The research, led by researchers in the US and China suggests that the isolated compound known as dehydrocorybulbine (DHCB) may reduce both inflammatory and neuropathic pain.
Writing in Current Biology Olivier Civelli and his colleagues also reported that DHCB did not generate problems with tolerance seen with continued use of most conventional pain relievers, such as morphine. According to Civelli the results suggest may point the way towards non-addictive analgesic pain relief for both for acute inflammatory and nerve pain. according to UC Irvine pharmacology researchers.
"Today the pharmaceutical industry struggles to find new drugs. Yet for centuries people have used herbal remedies to address myriad health conditions, including pain," said Civelli.
"Our objective was to identify compounds in these herbal remedies that may help us discover new ways to treat health problems," he explained. "We're excited that this one shows promise... It also shows a different way to understand the pain mechanism."
Indeed, the team added that the finding could be very important given that there are no current adequate pharmaceutical remedies for neuropathic pain.
As traditional Chinese medicine gains greater acceptance in the West, study co-author Xinmiao Liang of the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics in China noted that it is important to know more about the compounds found in such remedies. As such his group have been working to create a 'herbalome' of compounds in plant extracts that display interesting and potentially pharmacological properties.
Together with Civelli and his colleagues, the group has screened 10 traditional Chinese medicines, testing nearly 500 compounds for their potential pain-relief abilities.
Only DHCB in corydalis induced a reproducible effect, they said.
Indeed, in tests on rodents, DHCB was found to reduce both inflammatory pain, which is associated with tissue damage and the infiltration of immune cells, and injury-induced neuropathic pain, which is caused by damage to the nervous system.
Civelli commented that drawing upon traditional Chinese medical-herbal products could lead to a breakthrough in the treatment for pain, adding that it may be possible to develop potent drugs based on the chemistry of DHCB.
For now, however, he added that the compound can be found in the Corydalis yanhusuo root or extracts - which are sold globally as herbal remedies.
Source: Current Biology
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2013.11.039
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