To Your Health
June, 2014 (Vol. 08, Issue 06)
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Natural Pain Control: The Power of Corydalis

By Dr. Mark Reps

Many chronic pain patients are prescribed pain-control medications such as codeine, morphine and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Unfortunately, there are often significant side effects from these medications, and of course, they do little or nothing to actually solve the problem causing the pain.

Doctors of chiropractic have long had the mission to save patients from the pernicious effects of drugs and surgery. As chiropractic's founder, D.D. Palmer said, "Chiropractic first, drugs second and surgery last."

Our patients are trained by advertising that there is something they can take for their chronic pain. But an antagonist drug is not the answer due to the many side effects previously mentioned. However, herbs and herbal combinations augment the normal physiological functions of the body, instead of working against it. One of these herbs is Corydalis (Chinese name: Yan Hu Suo).

Corydalis for Pain Control

Corydalis has a long, frequent history of use in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for pain control. The primary reason for pain, according to TCM theory, is "qi blockage," and Corydalis is thought to soothe this blockage.

Corydalis is commonly used clinically for back pain (including back pain of spinal origin that has a nerve irritation or muscle spasm component), headaches, inflammation and menstrual pain. Animal studies suggest Corydalis may block inflammation and nerve pain.

The compound in Corydalis, dehydrocorybulbine (DHCB), is believed to produce pain-relieving effects similar to prescription drugs by blocking pain signals in the brain. However, it does so naturally and does not carry the risk of addiction that many prescribed pain medications do.

In fact, some medical websites state that Corydalis can be used for mild depression, mild mental disorders, emotional disturbances, severe nerve damage and limb tremors. It is also used to lower blood pressure and relax spasms in the small intestine.

Recommended Dosage*

Corydalis comes in two forms: granular and softgel capsules. In granular form, Corydalis is a single herb prescribed at one packet per day, mixed with hot water as a tea.

It is also available in a softgel capsule. Softgel capsules are usually blended with a second herb, angelica. This is prescribed at two capsules, three times per day. Softgel caps contain the herbal ingredients in liquid form and can be easily absorbed.

Corydalis is generally considered safe for healthy adults. It is recommended for chronic moderate to significant pain. It should not be used for occasional, minor pain.

Safety Precautions

Corydalis is safe, but with some general restrictions. It should not be used by pregnant or breast-feeding women, or people with an irregular heart rhythm. It also may interact with medications such as hypnotics, sedatives, cancer medications and anti-arrhythmic drugs. It should be noted there is no buildup of tolerance with use of Corydalis.

*Editor's note: Always talk to your health care provider before taking any medication, nutritional supplement or herbal formula, particularly if you have a pre-existing medical condition.

Mark Reps, DC, is a chiropractor and certified acupuncturist with 35 years of clinical experience. He also serves as a chiropractic advisor / consultant on the board of TCMzone, LLC; writes an alternative / natural health column for a half-dozen Minnesota newspapers; and has published four mystery novels. He will soon release his book, Perfect Health: Why Be Sick When You Can Be Well.