New Pain Relief From an Ancient Source

New Pain Relief From an Ancient Source

Headlines of Americans who abuse prescription pain medications are in the news every day; for instance, the National Survey on Drug Abuse and Health estimated that more than 2.4 million Americans abused pain medications in 2010.

With more than 116 million also in the grips of chronic pain, those who become drug abusers are often the same people whom  those medications were legitimately prescribed. And so often, in the hopes of eliminating that pain and getting back to their normal lifestyles, many people also unwittingly become drug addicts. One reason is because the body naturally builds up a tolerance to pain medications over time, often-leaving chronic pain sufferers with little choice other than increasing their dosage. Those increases can be extremely dangerous, especially when dealing with natural or synthetic opiates or opiate derivatives.

But what if a completely non-addictive pain reliever was available in the form of a natural herb?

Now scientists believe the answer to chronic pain sufferers may be found in Corydalis yanhusuo, a Chinese herb that has been used in the East since ancient times to treat everything from menstrual cramps to chest pain. And while health insiders may have had an awareness of the popular and commercially produced herb, there is now certain scientific evidence regarding both its safety and efficacy. Better still, compounds extracted from corydalis are proving useful for fighting chronic inflammatory and nerve pain, the precise types of neuropathic agony (burning, coldness, “pins and needles” numbness and

itching) that sends so many to the physician in the first place.

What Is Neuropathy?

Neuropathy, or long-term nerve damage, is often the result of years of chronic disease, such as a side effect of Type II diabetes, autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis and others, as well as a lingering result of a stroke or infection. Moreover, chronic nerve pain is among the most difficult types of pain to treat with a low success rate of elimination of between 40 to 60 percent. And unlike the much more dangerous opioid class of narcotic pain relievers, the body does not build up a tolerance against corydalis, meaning that you can take the herb for years without experiencing any addictive side effects, such as withdrawals.

Promising Scientific Results

New study results about the usefulness of corydalis as a pain reliever were touted in a January 2014 article in the scientific journal, Current Biology. In that study, several scientist researchers from the University of California at Irvine worked in tandem with Chinese scientists to extract and isolate a compound in corydalis called dehydrocorybulbine, or DHCB. In subsequent tests on laboratory mice, administration of DHCB extract reduced both pain caused by long-term nerve damage (and chronic disease) as well as acute nerve pain caused by an immediate injury. It was the first study of its kind that identified, extracted, and tested the root extract.

“Today the pharmaceutical industry struggles to find new drugs. Yet for centuries people have used herbal remedies to address a myriad of health conditions, including pain. “Our objective was to identify compounds in these herbal remedies that may help us discover new ways to treat health problems,” explained Olivier Civelli, UC Irvine scientist and lead author of the 2014 study. 1

According to results from the same study published in the scientific journal, Cell, the DHCB compound is effective because it “displays dopamine receptor antagonist activities”2, which is a very scientific way of saying that it eliminates pain sensations by blocking the brain’s ability to feel the pain signals produced by certain receptors. Researchers are finding that DHCB produces results similar to natural opiates, such as morphine, but that it binds to different receptors, ultimately making it a safer choice for those seeking day-to-day management for chronic pain.

Like the natural opiate-derived flowing poppy, corydalis is a flowering plant that grows in northern Russia, northern China and also in Japan. Its pain-relieving compound DHCB is produced and available commercially, though some people prefer drinking the same compound mixed with boiling water as a hot cup of tea. Either way, corydalis may be a natural pain-relieving substitute for millions of Westerners who seek an alternative to a lifetime of managing narcotics for chronic pain.

Image courtesy of SOMMAI /