Scientists have confirmed what traditional Chinese medicine practitioners have known for centuries: A plant long used as a pain reliever contains a compound that mirrors the effects of prescription drugs on the body and may offer significant relief to people with chronic pain.
The pain-relieving ingredient is a compound known as dehydrocorybulbine (DHCB), found in the roots of the flowering plant Corydalis, a member of the poppy family, according to University of California-Irvine researchers, who published their findings in the journal Current Biology.
"Our study reports the discovery of a new natural product that can relieve pain," lead researcher Olivier Civelli told the Medical Xpress
Website. "This analgesic acts in animal assays against the three types of pain that afflict humans, including acute, inflammatory, and neuropathic or chronic pain."
The discovery was made as part of an effort to catalog all of the chemical components of traditional Chinese medicine. The Corydalis plants grow mainly in central eastern China, where underground tubers are harvested, ground up, and boiled in hot vinegar to treat headaches and back pain.
Civelli said DHCB appears to work against all types of pain and doesn't lose effectiveness over time in the way that traditional opiate drugs do.
"We have good pain medications for acute: codeine or morphine, for example," Civelli said. "We have pain medication for inflammatory pain, such as aspirin or acetaminophen. We do not have good medications for chronic pain. DHCB may not be able to relieve strong chronic pain, but may be used for low-level chronic pain."
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