Common name: Chinese Corydalis
Latin name: Corydalis yanhusuo
Affinity: Nervous system, cardiovascular system
Actions: Analgesic, anodyne, sedative, hypnotic
Diseases: Nerve pain(2), pain(2), insomnia(3), cardiovascular disease(3)
Parts used: Whole herb

Corydalis blossom in the spring woods

Characteristics: Corydalis is a perennial herb of the Papveraceae family and has been used in traditional medicine in China, Korea, and Japan (Wu et al., 2007). It grows wild in Siberia and Northern China. It is cultivated primarily in the Zhejiang province of China.

History: Corydalis is an ancient Chinese medicinal herb traditionally used in the treatment of cardiovascular disease, pain, and to promote blood circulation (Ma et al., 2008). Multiple types of pain are targeted with Corydalis in traditional Chinese medicine and include chest pain, headache, epigastric pain, back pain, abdominal pain, and arthralgia pain. It is also used to help withdrawal from heroin in China by practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine. It is the second strongest pain reliever in traditional Chinese medicine behind opium.

Science: Several studies have been done investigating the chemical constituents of Corydalis and their pharmacological properties (Ma et al., 2008). dl-Tetrahydropalmatine (THP) has been found to be one of the main active alkaloids and is neuroactive, binding antagonistically to the dopamine D1 and D2 receptors (Wang et al., 2012; Ma et al., 2008). These receptors are known to be antagonistically regulated in cocaine users, and Corydalis therefore has potential as a therapy to support addiction withdrawal. A recent high profile study in Current Biology, found Corydalis contained a compound called dehydrocorybulbine (DHB) that displayed analgesic effects (Zhang et al., 2014). Like THP it was found to have dopamine receptor antagonistic activities. The authors found DHB to be effective against acute pain, inflammatory pain, and neuropathic pain. Although not much research has been done on humans using Corydalis, there is one small study that found a significant reduction on pain in humans compared with a placebo using a combination of corydalis and Angelicae dahuricae (Yuan et al., 2004).

Safety: Corydalis is safe for most, however, avoid in pregnant or breast feeding women. Additionally, extra caution is needed when taking corydalis with other sedatives due to an additive effect.

Dosage: 2-4ml of tincture two to three times daily. For dried extract, see packaging.

Brands: In the U.K., we recommend Chinese corydalis tincture from Bristol Botanicals.

Scientific Summary

Research on models

THP (from Corydalis) binds to dopamine receptors: Ex vivo studies have found that compounds from Corydalis, particularly the isoquinoline alkaloids, bind antagonistically to the dopamine D1 and D2 receptors (Ma et al., 2008; Wang et al., 2012).

DHB (from Corydalis) has pain reducing effects: In vivo studies have found DHB relieves different types of pain; inflammatory, acute, and neuropathic (Zhang et al., 2014).

Research on humans

Pain: Corydalis was found to reduce cold pressor induced pain in a small human study (n = 15, double blind placebo controlled) (Yuan et al., 2004). However, it was combined with another herb Angelicae dahuricae.


Bergman, J., J. B. Kamien, and R. D. Spealman. “Antagonism of cocaine self-administration by selective dopamine D1 and D2 antagonists.” Behavioural pharmacology 1.4 (1990): 355-364.

Ma, Zhong-Ze, et al. “Isoquinoline alkaloids isolated from Corydalis yanhusuo and their binding affinities at the dopamine D1 receptor.” Molecules 13.9 (2008): 2303-2312.

Wang, Jia Bei, and John R. Mantsch. “L-tetrahydropalamatine: a potential new medication for the treatment of cocaine addiction.” Future medicinal chemistry 4.2 (2012): 177-186.

Wu, Limao, et al. “Beneficial effects of the extract from Corydalis yanhusuo in rats with heart failure following myocardial infarction.” Journal of pharmacy and pharmacology 59.5 (2007): 695-701.

Yuan, Chun‐Su, et al. “Effects of Corydalis yanhusuo and Angelicae dahuricae on Cold Pressor‐Induced Pain in Humans: A Controlled Trial.” The Journal of Clinical Pharmacology 44.11 (2004): 1323-1327.

Zhang, Yan, et al. “A novel analgesic isolated from a traditional Chinese medicine.” Current Biology 24.2 (2014): 117-123.