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Sarapin vs Cortisone for Pain Relief
18 Replies
Fantod - February 20

Have you ever heard of Sarapin? Odds are you probably haven’t. However, if you have ever suffered for chronic back, neck, or joint pain the odds are overwhelming that you have probably heard of cortisone. So what do these two medicines have in common? They can both be used to treat chronic pain to reduce inflammation and they both provide pain relief. They are also both medicines that are recognized by the FDA and AMA, and both require prescriptions for treatments requiring injections. Lastly, they are both recognized as possible treatments for the following ailments: Sciatic Pain, Intercostal Neuralgia, Alcoholic Neuritis, Occipital Neuralgia, Brachial Plexus Neuralgia, Lumbar Neuralgia and many more, but that’s where the similarities end.

Sarapin is a biological medicine – which means it is derived from a naturally occurring organism (the Pitcher plant). It works by stopping pain signals in the nerves of the spine where they exit the spinal column. It does not affect any other nerve functions or motor functions and is not affected by heat or cold. Cortisone, on the other hand, is chemical medicine –which means it is made using a chemical process. More importantly, Sarapin has no known side effects.

Conversely, cortisone injection side effects include thinning of the skin, easy bruising, weight gain, puffiness of the face, elevation of blood pressure, cataract formation, thinning of the bones (osteoporosis), and a rare but serious damage to the bones of the large joints (avascular necrosis). While these side effects are not common, and there are many positive benefits of cortisone when used properly, chronic pain management professionals should only resort to the use of cortisone when other methods and less toxic medicines have proven ineffective.

So why haven’t you heard of Sarapin? The simple reason is that Sarapin lacks profitability and marketing. As a biological medicine that has been in use for over 70 years, Sarapin cannot be patented. As a result, it can be made and sold on the open market without the huge price mark-up that are afforded to patent protected medicines. (Patent protection is the same reason why branded drugs are so much more expensive that generic drugs that have the same chemical composition.) Not surprisingly, Sarapin has never had the financial sponsorship of a large pharmaceutical company to pitch it to doctors via the pharmaceutical company’s national network of drug representatives.

Understandably, it’s not your doctor’s fault that he or she may not be aware of Sarapin or how it can be used to address your pain. Many holistic doctors use Sarapin in place of Cortisone to treat conditions like trigger points, bursitis and lower back pain. I have had multiple injections using Sarapin to break a chronic pain cycle in my lower back. It worked and the effects lasted for over 6 months. I would highly recommend Sarapin.


Noca - February 23

Morphine is made from the opium poppy's that grow in fields. Since 1804... as natural as they come :)


January - February 23

Fantod, I had not heard of Sarapin until you mentioned it earlier. Were the injections painful? single or multiple? and did you have any side effects? Did you get injections into the joints or into the muscles? What "kind" of dr. administered? A pain dr?

Last year I read a Wall Street Journal article about a study on cortisone injections. I'm going from memory: It said that short term (6-10 wks?), there was pain relief; however after a year, there was an INCREASE in pain! They were doing more studies, and thought the increase in pain might be due to the fact that the needles damaged tendons in the joints.

Any time we get injections like that, there's the risk of infections being introduced into the joints too. When you get cortisone, that lowers your body's ability to fight off infections. I wonder if that might cause bursitis. Ow. They keep offering me cortisone, and I keep saying no thank you.

Noca, I second that remark! Opium's been used for a long, long time. Used to be physicians were compassionate, and good about treating pain… I have a friend who works in nursing homes and says some nurses don't give the morphine on schedule because of their crazy ideas about drug addiction... in dying patients.



Fantod - February 23

January - Two injections are given for Sarapin. One is lidocaine which is followed by Sarapin. You have to remain still for about 10 minutes following the injections. Bring an ice pack for the trip home. If you can find someone else to do the driving that would be better.

My rheumy uses Sarapin but he had sent me to see a physiatrist on another matter. The latter elected to use Sarapin to break a pain cycle in my lower back. There must be a holistic doctor in your area that uses it. My pain specialist does not use it although I have asked him to consider it as an option. Try Googling Sarapin and your metro area and see it anything pops up.

The shots were very painful. My lower back had been out of control in the pain department for about 6 months at that point. The injections went right into the muscles/trigger points. If I had to do it again, I would. The Sarapin worked really well. It broke the pain cycle and I was completely pain free in that area for over 6 months. I had no side effects. There are no known side effects with Sarapin. Sarapin does not cause tissue damage with repeated use unlike cortisone. If needed, you can have injections of Sarapin regularly.

