Botanical: Corydalis ambigua
Family: Papaveraceae (opium poppy) - Fumariaceae (fumitory)
Other common names: Corydalis Rhizome, Yan Hu So, Fumitory
Corydalis has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine as a blood mover, sedative and painkiller since the eighth century A.D. in China. Today, it is still used alleviate abdominal and menstrual cramps and as an herbal sleep aid to relieve insomnia. Moreover, it is thought to protect against heart attacks and stroke, and is said to be a superior herb for increasing blood circulation, moving stagnant blood and improving heart arrhythmia.
Note: The Chinese species of Corydalis, Corydalis ambigua and Corydalis yanhusuo, should not be confused with the North American species of Corydalis, Dicentra canadensis, which is often called Turkey Corn or Squirrel Corn. Though very similar in action, they are different and act somewhat differently.
The information presented herein by Herbal Extracts Plus is intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.
Corydalis is a low-growing perennial or winter annual that is native to the Zhejiang province of northern China, as well as Japan and Siberia and may also be found in the deciduous forests, thickets and hedges of Europe. The semi-succulent plant is related to the opium-poppy and survives in harsh conditions of northeast Asia by storing most of its energy in its hard, bright-yellow tuber, and it bears a thin, erect green stem with green leaves and yellow flowers. The Corydalis genus consists of ten species in the United States and four hundred species worldwide. The North American plant produces purplish-tinged flowers and thrives in humus-rich, moist soil in partial shade, mostly in flood plains and swampy ground (Voss, 1985). Included among the North American species of Corydalis are Dicentra canadensis, called Turkey Corn and Squirrel Corn, and Dicentra cucillaria, called Dutchman's Breeches, and they are sometimes used in a similar manner as the Asian species but do have somewhat different applications. The roots of all species are unearthed in autumn, when the plant is dormant, then dried and used in herbal medicine. Corydalis has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) since at least the eighth century A.D., when it was noted in Ch'en Can-Zi's Materia Medica and recommended for invigorating the blood and alleviating menstrual and abdominal cramps, as well as the pain of hernias. Many years ago, Corydalis was also used to expel worms. Scientists have isolated twenty alkaloids, incorporating the most powerful, tetrahydropalmatine (THP), which acts as a sedative and analgesic, as well as dl-tetrahydropalmatine, corydaline, protopine, tetrahydrocoptisine, bulbocapnine, leonticine, corybulbine-3 and tetrahydrocolumbamine.
Corydalis is a bitter, slightly acrid and warm herb that has been used effectively as a sedative and tranquilizer. Of the full range of alkaloids, the most powerful of these, tetrahydropalmatine (THD), has demonstrated many pharmacological actions on the central nervous system. When properly used, Corydalis has been effective in easing palsy, trembling hands and general excitement. It has also been employed to help treat anxiety, restless leg syndrome and has been included in herbal preparations for Parkinson's disease.
As a sedative, Corydalis is said to induce sleep without adverse side effects, which is of great help to those who suffer from insomnia. The alkaloid, dl-THP, has been found to block certain receptor sites (i.e., dopamine) in the brain to cause sedation. In human clinical trials, patients with insomnia who were given dl-THP have demonstrated an improved ability to fall asleep, and there were no drug hangover symptoms, such as morning grogginess, dizziness or vertigo reported by those people taking the alkaloid extract. Corydalis is also thought to increase the sleep-inducing effect of barbiturates. The herb is said to be particularly useful for counteracting the effects of caffeine or amphetamines.
Corydalis is also considered an herbal analgesic and antispasmodic that diminishes pain. The THP acts on the central nervous system to reduce nerve pain, and reports from Chinese researchers have noted that the herb was effective in reducing nerve pain in seventy-eight percent of the patients tested. As a painkiller, Corydalis is believed to be especially helpful in cases of dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation) and abdominal pain after childbirth. It is also said to relieve abdominal cramping and spasms (confirming the herb's historic applications in Traditional Chinese Medicine). Its painkilling effects also have helped to relieve headache and lumbago, as well as the pain of traumatic injury. Beth Isreal Deaconess Medical Center/Harvard Medical School speak of Corydalis in terms of
of Western medical diagnostic categories, noting that Corydalis may be recommended for soft tissue injuries (rotator cuff, etc.); however, they caution that because of the alkaloids content (notably THP), it can be dangerous without benefit of further studies.
Recent laboratory studies have indicated that the alkaloids in Corydalis possess cardiovascular actions and may help to protect against heart attacks and strokes. The reports claimed that the THP in the herb helped to lower heart rate, and the dl-THP increased circulation and decreased both blood pressure and the stickiness of platelets in the blood, which protects against stroke. In clinical trials patients who were suffering from a specific type of heart arrhythmia (i.e., supra-ventricular premature beat or SVPB) were given dl-THP, and demonstrated significant improvement. It is considered a fine blood tonic that can help to stimulate and move stagnant blood (blood stasis) and improve blood circulation to all areas of the body. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Corydalis has been used for centuries to invigorate the blood, moving stagnant blood and facilitating the movement of "Qi" - the vital energy of body fluids, bloods, moving particles, etc.,
throughout the body.
Corydalis may be useful in treating stomach ulcers. In clinical trials, patients suffering with stomach and intestinal ulcers or chronic inflammation of the stomach lining were given Corydalis extract. Seventy-six percent of the patients reported improved healing, and their symptoms were eased.
There are currently many additional studies being conducted for a variety of applications using Corydalis. Extracts of corydalis are said to slow the formation of cataracts associated with diabetes (but should be used under direction of physician), and it is also said to have antibacterial properties.
Some recent research suggests action on the thyroid and adrenal cortex.
Corydalis Herbal Supplement should always be used under the supervision of a health care provider. Children, pregnant or nursing women should not use Corydalis, nor should those who have severe liver or kidney disease. Overuse (many times the recommended dosage) may lead to toxicity or hepatitis, and use of Corydalis may cause liver injury, nausea, fatigue or vertigo. Care should be taken with the use of this herb, as it may be habit forming. Corydalis may enhance the effects of sedatives, including alcohol and benzodiazepines, and should not be used at the same time.
Corydalis contains substances that reduce the formation of blood clots, thus, this herb should be used only under a physician's care - especially people taking anticoagulant drugs such as warfarin.