In what can only be described as a major medical discovery, saliva contains a painkiller that is stronger than morphine, six times stronger, in fact. But what exactly makes a discovery like this so amazing, and if this happens to be the case, why are we able to feel pain at all? I mean, most people swallow their own saliva, shouldn’t that act as a painkiller on its own?
Morphine is regarded as one of the strongest painkillers that can be used, but it has its problems. Aside from being potentially deadly, it’s also highly addictive. It’s use is generally restricted to those in severe debilitating pain. The painkiller in saliva that is stronger than morphine, on the other hand, is not addictive at all, and as far as anyone knows, is harmless.
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Human saliva contains a substance called opiorphin which is a natural painkiller. Opiorphin works its magic in the nerve cells of the spine. Under normal circumstances, chemicals called enkephalins get destroyed. Enkephalins are found in the bodies central nervous system and regulate the bodies response to pain. If they are destroyed, they can not do their job. Opiorphin top this destruction, thus acting as a painkiller.
Scientists made this discovery when they isolated the chemical opiorphin from human saliva and injected it into rats. They then induced pain in the rats and measured the effectiveness of opiorphin as a painkiller compared to morphine. They discovered that the rats, which had to stand on needle points mind you, could handle six times more pain than when morphine was used.
The team of researchers are hoping to be able to synthesize opiorphin from saliva to be used as a possible replacement painkiller to morphine. They are hopeful that because it is a relatively simple molecule that they will be able to make it without the need of saliva at all. Failing this outcome, they hope to find a way to allow the body to create this wonder chemical when needed.