Gelsemium analgesia and the spinal glycine receptor/allopregnanolone pathway.Fitoterapia. 2015 Jan; 100:35-43.F
Gelsemium, a small genus of flowering plant from the family Loganiaceae, comprises five species including the popular Gelsemium sempervirens Ait. and Gelsemium elegans Benth., which are indigenous to North America and China/East Asia, respectively. Approximately 120 alkaloids have been isolated and identified from Gelsemium, with the predominant indole alkaloids including gelsemine, koumine, gelsemicine, gelsenicine, gelsedine, sempervirine, koumidine, koumicine and humantenine. Gelsemine is the principal active alkaloid in G. sempervirens Ait., and koumine and gelsemine are the most and second-most dominant alkaloids in G. elegans Benth. Gelsemium extract and its active alkaloids serve a variety of biological functions, including neurobiological, immunosuppressive and antitumor effects, and have traditionally been used to treat pain, neuralgia, anxiety, insomnia, asthma, respiratory ailments and cancers. This review focuses on animal-based studies of Gelsemium as a pain treatment and its mechanism of action. In contrast to morphine, when administered intrathecally and systemically, koumine, gelsemine and gelsenicine have marked antinociception in inflammatory, neuropathic and bone cancer pains without inducing antinociceptive tolerance. Gelsemium and its active alkaloids may produce antinociception by activating the spinal α3 glycine/allopregnanolone pathway. The results of this review support the clinical use of Gelsemium and suggest that its active alkaloids may be developed to treat intractable and other types of pain, preferably after chemical modification. However, Gelsemium is a known toxic plant, and its toxicity limits its appropriate dosage and clinical use. To avoid or decrease the side/toxic effects of Gelsemium, an individual monomer of highly potent alkaloids must be selected, or alkaloids that exhibit greater α3 glycine receptor selectivity may be discovered or modified.