Noted Herbalist Discusses the Active Mechanisms of Swiss Medica’s (OTC BB: SWME) O24™ According to Mike Vertolli, who is recognized as one of Canada’s foremost herbalists, “Although it is still in its infancy, research of herbal products and essential oils has increased significantly in the last ten years.”
Vertolli was a member of Health Canada’s advisory panel on natural health products (Canada’s equivalent of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration). He believes there are constituents within the O24™ Essential Oil pain relief product, which may act as powerful anti-inflammatory agents. Vertolli explained that the constituents within the O24™ pain relief product have undergone rigorous clinical testing. This could help explain why O24™ has become widely accepted in a short period of time.
Take for example carnosol, which is a naturally occurring phytopolyphenol found in rosemary. In a study published in the June 2002 issue of Carcinogenesis, biochemists researching anticarcinogenic properties at the College of Medicine’s Institute of Biochemistry at National Taiwan University found that carnosol may suppress nitric oxide production. That may help explain the anti-inflammatory action of the rosemary essential oil component in O24™. Nitric oxide, which is released during inflammation, is a free radical that can damage DNA. Because cancer is often associated with states of chronic inflammation, O24™ may be a potential alternative to anti-inflammatory medicines prescribed to cancer patients. Historically, rosemary was used as an antispasmodic, but recent research confirms its medicinal properties may be broader.
According to the American Chemical Society, which recently named the 1,8-cineole its “Molecule of the Week,” there may be a scientific reason why the O24™ Essential Oil Pain Neutralizer product has out-performed other topical products in comparative testing. The cineole molecule is a major constituent of white camphor, eucalyptus and rosemary essential oils. It is also a minor component of peppermint essential oil. Cineole produces analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects by inhibiting prostraglandin, thromboxane and leukotriene synthesis. Prostaglandin synthesis is one of the culprits which causes chronic pain to last for weeks, months or years.
An entire class of anti-inflammatory drugs has come into this culture in an effort to numb chronic pain by inhibiting the synthesis of prostaglandin. Over the past few months, it has come to the general public’s attention that this method of remedying chronic pain can be deadly, i.e. the solution is worse than the problem. “Most people look upon inflammation as if it is something bad,” said Vertolli. “Like every physiological response, it has a purpose. Inflammation is an integral part of the healing process. If we apply a product that simply interferes with inflammation, it is going to interfere with healing as well. With O24™ that is not an issue because of the rubefacient (local vasodilator) effects, which increase blood flow to the region (thereby providing greater access to oxygen and nutrients and facilitating the removal of waste products and toxins) and because there are constituents in these herbs that actually stimulate tissue healing.
What Vertolli may be suggesting is that a functional solution for most people suffering from pain may have been right under their noses throughout the twentieth century to this present day: essential oils. What are essential oils? They are not the same as perfume or fragrance oils, some of which are artificially created or contain artificial substances. Essential oils contain the true essence of the plant from which the oil is derived. Often, an essential oil does not have an oily feeling because it is a liquid generally distilled from a plant’s leaves, stems, flowers, bark or roots. Essential oils are highly concentrated and a little goes a long way.
Mr. Vertolli cited key components within O24™’s US-patented proprietary blend of essential oils may be the reasons why this topical pain reliever has been quickly and widely accepted. In the case of the 1,8-cineole, also known as eucalyptol, recent clinical research has demonstrated the molecule’s efficacy in reducing inflammation and pain, and in promoting leukemia cell death. In southeastern Asia, cineole-rich oil is a well-known remedy for the discomfort of bruises, sprains, and pulled muscles. Many use cineole-rich oil to stimulate blood circulation near the point of application. Four components of the US-patented O24™ pain relief product contain cineole: white camphor, eucalyptus, rosemary and peppermint. “Cineole is only one of many constituents of O24™ that have scientifically documented anti-inflammatory action,” said Vertolli, “The action of this product is a result of the synergistic interaction of hundreds of chemical constituents. Cineole may be an important one, but it is inaccurate to suggest that it is the only constituent that is important.”
Other important constituents include camphor (white camphor, eucalyptus, rosemary), pinene (eucalyptus, rosemary, white camphor), menthol (peppermint, white camphor), limonene (lemon, sweet orange, eucalyptus, rosemary, peppermint), menthone (peppermint), carnosol (rosemary), linalool (sweet orange, rosemary, lemon), geraniol (sweet orange, lemon), anthraquinone glycosides (aloe), and dozens of others.
Not a Placebo
Components within the essential oils have long been recognized to alleviate pain. Some people might wonder whether the benefits of O24™ are psychologically induced. That’s what skeptics call the ‘placebo effect.’ In other words, O24™’s fast-acting and long-lasting efficacy tends to leave some consumers with the thought: “Was it O24™ or did it make me feel better because I believed it would work?” That’s called the placebo effect.
Scientifically, there are molecular reasons why components within O24™’s essential oils quickly bring about pain relief and then extend the relief for longer than one might expect from a topical analgesic. Most topicals contain either capsaicin, often derived from chili peppers, or salicyclates. The former create a numbing effect and has historically used as an animal deterrent – added to bird seed to prevent squirrels from eating it. A new form is being proposed as a paint additive for boats to repel barnacles. There are also formulations for keeping dogs, cats and raccoons out of garbage areas. Dozens of arthritic creams incorporate capsaicin for relief from arthritic pains. Unfortunately, it may just provide those suffering from pain a distraction as opposed to effectively reducing inflammation.
Salicyclates, on the other hand, inhibit prostaglandin and thromboxane release. As with all non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, they bring about an analgesic impact on the body when topically applied. They work in the same way as aspirin does and attempt to provide a similar relief from pain, but on a topical level.
