According to a new study, an extract from the bark of the fig tree (Ficus platyphylla) found in tropical areas of Africa could be the key to alleviating pain and reducing inflammation without the use of addictive drugs with dangerous side effects.
Researchers from Nigeria and Germany evaluated the ficus extract’s ability to improve pain threshold by putting laboratory mice through a series of unpleasant tests including placing them on a hot plate and zapping their tails with an electrical charge.
They discovered that when given the extract, the poor little guys were able to withstand pain much longer than without it.
The researchers also conducted in vitro studies to figure out how this tree extract actually works on pain, and the results are fascinating.
They found that it can bind to opioid receptors in the brain – in fact, the same ones that morphine and endorphins work on to inhibit pain signals.
On top of that, it also inhibited an enzyme called COX-2, which is responsible for both pain and inflammation. This is exactly the same mechanism by which prescription-strength non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like celecoxib (brand name Celebrex) and rofecoxib (brand name Vioxx) alleviate pain.
Only difference? Those NSAIDs have carried enough risks to warrant black box warnings from the FDA. Vioxx was even taken off the market in 2004.
The Nigerians have been using extract from the ficus tree bark for centuries to treat pain, inflammation, depression, psychoses, and even epilepsy. It’s also been used to treat malaria and even relieve stomach aches.
Now, there are about 800 species of Ficus trees found all over the world, but this study was only conducted on one particular species found in Africa. So if you’ve got some figs growing in your backyard, it probably won’t help to start harvesting its bark (though feel free to enjoy its delicious fruit, which is high in fiber and vitamins).
In fact, these findings are so new that FP extract isn’t yet available in supplement form… but I’ll be sure to keep you updated as new research confirms what we already know.
In the meantime, this isn’t the only tree with tremendous benefits to your health, including pain management. In fact, aspirin is a synthesized version of the active component of the bark of white willow, but you’re better off avoiding the risk of stomach bleeds and sticking to the natural supplement version.
Pine bark extract is also a powerful antioxidant that has also been shown to alleviate muscle soreness, menstrual pain, and a variety of circulatory issues. It’s also available in supplement form, sometimes labelled as “Pycnogenol.”Wishing you the best of health,
Dr. Glenn S. Rothfeld
Nutrition & Healing
Analgesic potential of standardized methanol stem bark extract of Ficus platyphylla in mice: Mechanisms of action, sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378874116301088