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Corydalis

Common name: Yan Hu So

Botanical names: Corydalis turtschaninovii, Corydalis yanhusuo

Photo

© Martin Wall

Parts used and where grown

Corydalis is an herb native to the Chinese province of Zhejiang. The portion of the plant that is used medicinally is the tuberous rhizome.1

Corydalis has been used in connection with the following conditions (refer to the individual health concern for complete information):

Science Ratings Health Concerns
2Stars

Insomnia

Pain (nerve)

1Star

Dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation)

Heart arrhythmia

Peptic ulcer

3Stars Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2Stars Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1Star For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support and/or minimal health benefit.

Historical or traditional use (may or may not be supported by scientific studies)

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, corydalis is said to invigorate the blood, move qi (energy that travels through the body), and alleviate pain, including menstrual, abdominal, and hernial.2

Active constituents

Scientists have isolated a number of alkaloids from the tuber of corydalis, including corydaline, tetrahydropalmatine (THP), dl-Tetrahydropalmatine (dl-THP), protopine, tetrahydrocoptisine, tetrahydrocolumbamine, and corybulbine.3 Of the full range of 20 alkaloids found in the plant, THP is considered to be the most potent. In laboratory research, it has been shown to exhibit a wide number of pharmacological actions on the central nervous system, including analgesic and sedative effects.4 dl-THP has been found to exhibit a tranquilizing action in mice. Scientists have suggested that dl-THP blocks certain receptor sites (e.g., dopamine) in the brain to cause sedation.5

In addition to its central nervous system effects, studies in the laboratory have shown the alkaloids from corydalis also have cardiovascular actions. For example, dl-THP has been shown to both decrease the stickiness of platelets and protect against stroke,6 as well as lower blood pressure and heart rate in animal studies.7 Additionally, it seems to exert an anti-arrhythmic action on the heart. This was found in a small double-blind clinical trial with patients suffering from a specific type of heart arrhythmia (e.g., supra-ventricular premature beat or SVPB).8 People taking 300–600 mg of dl-THP per day in tablet form, had a significantly greater improvement than those taking placebo pills.

Other human clinical trials on dl-THP have shown the ability to fall asleep was improved in people suffering from insomnia after taking 100–200 mg of dl-THP at bedtime. No drug hangover symptoms such as morning grogginess, dizziness or vertigo were reported by people taking the alkaloid extract.9

Reports from Chinese researchers also note that 75 mg of THP daily was effective in reducing nerve pain in 78% of the patients tested.10 Painful menstruation (dysmenorrhea), abdominal pain after childbirth, and headache have also been reported to be successfully treated with THP.11

Extracts of the herb may also be useful in the treatment of stomach ulcers. In a large sample of patients with stomach and intestinal ulcers or chronic inflammation of the stomach lining, a 90–120 mg extract of the herb per day (equal to 5–10 grams of the crude herb) was found to improve healing and symptoms in 76% of the patients.12

How much is usually taken?

For an analgesic or sedative effect, the crude, dried rhizome is usually recommended at 5–10 grams per day.13 Alternatively, one can take 10–20 ml per day of a 1:2 extract.14

Are there any side effects or interactions?

Corydalis should not be taken by pregnant or nursing women.15 There have been several reports in Western journals of THP toxicity, including acute hepatitis.16 17 18 In addition, people taking corydalis can experience vertigo, fatigue, and nausea.19

At the time of writing, there were no well-known drug interactions with corydalis.

References:

1. Zhu YP. Chinese Materia Media: Chemistry, Pharmacology, and Applications. Australia: Harwood Academic Publishers, 1998, 445–8.

2. Bensky D, Gamble A, Kaptchuk T. Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica. Vista, CA: Eastland Press, 1993, 270.

3. Hsu HY. Oriental Materia Medica: A Concise Guide. Long Beach, CA: Oriental Healing Arts Institute, 1986, 448–50.

4. Zhu YP. Chinese Materia Media: Chemistry, Pharmacology, and Applications. Australia: Harwood Academic Publishers, 1998, 445–8.

5. Zhu YP. Chinese Materia Media: Chemistry, Pharmacology, and Applications. Australia: Harwood Academic Publishers, 1998, 445–8.

6. Xing JF, Wang MN, Ma XY, et al. Effects of dl-tetrahydropalmatine on rabbit platelet aggregation and experimental thrombosis in rats. Chin Pharm Bull 1997;13:258–60.

7. Lin MT, Chueh FY, Hsieh MT, et al. Antihypertensive effects of dl-tetrahydropalmatine: an active principle isolated from corydalis. Clin Exper Pharm Physiol 1996;23:738–42.

8. Xiaolin N, Zhenhua H, Xin M, et al. Clinical and experimental study of dl-tetrahydropalmatine effect in the treatment of supraventricular arrhythmia. J Xi’An Med Univ 1998;10:150–3.

9. Chang HM, But PPH. Pharmacology and Applications of Chinese Materia Medica vol 1. Singapore: World Scientific Inc., 1986, 521.

10. Lin DZ, Fang YS. Modern Study and Application of Materia Medica. Hong Kong: China Ocean Press, 1990, 323–5.

11. Zhu YP. Chinese Materia Media: Chemistry, Pharmacology, and Applications. Australia: Harwood Academic Publishers, 1998, 445–8.

12. Chang HM, But PPH. Pharmacology and Applications of Chinese Materia Medica vol 1. Singapore: World Scientific Inc., 1986, 521.

13. Bone K. Clinical Applications of Ayurvedic and Chinese Herbs. Warwick, Queensland, Australia: Phytotherapy Press, 1996, 25–8.

14. Bone K. Clinical Applications of Ayurvedic and Chinese Herbs. Warwick, Queensland, Australia: Phytotherapy Press, 1996, 25–8.

15. Bensky D, Gamble A, Kaptchuk T. Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica. Vista, CA: Eastland Press, 1993, 270.

16. Horowitz RS, Feldhaus K, Dart RC, et al. The clinical spectrum of Jin Bu Huan toxicity. Arch Int Med 1996;156:899–903.

17. Kaptchuk TJ, Woolf GM, Vierling JM. Acute hepatitis associated with Jin Bu Huan. Ann Int Med 1995;122:636.

18. Anonymous. Jin Bu Huan toxicity in adults—Los Angeles, 1993. JAMA 1994;271:423–4.

19. Chang HM, But PPH. Pharmacology and Applications of Chinese Materia Medica vol 1. Singapore: World Scientific Inc., 1986, 521.

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