Herbal alternatives for neuropathic pain relief

THP corydalis alkaloid extract


Cordyalis (Yan Huo Suo) root and it’s extract, THP

Though the opium poppy has been one of the most popular choices historically for killing pain, it’s dangerous side effects of addiction and respiratory depression, even possibility of death by overdose makes it a less fruitful candidate for regular use in the eyes of many sufferers of chronic or even occasional bouts of moderate to severe pain. The Somniferum (opium poppy) is well-known but others in it’s family still have inflammatory and analgesic (pain-killing) properties without containing the harmful and addictive opiates that many or most modern pharmaceutical pain killers are derived from. California poppy, for instance, is a calming and inflammatory essence that is quite popular to this day in Europe for it’s soporiphic and anodyne potential.

tincture of California poppy
California Poppy tincture

Another cousin of the Papaver Somniferum (opium poppy) that is well documented in folk medicinal use and backed by modern scientific research is the corydalis root, Yan Huo Suo as it’s known in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Corydalis root is the second most widely cited plant for pain in the traditional Chinese materia medicas, second only behind, you guessed it, the habit forming and much more dangerous opium poppy (and it’s synthetic or extracted derivatives).

Rodent tests suggested that inflammatory pain associated with tissue damage and nociceptive (nerve related) and/or injury-induced neuropathic pain had significant relief. Even in our current Western allopathic tradition and within the canon of currently available pharmaceutical remedies and balms, there is not a single suitable pain killer that is equally suited to inflammatory and nociceptive/neuropathic pain and safe and suitable in daily use (at the recommended dosages).

A 2014 study from UC Irvine similarly suggested that corydalis (and extracts or isolates of the actives like THP) is an effective pain mediator in addition to being a non-addictive and non-narcotic solution to acute inflammatory pain and/or nerve pain. Tolerance, habituation and addiction were not noted in these studies, unlike control groups offered morphine in quantities that offer equivalent pain relief. Corydalis root has been traditionally used for at least hundreds of years in Siberia, Northern China and Japan. The root extract was ingested to combat menstrual cramps, chest pain and abdominal pain.

Isolate of corydalis root, THP

Chronic neuropathic pain has many potential causes, but regardless it’s root, it’s a daily battle for over 50 million Americans struggling to manage their pain levels in order to attain some quality of life and enjoyment despite chronic pain clouding their experience of life.

Other Helpful Herbs for Neuropathy

There are several other herbs which have been used to various degrees to deal with neuropathic, nociceptive and/or nervine related pain. One of the top choices is scullcap. Both traditional and Chinese/Baikal Scullcap are excellent nervines which are moderately effective in mitigating anxiety, tremors but are also neuroprotective. They have actually been shown to slow degradation of the myelin sheath (the fatty barrier that protects our nervous system like the insulation around a power cord) and in some cases even help regrow damaged myelin.

Cayenne is helpful as it contains capzaisin which stimulates the release of substance p (endogenous pain sensing compound) temporarily then interrupting the flow of pain after an initial “burn.” Taken internally it can also act as a vasodilator which may synergize with other herbs (and especially medicines) you take, so exercise caution whenever blending herbs, most especially if you blend them with other chemical compounds over the counter or prescribed.

Ginkgo Biloba has long been found to be a soothing stimulator. It’s adaptogenic properties make it well suited towards daily use. According to an animal study from Catholic University of Seoul, Yee Suk Kim, M.D., and colleagues found ginkgo biloba to decrease neuropathic pain in rats. Ginkgo, as a result, may also prove valuable for use in humans, the study concludes.

Many or most chronic pain sufferers, neuropathic or otherwise, are currently on medications. Even if you’re not though, it’s always wise to speak with a medical professional before undertaking any new health or wellness regimen from acupuncture (which also has some moderate results as far as pain relief goes) to a daily herbal, medicinal tea ritual.