Does the Human Body Produce Any Natural Painkillers?

French scientists believe that they have discovered a natural painkiller in human saliva that could be six times stronger than morphine. The substance, known as opiorphin, acts on the same pain-killing pathways as morphine and other opiates, but not much else is known about it, according to researcher Catherine Rougeot of the Pasteur Institute in Paris. The next step, she says, is to determine where in the body the substance is produced, what conditions trigger the release of the chemical, and how the discovery might lead to improved pain medications.

The body's own opioid response:

  • The discovery was made after researchers identified a powerful pain-inhibiting molecule in rats. In the study, opiorphin appeared to be equally effective against chemical-induced inflammation and acute physical pain.
  • “Opiorphin is natural, so it is quickly metabolized," Rougeot explained, adding that, if fully developed, it might become more effective than existing painkillers.
  • The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
More Info: The Washington Post

Discussion Comments


Professors George B Stefano and Richard Kream of the Neuroscience Institute at SUNY Westbury, have identified this substance. Agreeing with Prof Rougeot's original claim, that the stuff is equally as effective as morphine (not six times as effective as morphine), and identifying an enzymatic pathway by which the drug is produced in humans.

We produce it from two amino acids, Tyrosine and Tyramine. These substances are found in food. Foods rich in tyrosine and tyramine include cheddar and gorgonzola cheeses, pickled meats, beer, and ale.

What is the structure of this mystery substance?

It turns out that the reason the mystery substance is equally effective as morphine, is that the substance is actually morphine!

We humans apparently make morphine in our cells, where we use it to instruct the mitochondria in our cells to speed up or slow down the metabolism of food, to budget our supply of energy between meals. (Stefano, Kream, Arch Med Sci 2010; 6,5 pp. 658-662).

When we suffer an injury, instinct causes us to stop moving so that bleeding can stop. But at the same time, our nerves become overworked, because all the pain signals originating from the wound must be sifted through, to identify new problems such as the wound tearing open and bleeding more. Nerves have to burn more food to keep up with the post-injury workload, while the rest of the body has to move slower.

The therapeutic value of the opioid pain relievers is that they work alongside this natural process, by supplementing the body's natural morphine supply. Some alternative pain killers, notably cocaine, work in the opposite direction: The cocaine abuser who takes cocaine for the pain of a wound, can ignore all signs that the wounds are worsening, and bleed to death. And the mainstay of anesthesiologists, sodium pentathol, simply knocks the patient unconscious for several minutes, relieving pain, but also shutting down everything else in the nervous system.


Animals may have the same pain killer substance in their saliva, since they always leak a sore spot or wound.


Thank you! Wow!


Saliva massage acts faster to relieve pain than other oil massage.

This is a very successful experiment done by Integrated Congress of Women Entrepreneurs in India.

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