Yan Hu Suo: Answer to Low-Level Chronic Pain?

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has been using Yan Hu Suo, the Corydalis plant, to treat headaches and back pain for centuries.  This plant is a member of the poppy family and its stems and roots were, historically, ground and then boiled in vinegar to produce a kind of strong medicine.

While PlumDragonHerbs has been using this herb in its Dit Da Jows for many years to help people manage both acute and chronic pain (and many of our customers are no doubt familiar with its pain-relieving properties),  Yan Hu Suo has not gained much popularity in the west.

Last week, however, a new study came out in  Current Biology that has identified a chemical compound in Yan Hu Suo that effectively relieved three different types of pain in mice.

"This medicine goes back thousands of years, and it is still around because it works," Olivier Civelli, study author and pharmacologist at the University of California, told the Los Angeles Times. "The question is, what makes it work? There are many compounds inside this plant."

After examining over 80 specific chemicals in the Corydalis plant, researchers discovered that the chemical dehydrocorybulbine (DHCB) was responsible for alleviating pain.

This research revealed that DHCB relieves:

  1. Temporary acute pain comparable to a broken ankle or a burn in humans.
  2. Inflammatory pain such as swollen joints.
  3. Chronic pain from nerve damage.

DHCB also reduced pain without building up resistance to the chemical, which means it may one day be used to manage low-level chronic pain in humans.
"We have good pain medications for acute pain such as codeine or morphine, and inflammatory pain such as aspirin or acetaminophen," Civelli tells the International Business Times. "We do not have good medications for chronic pain. DHCB may not be able to relieve strong chronic pain, but may be used for low-level chronic pain."

DHCB works like morphine by binding to receptors that produce dopamine, a chemical associated with pleasure.

Civelli's current objective is to discover, if possible, is to find "the most powerful … compounds" within the plant that may provide treatment for specific diseases or disorders.


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