Corydalis: Is This Right for You?

Corydalis blossom in the spring woods

Corydalis is an herb often used in traditional Chinese medicine for pain relief. Experts say it can be used for headaches, menstrual pain and back pain – even back pain caused by nerve problems or muscle spasms.

Though corydalis has been used since ancient times, much of the modern research done on corydalis so far is still in early stages. Studies done in animals suggest that corydalis may be effective at treating pain triggered by cold and may help block inflammation and nerve pain.

A compound, dehydrocorybulbine (DHCB), is thought to be responsible for the herb’s pain-relieving effects. Corydalis appears to work similarly to prescription pain medications that block pain signals in the brain. However, experts say corydalis can be used to treat chronic pain without carrying the same risk of addiction that many prescription pain medications do.

Corydalis can be taken in multiple ways. It can be purchased as granules, which can be dissolved in hot water and then sipped throughout the day. It can also be taken as pills, which may take a little longer to take effect. You may need to take multiple capsules to equal one dose, so check the bottle. Experts recommend taking three to nine grams total per day, broken up into two or three doses. Corydalis can be purchased from Chinese herbal stores, online or sometimes from acupuncturists.

Corydalis is generally considered to be safe for healthy adults, but experts recommend that it be used only for significant pain and not by people who just need occasional, minor pain relief. It should not be used by pregnant or breastfeeding women or by people with an irregular heart rhythm. It may also have some interactions with medications such as hypnotics, sedatives, cancer medications and anti-arrhythmic drugs. Always talk to your doctor before trying a new remedy or supplement.