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Focusing on Nature for New Sources of Analgesic Compounds

July 01, 2019
Craig Hopp, Ph.D.
Craig Hopp, Ph.D.

Deputy Director, Division of Extramural Research
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

View Dr. Hopp’s biographical sketch

I’d like to tell you today about a couple of exciting NCCIH activities in the past few months with respect to our research interest in natural products. 

On February 6, we cosponsored a 1-day workshop at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on “Natural Products and Pain: The Search for Novel Nonopioid Analgesics” with the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. A video recording of this event is available at NIH Videocast

The workshop represented two of the Center’s top research priorities—natural products and pain—and brought together speakers and attendees from academia, industry, and NIH and other Government bodies. They shared successes and challenges in identifying new leads for promising compounds that could treat pain effectively, safely, and nonaddictively and/or serve as probes to study the biology of pain.

NCCIH has long had a substantial portfolio in natural products, both in potential interventions and in technologies and methodologies to advance the field. The backdrop to this workshop was the national opioid crisis, which is related to crises of pain and addiction. The Center co-leads or participates in several NIH initiatives in this area, including the Helping to End Addiction Long-termSM (HEAL) Initiative

At the workshop, I was impressed by the quality of science presented, the lively discussions, and the fascinating range of product sources—from plants, animals, and arachnids to marine sources to microbes such as bacteria. “Natural products” (and NCCIH) are not just about “herbs, leaves, and roots.” 

Several other themes I particularly noted were that:

  • This field needs more resources such as libraries, repositories, or databases of compounds, peptides, genomes, etc., to facilitate research and the development of new products.
  • Investigators called for more explicit, targeted support of early-phase discovery work.
  • The field needs more contact and collaboration across multiple disciplines, e.g., between natural product chemists and pain researchers.

As part of followup to the workshop, I presented a research concept, “Natural Products and Pain,” to the National Advisory Council for Complementary and Integrative Health at its June 7 meeting. In a multiphased approach, the concept would support development of a coordinated platform of activities, integrated at all levels into those of the HEAL Initiative, for translational research on natural products and pain. The concept was passed by Council and may pave the way for future funding opportunities.
As NCCIH continues its work to improve the understanding and management of pain through extramural and intramural projects, please continue to visit our website and our other information channels. You’ll find updates on, for example, funding opportunity announcements, research results, and NCCIH’s health information.  


Comments are now closed for this post.

OK, read blog but where is the meat on the bone meaning usuable information of practical use to a reader. Perhaps I missed the boat but feel like I just wasted limited valuable time.

As a Doctor of Acupuncture providing strictly pain management care for an FQHC this topic is very important to me and my patients. How can I get more involved and perhaps collaborate on research efforts?

It’s an excellent exploration of natural products for Pain management in particular and Neuroscience in general .

I suggest on some of the toxic drugs mentioned in the traditional medicine like Ayurveda. They have used as pain killer in differnt indigenous system of healing. The approach towards them would be a new one for finding new nonopioid analgesics. The toxic drugs with the purification procedure is in practice to make the drugs usable to the mankind. 

@Gretchen Seitz, Thank you for your interest. There have been a couple of recent funding opportunity announcements which have encouraged partnerships with FQHCs. Although we’re not involved with establishing research collaborations, you can search the following databases to locate nearby researchers who share your interest in acupuncture research and who may be interested in working together: PubMed database (at, which provides citations of published medical research; NIH RePORTER (at, which is an online database of federally funded research projects; and (at, which is a U.S. National Library of Medicine website designed to provide patients, their families, and the public with current information about clinical research studies. In addition, you may want to subscribe to our email newsletter (NCCIH Update) so that you can learn about meetings, research results, and research opportunities. Subscribe at We hope this information is helpful.

@Loui Elfrink, This blog updates researchers about a recent workshop and progress on a new funding opportunity. As a clinician, you may find our resources for health care providers to be useful ( For fact sheets, research results and more, you may want to take a look at our “Health Topics A-Z” ( This list includes complementary and integrative areas of practice as well as health conditions and modalities with links to more indepth information.

Natural products are an extremely valuable source of novel compounds with potential analgesic properties. More research needs to be conducted on natural products to discover new compounds, and hereafter, new mechanisms of actions will be elucidated. I love NIH blogs.

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This page last modified July 12, 2019