Both tend to give all topical pain relievers a bad name. With the addition of mineral oils, creams, paraffin or other additives (water, alcohol, glycerin or another binding agent), its pain-relieving properties can be diluted. This tends to explain why the scientific community denigrates topicals as an effective solution to pain. Medical doctors shy away from the general body of topical analgesics because relief is fleeting, or lead their patients to believe it is a “placebo effect.”
Yet various forms of vapor rubs, to relieve the pains of congested chests and sinuses, have sold throughout the world for decades. Such brand names, or their generics, have been doctor recommended for as long a time. Many have active ingredients that include camphor, eucalyptus oil and menthol and carry the phrase, topical analgesic, on their labels.
How do these differ from the O24™ brand? Because many topical pain relievers contain some synthetic binding agent, its additives interfere with the deep penetrating and healing actions reportedly found in the essential oils. O24™ is different because its patented process does not require binding agents such as alcohol or other ingredients. Because O24™ is in a purer form than other topical relievers, many users have reported that the O24™ brand works faster to relieve their pains and provides a longer-lasting relief from their aches and pains.
The dramatic impact O24™ has had on those suffering from acute or chronic pain can be quite puzzling. Some have announced, “It’s a miracle!” Many are bewildered as to why O24™ can effectively and consistently produce relief from pain, and it is often easier to question the pain relief. Understanding the mechanism of why O24™ works may help dismiss the inherent, and expected, skepticism many have (until they actually try it for themselves).
Inhibiting Prostaglandin and Thromboxane Synthesis
There are specific components within the essential oils, which parallel the actions of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories. This requires a brief overview of how aspirin, aspirin-like drugs (such as the class of COX-1 inhibitors: ibuprofen, naproxen) and the COX-2 inhibitors (generically the coxibs sold as brand names: Vioxx®, Celebrex® and Bextra®) impact the body.
Those with arthritis or rheumatism may be familiar with prostaglandins. These are pain mediators in the human body, and are found in nearly all tissues and organs. Prostaglandins are hormone-like substances, a group of lipid compounds derived from fatty acids. They are produced from a precursor molecule called arachidonic acid by cyclooxygenases (COX-1 and COX-2). The arachidonic acid pathway is one of the main pain- and inflammation-producing mechanisms. Not only are the prostaglandins produced, but so are thromboxane and the leukotrienes (which cause asthma symptoms). While prostaglandins participate in the contraction and relaxation of smooth muscles, the dilation and contraction of blood vessels, the control of blood pressure and the modulation of inflammation, thromboxane (A2) is involved in the constriction of vascular and respiratory smooth muscles.
Discovered in 1971 that aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatories could inhibit the enzyme cyclooxygenase, biochemist Sir John Vane and his colleagues won the 1982 Nobel Prize in Medicine. Their research demonstrated that the potency of the anti-inflammatory medicines were proportional to how well they performed as COX-1 inhibitors. But, they also discovered that cyclooxygenase inhibition led to toxic side effects: non-steroidal anti-inflammatories cause erosive gastritis and renal toxicity.
“Wonder drugs,” such as celecoxib and rofecoxib, were designed to prevent gastric bleeding (gastric bleeding reportedly causes more than 16,000 deaths annually and has been called a “silent epidemic”). The COX-2 inhibitors are said to interfere with the prostaglandin production process. This restraining action is what made COX-2 inhibitors popular. By hindering prostaglandin synthesis, someone in chronic pain was able to alleviate his or her suffering. Unfortunately, because of the recent controversy surrounding the COX-2 class, such as Vioxx®, Celebrex® and Bextra®, many arthritis sufferers have returned to the COX-1 inhibitors (gastric bleeding that reportedly results in more than 100,000 hospitalizations annually). Common COX-1 inhibitors are probably found in your medicine cabinet: ibuprofen, naproxen and aspirin.
In Vertolli’s research into why O24™ works, he found evidence suggesting that constituents within several of the essential oils inhibit prostaglandin synthesis. He wrote, “Anthraquinones, the primary active constituents in oil-based extracts of whole aloe leaf, reduce inflammation by dilating local blood vessels via inhibition of thromboxane and prostaglandin synthesis.” He also noted menthol, which is found in numerous topical pain relievers, and is a major component of peppermint essential oil. Vertolli wrote, “Menthol produces analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects by inhibition of prostaglandin, thromboxane and leukotriene synthesis. It also increases local circulation by dilating the blood cells.”
Vertolli is very enthusiastic about the rosemary essential oil in O24™. Rarely is it found in a pain relief product, which is odd because of clinical research on the anti-inflammatory action of a main constituent, carnosol, discussed earlier in this article. He explained, “Rosemary reduces inflammation by protecting blood vessels, blood cells, and blood fats from oxidative stress. It also reduces inflammation and pain by inhibition of complement proteins. Rosemary essential oil improves local circulation by dilating the blood vessels (relaxing the smooth muscles that line the blood vessels) and reduces tissue swelling by reducing capillary leakage.” Blood leakage physically manifests itself as a bruise on the skin. Dr. Allan N. Fields, Swiss Medica’s medical spokesman, has recommended O24™ for bruises, as a mean to reduce swelling and to accelerate the recovery period.
Finally, Vertolli returns to cineole, which he calls a “fairly strong constituent” and is found in white camphor, eucalyptus, rosemary and peppermint. Vertolli also writes, “I specifically focused on the analgesic, anti-inflammatory, relaxant and antispasmodic properties because that is what the product is being used for. I am confident you would find that O24™ might reduce congestion in the nasal passages and lungs if applied to the chest. It might even help relieve tension headaches if massaged on the temples, although it is premature to recommend the use of O24™ for headaches.”