What Is Corydalis?

Corydalis capsules, dried root, tea, tincture, and powder

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Corydalis is an herbal supplement claimed to help with pain and relaxation (sedation). Its scientific name is Corydalis yanhusuo, and it is a species of flowering herbal plant in the Papaveraceae family (commonly known as poppies).

Corydalis yanhusuo grows in the Northern Hemisphere but is most often found in the high-altitude grasslands in China's province of Zhejiang.

The corydalis plant has five to 15 purple-blue-hued flowers clustered together that curve outward. Corydalis is often used with other herbal supplements.

This article covers what corydalis is used for. It will also go over the potential risks and side effects of taking corydalis supplements.

Dietary supplements are not regulated like drugs in the United States, meaning the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve them for safety and effectiveness before products are marketed. When possible, choose a supplement tested by a trusted third party, such as USP, ConsumerLabs, or NSF. 
However, even if supplements are third-party tested, that doesn’t mean they are necessarily safe for all or effective in general. Therefore, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider about any supplements you plan to take and check in about potential interactions with other supplements or medications.

Supplement Facts

  • Active Ingredient(s): More than 160 compounds including alkaloids, organic acids, volatile oils
  • Alternate Name(s): Rhizoma Corydalis, Yanhusuo, Xuanhu
  • Legal Status: Identified as an herbal supplement by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  • Suggested Dose: No suggested recommended dose
  • Safety Considerations: Not suggested for use during pregnancy, lactation, or in children. It might be associated with dependence.

Purported Uses

Supplement use should be individualized and vetted by a healthcare professional, such as a registered dietitian, pharmacist, or healthcare provider. No supplement is intended to treat, cure, or prevent disease.

Corydalis is often paired with other herbal supplements with purported health benefits, but there is limited research to support its use.

Scientists have studied using corydalis for different health reasons, but they have not proven that it is safe and effective in humans.

Corydalis has been studied in the lab and in animals, but there is not enough evidence to support its use for any health conditions in people.

Central Nervous System Benefits

Corydalis might potentially help with pain and cause feelings of relaxation (sedation).

A review of studies on the uses of corydalis found that tetrahydropalmatine (THP)—an alkaloid in the corydalis plant—has been shown to block receptor sites for dopamine in the brain, which can cause sedation.

Animal research studies have looked at the pain-relieving (analgesic) and sedative effects of Corydalis yanhusuo. For example, in rat studies, Corydalis yanhusuo decreased chronic and persistent pain and depression.

There has been some research on using corydalis for pain in humans. A double-blinded, placebo-controlled crossover study with 15 participants used the cold pressor test—a research method to induce pain in humans. A single oral dose of Corydalis yanhusuo extract and another herbal supplement called Angelicae dauhuricae significantly decreased the participants' pain intensity scores. However, because Corydalis yanhusuo was used in combination with another product, we can't be sure whether the herbal supplement on its own would be effective.

Other Purported Uses of Corydalis

Other animal and lab studies have evaluated corydalis:

  • One study found that corydalis may have helped decrease sores in the stomach lining (peptic ulcers) in animals. It may have also protected liver function in animal models, possibly due to the alkaloid/THP content of the plant.
  • Protection against coronary heart disease, abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmias), and heart attack in animals. THP might relax blood vessels and tissues in mice, which could reduce blood pressure and heart rate.
  • Decreased tumor growth in lab and animal studies. Studies in animals also suggested that THP may decrease tumor cell activity.
  • Lab studies showed that the chloroform extract in Corydalis yanhusuo might have antibacterial and antifungal effects.

However, animal and lab studies are often poor predictors of human response. Therefore, these findings do not provide adequate evidence for these uses of corydalis.

Corydalis dried root
Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

What Are the Side Effects of Corydalis?

Orally, corydalis is generally well tolerated and safe. Some research indicates that corydalis extracts may be safe to take for up to four weeks.

Consuming corydalis can still have side effects. Importantly, there is a risk of THP toxicity from corydalis supplements. THP can cause an infection and inflammation in the liver (acute hepatitis), the symptoms of which are nausea, vomiting, pain in the abdomen, or fever.

Precautions Before Using Corydalis

More research is needed to learn about the possible side effects of using corydalis supplements with other herbs, supplements, or medications.