I have also had one cortisone shot. The needle is a bigger bore and it was also extremely painful. I'd use Sarapin before I'd go back to cortisone for all of the reasons that you cited.

Osteoarthitis can increase your risk for bursitis. Sitting/kneeling for long periods of time and repetitive motion can also contribute to it. FMS patients are prone to tendonitis, carpal tunnel and bursitis.

I think that I have answered all of your concerns. I hope you can find someone in your area that uses Sarapin. Take care and feel better.


Fantod - February 23

Try googling "sarapin pain relief" and the name of your metro area.


January - February 24

Fantod, thank you so much. I hope I don't need it, but it gives me something to think about if this shoulder doesn't get better! And who knows what down the line. I appreciate your educating us about Sarapin! I know cortisone is very bad stuff, and that's what all the doctors offer you.
So I googled...

Just a note, in case anyone is considering Sarapin, there appears to be some question of liver damage, but nothing definitely proven. Here is the first case reported regarding Sarapin. I capitalized the sentence that applies if anyone is going to try these injections - monitor your transaminase levels!
The woman in this study was fine until she got several Sarapin injections. Her liver function returned to normal when she stopped. But anyone with established liver problems might want to be cautious, especially if taking drugs like Cymbalta that can also damage the liver.

American Journal of Gastroenterology #804 abstract concluded with this:

"This case illustrates the potential for liver toxicity with the use of Sarapin® and the difficulty for its identification as a single offending agent. The lack of any information in the literature regarding liver toxicity after the use of Sarapin® makes the confirmation of our diagnosis even harder. Our patient is the first case reported as Sarapin® induced hepatitis. MONITORING THE TRANSAMINASES ON A PATIENT GETTING SARAPIN® IS PRUDENT. Further observations and studies are necessary to clarify the relation between the human liver and the Pitcher Plant."

I guess what scares me is that the injections HURT! (and they always tell you they're not going to!) Thanks again for your help Fantod.


Fantod - February 24

If I had to chose between a cortisone injection and Sarapin - I'd chose the latter. The needle size on the cortisone is much bigger and it feels like maple syrup going in. As far as I am concerned, any shot really hurts with FMS. Take care.


January - February 25

Thanks for the info, Fantod. I am re-affirming I don't need injections! (I was so tough when I was a kid, the drs. used to remark on my bravery! No longer!)

I agree, the biologic Sarapin sounds much less damaging than the cortisone.

But for now, call me pineapple-head! : )


Karkel - June 28

Sarapin is considered prolotherapy and not coverd by insurance.


Fantod - June 30

I'd rather pay out of pocket for Sarapin than deal with the potential side effects of cortisone.
Take care.


Noca - July 14

Cortisone is a hormone found in the body and created by the body, is it not a man made chemical. The injections of cortisone are simply synthesizing the exact same chemical. I don't see how you are say "Sarapin is a biological medicine"? What does that mean? What do you think all living things are created from? *chemicals* aka biochemistry. So its misleading to those who are hell bent on hating anything with the stigma of "chemical" attached to it.


January - July 14

I was given lots of cortisone as a kid for allergies and asthma. I know very well the nasty side effects of this drug. Long term side effects. Yes, it is a natural hormone, but just like estrogen, you don't want to take too much, and sensitivity varies greatly among individuals. It can cause damage to many different systems in the body. This is from

"Side Effects by Body System - for Healthcare Professionals

Cardiovascular side effects including myocardial rupture following recent myocardial infarction, fluid retention, sodium retention, congestive heart failure, potassium loss, hypokalemic alkalosis, and hypertension have been reported with cortisone therapy.

Gastrointestinal side effects including peptic ulcer with potential perforation and hemorrhage, perforation of small and large bowel, pancreatitis, abdominal distention, nausea, increased appetite, and ulcerative esophagitis have been reported.

Musculoskeletal side effects including muscle weakness, steroid myopathy, loss of muscle mass, osteoporosis, vertebral compression fractures, aseptic necrosis of femoral and humoral heads, pathologic fracture of long bones, and tendon rupture have been reported.

Psychiatric side effects including euphoria, insomnia, mood swings, personality changes, severe depression, and psychotic manifestations have been reported.

Nervous system side effects including convulsions, increased intracranial pressure with papilledema, vertigo, myalgia, arthralgia, malaise, headache, and psychic disturbances have been reported.

