It is a shrub growing to 61 centimetres (24 in) tall, forming multi-stemmed cushion-shaped clumps up to 2 metres (6 ft 7 in) wide. The stems are erect, succulent, superficially like a cactus, four-angled, with short but sharp pairs of 6-millimetre (0.24 in) spines on the angles, spaced about 1-centimetre (0.39 in) apart up the stem.
Euphorbia resinifera contains a high concentration of the toxin resiniferatoxin which is being used as a starting point in the development of a novel class of analgesics. Recent research has shown that this toxin exhibits its effects by interacting with TRPV1, a known pain sensing cation channel that also responds to capsaicin, the primary vanilloid compound found in hot peppers.
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