Talk to your healthcare provider before you start taking corydalis, especially if you are already taking other prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medications, supplements, or products.

There has not been enough safety and effectiveness research on corydalis use in certain groups of people who might be at risk for side effects. Children should not take corydalis. In addition, adults should steer clear if they are:

Dosage: How Much Corydalis Should I Take?

There are different ways to take corydalis, including as a powder, root, liquid, or capsule. However, there are no guidelines about how much Corydalis yanhusuo to take. There is no standard dose of corydalis.

More research is needed on dosages of corydalis for specific populations and health needs.

What Happens if I take Too Much Corydalis?

As a rule of thumb, never take more corydalis than the manufacturer's recommended dosage on the supplement you've purchased.

Since there is no set recommended dose, it would be hard to say what dose would be considered "too much." However, you should stop taking Corydalis yanhusuo and call your healthcare provider if you experience side effects while using the supplement.

Interactions

Corydalis yanhusuo is often used together with other herbal supplements. However, there has not been enough research on using corydalis with prescription and OTC medications, or other products.

Always read a supplement's ingredient list and nutrition facts panel carefully before you use it. Make sure that you know what is included in the supplement and how much of each ingredient there is in a dose.

Go over this information with your healthcare provider and make sure they know about any other medications, supplements, vitamins, or products you're using.

How to Store Corydalis

Store a corydalis supplement according to the manufacturer's directions. The package or insert with the supplement should tell you how it needs to be stored, and when to throw away the supplement (for example, after the "best by" or "use by" date).

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can I take corydalis if I'm pregnant?

    You should not take corydalis if you are pregnant or breastfeeding because there is not enough research on its long-term safety. Children should also not be given the supplement. Do not use it if you bleed between menstrual cycles.

  • How much corydalis should I take?

    There are no standard dosages for corydalis. There are also no guidelines on how to use corydalis. Consult with your healthcare provider if you are thinking about taking corydalis.

  • How is corydalis sold as a supplement?

    Corydalis supplements come in tablets, granules, powders, and roots. Tablets are the most common way to take a corydalis supplement.

  • Is corydalis a hallucinogen?

    Some claims have been made about the sedating or tranquilizing effects of corydalis, which may include hallucinogenic effects. However, there is not enough research evidence to prove these effects exist.

  • Does corydalis help with sleep?

    Some claim that corydalis can have sedating effects. Sedation can make a person feel more relaxed or even sleepy. However, there is currently no evidence to support its use as a sleep aid. Ask your healthcare provider for other options if you are having trouble sleeping.

  • Can corydalis cause liver damage?

    Some herbal supplements can cause liver injury if used in excess. There have been a few medical case studies of liver damage occurring in people who were using corydalis and other herbal supplements.

  • Is corydalis anti-inflammatory?

    More research is needed, but corydalis may have some anti-inflammatory properties, especially if it's used with other compounds.

Corydalis Sources & What to Look For

You can get some corydalis from food as well as in supplements that can be purchased.

Food Sources of Corydalis

To get corydalis from its food source, the Corydalis yanhosuo plant stem (rhizoma) needs to be soaked in vinegar to increase the active components. Then, it can be cooked for six minutes and cooled before eating.

Corydalis Supplements

Corydalis yanhusuo is sold as a tablet, granules, powder, and tablets. Tablets are the most common way to take the supplement. You can find corydalis supplements at drugstores and specialty health stores.

When buying a supplement, know that any claims that it can "cure" or treat any specific disease are not real. Under the FDA labeling laws, it is illegal to make such claims because they are not supported by research.

Summary

Corydalis is a species of flowering herbal plant found in the Northern Hemisphere. Although it has been studied in lab and animal studies, there have not been enough studies in humans to say that it is beneficial and safe to use.

Corydalis supplements are thought to have pain-relieving and relaxing effects, but there have not been enough studies to prove that it works for these purposes.

There is insufficient research on corydalis dosing, side effects, and medication interactions. Talk to your healthcare provider first if you want to try the supplement. Tell them about any OTC or prescription medications, vitamins, or supplements you already take and any health conditions you have.

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Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Alena Clark, PhD
Alena Clark, PhD, is a registered dietitian and experienced nutrition and health educator

Originally written by
Colleen Travers
Colleen Travers writes about health, fitness, travel, parenting, and women’s lifestyle for various publications and brands.
Learn about our editorial process