Endocrine side effects including development of cushingoid state, suppression of growth in children, and secondary adrenocortical and pituitary unresponsiveness have been reported.

Ocular side effects including posterior subcapsular cataracts, increased intraocular pressure, glaucoma, and exophthalmos have been reported.

Thromboembolism has rarely been reported.

Increase/decrease in motility and number of spermatozoa in men and menstrual irregularities in women have been reported rarely."

When you go in for a cortisone shot, does a doctor sit down and discuss all this with you? Doubtful. Therefore, you are not really making an "informed consent." Read up on the forums about experiences with cortisone. I wish I had never been given this stuff, but I was a kid and had no say in it.

However, it works really well for some people to relieve pain, if used sparingly, not repeatedly! It also is really being "sold" right now. I think (?) doctors can bill for a surgery, not just an injection. And since cortisone lowers your immune system, you better make sure everything is REALLY sterile. Something that isn't a priority in many doctor's offices these days… just sayin!

And yes, all things are made from chemicals… but Mother Nature probably does it best in most cases. (Yes, labs gave us strong antibiotics derived from natural remedies like molds - but now we have super-bugs too.) The labs take simple remedies from nature, refine them and tweak the chemistry so they can get a PATENT and MAKE LOTS OF MONEY. For example, cannabis is illegal in most states, but I read the labs are working on tweaking the natural molecules to make drugs for various conditions. We COULD grow a plant for free. It's a valid, well proven medicine for many things. But no, that's illegal. Eventually we will have to pay plenty for something similar - and probably a lot more serious side effects than the natural substance.

The SSRI antidepressants were born from LSD - not completely natural, but a close cousin. If you read the research, LSD did NOT have the side effects the current SSRI and SNRI antidepressants have, nor did it have withdrawal symptoms like they do. LSD was used with very effective results in therapy - a small number of sessions required, and people got better. (Check the NIH research.) You did not have to take LSD every day. (Nor COULD you - it wouldn't work, so it had a built-in anti-addictive property.) The problem was it became an uncontrolled street drug and was abused. Just like many prescription drugs today.

The media was used to whip people into a frenzy against these natural remedies. Now they are altered a bit and sold as drugs. Just like the tobacco we buy in cigarettes is not the original natural tobacco of centuries ago; rather it is filled with addictive chemicals that cause cancer. Why? Why don't they sell the natural substance? ADDICTIVE SUBSTANCES make MONEY.

"Only after the last tree has been cut down, Only after the last river has been poisoned, Only after the last fish has been caught, Only then will you find money cannot be eaten."
~ Cree Prophecy


Phred - March 11

FYI - Serapin is covered under insurance, at least in the State of Kansas. You have to meet criteria, but if you are suffering from fibromyalgia, then I am sure that the criteria is met. I am a nurse practitioner and am doing it.


fiona985 - April 10

I just had my first injections of Sarapin, and because of the lidocaine my back felt numb for about 20 min, and it felt very warm for about 10 min. The injections did not hurt at all, I hardly even felt the needle prick. I can only say that I felt immediate relief. Of course, I don't know how I will feel tomorrow, it is a new experience for me, but I have been in pain for so long that I am keeping my fingers crossed. I have had cortisone injections with varying rates of success and don't really want to do that anymore because of the cumulative side effects. Good luck to everyone who tries this treatment, it is worth checking it out.


January - April 20

Fiona - thanks for posting about your experience. Please let us know how this works for you! I'd be interested to know, did you have the injections into the joints in your spine? Did you have pain in the following days? I have a lot of lower back pain due to degenerative disk disease - but refuse cortisone.

Sure hope this works for you, and good to know you did not suffer from the injections. Hope you're getting some relief by now.


fiona985 - April 20

Since my first post I have had two more injections. The first and second were into the muscles in the lower back on each side of the spine. They helped somewhat, but overall did not make a huge difference. The third one was into the sacro-iliac joints and immediately gave me such relief, I was amazed. It has been two days and the particular pain we were addressing is still gone. I felt no pain during and after the injections, and so far there is nothing that I would identify as a side effect. Even if it does not last forever, just getting some relief is so wonderful, and it is cheaper than going to my pain MD and getting cortisone injections.


Jocelyn - April 21

This sounds like another option to keep on my back burner. It is great that people post things that are working or not working for them. It helps one decide what might be good to work at when things take a turn as they always do with Fibro.



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