NOTTINGHAM, England – Osteoarthritis has a new enemy, and it arrives on the back of caterpillars.

Researchers at the University of Nottingham have identified a parasitic mushroom that lives on caterpillars as an effective new painkiller for those who suffer from osteoarthritis.

They say the new pain killer should be in clinical trials within the next six years.

The scientists are exploring cordycepin compound found in cordyceps mushrooms, which are used in Chinese traditional medicine.

They are looking into the impact of cordycepin on joint pain by feeding it in food pellets to rats and mice and then evaluating its impact on injuries and if it relieves pain in existing injuries.

This is a follow up experiment that is in response to a pilot study that showed the compound as an effective painkiller in rats.

Evidence suggests that cordycepin blocks inflammatory processes that cause pain in osteoarthritis, but does it in a different way than existing painkillers such as corticosteroids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory NSAID drugs such as ibuprofen.

Cordycepin is also being looked at as a possible treatment for cancer.

Dr. Althea Fleming, ND, at Vital Aging Clinic in Anacortes, Wash. said this fungus has been a longtime fix for many things.

“Cordyceps has long been a part of traditional herbal medicine in both eastern and western medicine” Fleming said. “We’ve used it in the treatment of fatigue, lung disorders, cardiovascular issues and immune dysfunction.

“Having another use that is documented in the research literature is exciting, especially as it could replace use of more harmful common treatments such as NSAIDs” she said.

While cordyceps and other medicinal mushrooms are safe, well tolerated therapeutics, Fleming adds a caution statement.

“It’s important to source your medicinal mushroom products carefully as mushrooms have the unique requirement of having been heat treated to access the polysaccharides that have the desired effect. Make sure your supplier is clear and upfront about their manufacturing process” she said.

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