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Page last updated at 08:05 GMT, Thursday, 15 March 2012

Herbal dental remedy a 'potent anaesthetic'


A herbal remedy for toothache, used for centuries by a remote Incan tribe in the Amazon is being turned into a commercial treatment for dental pain.

Francoise Barbira-Freedman, a medical anthropologist at Cambridge University, described how she discovered the remedy, which is derived from the rare Acmella oleracea plant, while visiting the tribe in the rainforest.

She told the Today programme's Justin Webb that while she was collecting data in the area, she began to have "excruciating pain" with her wisdom teeth and without access to a dentist.

The local people gave her this "very effective" plant.

She went on to say that despite being very grateful for the treatment she forgot about it until 20 years later and then got permission to bring the plant here.

Dr Barbira-Freedman described how they have created a very effective gel which can be used as a "potent anaesthetic" saving people from having to get injections like those used in periodontal treatment.

When asked about how the tribe will benefit from the product, she said that there is a very careful model of redistribution for the local people which will invest the royalties into education and conservation.

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