Yan Hu Suo and Cordyalis – 延胡索 Herbal Medicine for Pain

Yan Hu Suo and Cordyalis: Benefits, Uses & Research

Yan Hu Suo and Cordyalis – Herbal Medicine Used For Thousands Of years

Chinese Medicine is an Evidence Based Medicine.  The Evidence is in-depth observation and note taking by practitioners that have recorded their findings for over 2000 years.

It is always interesting to see modern research pick apart pieces of Chinese Medicine to fit into today’s reductionist medicine.   So many medicines of today come from herbal medicine or isolating active components of herbal medicine.  Of course, the best example is aspirin which is taken from white willow bark.

In addition, recent research was published looking for the ingredients that contribute to the anelgesic effect of a Chinese herb known as Yan Hu Suo – 延胡索.   Its common English name is Cordyalis.  Cordyalis was first written about in 741AD.   Interestingly the book it was written in was an addendum to the original materia medica written several centuries earlier.

The properties of the herb are: acrid, bitter and warm.   If you bite into it you can sense those characteristics.

Its actions are:  Activate Qi and Blood Circulation to relieve pain.  It is used for pain in the chest, abdomen, limbs.  It is also a common herb used for gynecological pain.

Traditionally the herb is dug up in early summer when the plant withers and it is boiled with its fibrous roots removed.

Modern medicine certainly sees promise in ancient medicine as there is a tremendous amount of healing potential in plant medicine.  But we need to be cautious as administering isolated compounds can contribute to side effects that are not present when the entire plant is used.

A common culinary herb with similar effects of Yan Hu Suo – 延胡索 that has gained popularity is Turmeric.   Turmeric (c. longa) has long been used in Chinese Herbal Medicine and known as Jiang Huang 姜黄This is the same plant used in curry and has now known to have ‘anti-inflammatory’ properties.    Jiang Huang 姜黄 is said to ” Invigorates the Blood, eliminates Blood Stasis and unblocks menstruation…Promotes the movement of Qi and opens the channels and collaterals to alleviate pain…reduces swelling.”   

Below is the excerpt from a pubmed research paper on Yan Hu Suo – 延胡索:

Curr Biol. 2013 Dec 31. pii: S0960-9822(13)01494-2. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2013.11.039. [Epub ahead of print]

Yan Hu Suo: A Novel Analgesic Isolated from a Traditional Chinese Medicine.



Current pain management is limited, in particular, with regard to chronic pain. In an attempt to discover novel analgesics, we combined the approach developed to characterize traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), as part of the “herbalome” project, with the reverse pharmacology approach aimed at discovering new endogenous transmitters and hormones.


In a plant used for centuries for its analgesic properties, we identify a compound, dehydrocorybulbine (DHCB), that is effective at alleviating thermally induced acute pain. We synthesize DHCB and show that it displays moderate dopamine receptor antagonist activities. By using selective pharmacological compounds and dopamine receptor knockout (KO) mice, we show that DHCB antinociceptive effect is primarily due to its interaction with D2 receptors, at least at low doses. We further show that DHCB is effective against inflammatory pain and injury-induced neuropathic pain and furthermore causes no antinociceptive tolerance.


Our study casts DHCB as a different type of analgesic compound and as a promising lead in pain management.


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