What Is Corydalis?

Used for Insomnia, Depression, and More

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

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Corydalis (Corydalis yanhusuo) is a species of flowering herbal plants in the Papaveraceae family, which belong to the Ranunculales order (often called poppies). Corydalis can be found in the Northern Hemisphere, but they are most prevalent in high-altitude grasslands in China's province of Zhejiang.

The flower itself typically consists of five to 15 purple-blue-hued flowers clustered together that curve outward. Corydalis should not be confused with Corydalus, which is a genus of large flying insects known as dobsonflies found in North, Central, and South America.

What Is Corydalis Used For?

Physical Benefits

Corydalis has been used as a pain reliever in traditional Chinese medicine, which also employs it for invigorating blood flow, moving energy throughout the body, treating stomach ulcers (also called peptic ulcers), and easing menstrual cramps.

There have been claims that corydalis is a remedy for fibromyalgia and that it can act as an effective form of pain relief that is similar to opium without the side effects. However, more research is still needed on these claims.

Pain Relief

An alkaloid from the corydalis plant called DL-tetrahydropalmatine (DL-THP) has been shown to block receptor sites, such as dopamine, in the brain, causing a feeling of sedation.

A study published in Current Biology found that another active ingredient in corydalis called dehydrocorybulbine (DHCB) was effective in mice against inflammatory pain and injury-induced neuropathic pain. The DHCB blocked pain signals from reaching the brain similar to how a prescription drug would. Even more importantly, the mice didn’t build up a tolerance and need higher doses of DHCB to get pain-relieving effects, as is the problem with opioids.

Emotional Benefits

Due to the impact corydalis has on the nervous system, it has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for mild depression, mild mental disorders, and emotional disturbances. However, more long-term studies are needed to understand how corydalis affects these conditions.

Corydalis dried root
Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Selection, Preparation, and Storage

When it comes to using corydalis, people most commonly use the tuber or root (also called the rhizome, this is the part of the plant stem that has roots growing from its nodes) for medicinal purposes. To prepare the root, boil it in vinegar in order to increase the active components found in it. You can then boil the granules from the roots in four cups of water for 30 minutes to make corydalis tea to drink throughout the day.

The recommended daily dosage is anywhere between four to 12 grams per day. You should start with the lower dosage amount before ingesting higher dosages. Vitamin stores, Chinese herbal stores, and acupuncturists may also sell powdered corydalis, which you can add to water (this is a more concentrated dosage, so only use 1 gram diluted in water), as well as raw extract in the form of a liquid, which can be used in a half-teaspoon dose three times a day for moderate pain.

You can also get corydalis in capsule form, taking five to 10 grams daily to get the analgesic and sedative effect.

Possible Side Effects

Some people may experience vertigo or dizziness, fatigue, or nausea when using corydalis. There is a small risk of THP toxicity, which could lead to acute hepatitis, an infection that causes inflammation in the liver and can cause nausea, vomiting, pain in the abdomen, or fever.

There have been no side effects reported while taking corydalis in combination with other medications. However, as with any herb or supplement, you should discuss your interest in taking cordyalis with your healthcare provider. Provide him or her with a list of any other medications and vitamins you take before starting to use corydalis.

If you’re pregnant, corydalis is not considered safe to use, since it can cause contractions in the uterus. Corydalis has not been studied in nursing women, so it’s also not recommended when breastfeeding.

Common Questions

Why is it recommended to take corydalis doses multiple times per day?

If you’re taking corydalis for acute pain, it works similarly to a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) like aspirin or ibuprofen. It kicks in quickly but has a short life span, which is why you may need to take a few doses in one day.

Can you develop a dependence on corydalis?

Though corydalis has been seen as an alternative to opioids, there’s still a small risk of developing a dependence on the herb. That's why it's important to stick to the recommended daily limits for how your corydalis is prepared (powdered, root, liquid, or capsule).

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