A plant so spicy it can destroy nerves, giving pain relief

The Moroccan Euphorbia resinifera plant produces a resin so spicy that it attains a whopping 16,000,000,000 on the Scoville scale, 10,000x hotter than a Carolina reaper chili.

The active ingredient in this resin is resiniferatoxin, AKA RTX, which has proven incredible promising in early animal trials for treating chronic pain. Dogs with joint pain are anesthetized and injected with RTX, which destroys their nerve endings and makes them incapable of sensing pain until the nerves regenerate, about 5 months later.

The NIH is experimenting with using RTX to relieve pain in people with bone cancer, under FDA guidance allowing for RTX experimentation on terminally ill people who don't have to fear secondary harms from losing their ability to sense pain, heat, etc.

I suffer from largely untreatable chronic pain and I absolutely dote on capcasin-based muscle rubs (Tiger Balm, etc), but I find that I quickly become inured to their effects and have to constantly up my dose. More than once, I've given myself serious chemical burns from too much hot muscle rub. RTX sounds weirdly tempting to me.

RTX's promise lies in its specificity. Think of it like a sniper rifle for pain, whereas opioids are more like hand grenades. Opioids target receptors all over the body, not a specific kind of sensory neuron. "That's why when you give it to somebody, you get problems with constipation, sedation, they can have respiratory depression," says Mannes.

That and you have to take opioids constantly, but not so with RTX. "You give it once and it should last for an extended period of time because it is destroying the fibers," says Mannes. "But the other thing with this to remember is there's no reinforcement. There's no high associated with it, there's no addiction potential whatsoever."

This Chemical Is So Hot It Destroys Nerve Endings—in a Good Way [Matt Simon/Wired]