Chinese Herbal Compound Found to Relieve Pain

Karen Lee Richards Health Guide
  • A new study reported in the January 20 issue of Current Biology found that a compound derived from a traditional Chinese herbal medicine is effective at alleviating inflammatory and neuropathic pain. In addition, it is not addictive and does not generate the tolerance generally seen with the use of opioids for pain.


    Working with Chinese scientists, Olivier Civelli and his UC Irvine colleagues isolated a compound called dehydrocorybulbine (DHCB) from the roots of the Corydalis yanhusuo plant. In tests on rodents, DHCB proved to diminish both inflammatory pain, which is associated with tissue damage and the infiltration of immune cells, and injury-induced neuropathic pain, which is caused by damage to the nervous system. This is especially important because there are no current adequate treatments for neuropathic pain.

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    “Today the pharmaceutical industry struggles to find new drugs. Yet for centuries people have used herbal remedies to address myriad 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,” said Civelli, the Eric L. & Lila D. Nelson Chair in Neuropharmacology. “We’re excited that this one shows promise as an effective pharmaceutical. It also shows a different way to understand the pain mechanism.”


    Corydalis is a flowering herbal plant that grows in Siberia, Northern China and Japan. People utilize its root extract to alleviate menstrual cramps, chest pain and abdominal pain. It’s been previously studied for its analgesic properties, but this is the first time DHCB has been identified, extracted and tested.


    According to the scientists, DHCB needs to be evaluated for any toxicity before it can be developed as a drug. They also think it's possible that if the compound is chemically modified, a more potent pharmaceutical may be found.


    While DHCB is not currently available, it is part of the Corydalis yanhusuo root or extracts which can be purchased in health stores or online.


    The full text of this study can be read or downloaded at Current Biology.



    Yan Zhang, et al. “A novel analgesic isolated from a traditional Chinese medicine.” Current Biology. Volume 24, Issue 2, 117-123, 02 January 2014.

    Chinese herbal compound relieves inflammatory and neuropathic pain.” UCIrvine News. January 2, 2014.


Published On: January 28, 2014