two years’ time.
In early trials, it helped relieve pain during removal of teeth that were impacted, or stuck below the gum line.
The gel was also considered more
efficient than the standard anaesthetic used when patients with gum
disease need pain relief for scaling and polishing. The effects lasted
longer, and patients were more likely to attend follow-up appointments.
In informal tests carried out by a
Peruvian dentist, the plant extract also helped treat mouth ulcers and
ease pain caused by dentures, braces, gum disease and having teeth
removed. And to top it off, there are no known side-effects.
Dr Freedman, who plans to share any
profits from the sale of the gel with the Keshwa Lamas community in
Peru, said: ‘This treatment for toothache means we could be looking at
the end of some injections in the dentist’s surgery.
‘We’ve had really clear results from
tests so far, particularly for procedures such as scaling and polishing,
and there are many other potential applications.’
These range from soothing the pain of teething in babies to relieving irritable bowel syndrome.
The researcher, who is about to make
another visit to the rainforest community, went on: ‘We think people
prefer to use natural products and this is particularly the case for
baby teething, for which, to my knowledge, there is no clinically tested
Researchers at Ampika, the company
founded by Dr Freedman to commercialise the gel, plan to publish the
trial results in an international dental journal and conduct further
tests in several countries.
They also want to refine the formula to develop a higher strength and longer-lasting product.