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Chinese Herb Compound Reduces Inflammatory, Neuropathic Pain

Jan 03, 2014 06:51 AM EST
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Compound from Chinese medicine can reduce pain, new study shows. (not pictured)
(Photo : REUTERS/Bobby Yip)

A compound derived from a Chinese herb can reduce pain, a new study has found. Researchers say that the compound's discovery could lead to new types of non-addictive drugs that can lower both inflammatory and neuropathic pain.

The study on the plant derivative was conducted by Olivier Civelli and his UC Irvine colleagues along with other researchers in China. The team obtained the compound called dehydrocorybulbine (DHCB) from the roots of the Corydalis yanhusuo plant.

Corydalis yanhusuo is used as a remedy for menstrual cramps and stomach pains. The plant has several alkaloids that help relieve chest pain and "improve blood circulation." The herb is found in China, Japan and Siberia.

In the present study, researchers found that DHCB reduced both inflammatory pain and neuropathic pain. Inflammatory pain is associated with tissue damage while neuropathic pain is linked with nerve damage. The study was conducted on rodents.

About 50 million Americans suffer from chronic neuropathic pain. Current treatments for this type of pain carry significant side-effects. According to researchers, tapping Ancient Chinese medicine might provide a better cure for neuropathic pain.

Also, unlike morphine DHCB does not generate a tolerance even after continued use. This means that the compound doesn't lead to addiction.

"Today the pharmaceutical industry struggles to find new drugs. Yet for centuries people have used herbal remedies to address myriad health conditions, including pain. Our objective was to identify compounds in these herbal remedies that may help us discover new ways to treat health problems," said Civelli, according to a news release. "We're excited that this one shows promise as an effective pharmaceutical. It also shows a different way to understand the pain mechanism."

For the study, researchers assessed the efficacy of 10 traditional Chinese medicines. The team tested about 500 compounds that were considered to be analgesics. Only DHCB in corydalis was able to relieve pain.

Researchers need to first study the toxicity of the plant compound before conducting clinical trials. According to the team, it might be possible to get another, more potent pain-killer by modifying the structure of DHCB.

The study is published in the journal Current Biology.

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