Corydalis Yanhuso: A New Herbal Medicine to Fight Opioid Addiction?

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Awareness is up. New remedies are in the works. But the stats related to the opioid epidemic are still staggering.

  • Opioids were involved in nearly 50,000 overdose deaths in 2019.
  • In 2019, 7 million people misused prescription pain relievers.
  • In 2020, U.S. doctors wrote more than 142 million opioid prescriptions. (In some counties, they wrote enough prescriptions for every single person to have one.)

It’s a vicious cycle. Opioids are overprescribed. People take them for chronic pain. They build a tolerance. And far too many ultimately end up addicted to the drugs.

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Stop the Cycle of Opioid Addiction

How does this cycle end? Perhaps by finding new remedies for pain management. Remedies that aren’t addictive.

That’s exactly what researchers like Olivier Civelli hope to do.

Civelli is a professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the UCI School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and is heading up research on the use of Corydalis yanhusuo.

Is Corydalis Yanhuso an Effective Medicine to Fight Opioid Addiction?

Corydalis yanhusuo is a traditional Chinese herbal medicine. The extract of this plant, YHS, has long been used in Asian countries for the treatment of various conditions, including pain.

Western researchers are now looking to this herbal remedy for a potential solution to the opioid epidemic. And the results of their studies are promising.

  • It Relieves Pain

Researchers looked at the compound’s effectiveness at alleviating pain and found the herbal medicine to be effective. Because it appears to be nonaddictive, this could be a game changer for pain management. If doctors can prescribe a remedy that is both effective and nonaddictive, we could see a reduction in opioid prescriptions that may turn the tide on the opioid epidemic.

  • It Reduces Addiction

Research also shows that the extract may prove helpful in reducing or preventing addiction. Civelli’s study looked at the addictive properties of morphine in mice. The research revealed that the plant extract can help curb these addictive properties. It blocks the development of morphine tolerance and dependence. Because morphine is an opioid, this suggests it would have similar results for other drugs in the opioid family, whether synthetic or natural. It might be possible to combine this extract with methadone treatments to make them more effective, or to provide the extract to patients who are on extended opioid treatments for pain. The results? The extract may help reverse current dependence and prevent future tolerance build-up that leads to new addictions.

Creating a Tool to Prevent Addiction and Overdoses

Civelli is hopeful that this research will lead to the creation of a tool that prevents addiction and overdoses. Of course, there is a long road ahead. His study was conducted on mice, and the extract will need to be tested in human trials to confirm it effectiveness. Civelli’s goal was to get the ball rolling. He wanted to establish a concept and produce results that would compel others to take the research further, to human trials.

Researchers note that the extract is currently readily available and has proven to be safe in other uses. This could help speed along the process and development of clinical trials.

Don’t wait Until It’s Too Late.

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Next Steps

Further research is needed. For Civelli, the next step is to look into the compound in more depth. What is it about the extract that makes it helpful to prevent addiction? How exactly does it prevent drug tolerance?

And, more research is necessary to learn more about opioids. “Why is it when people take an opioid that they need to take more and more to feel the effects?” Civelli asks.

If we can discover what is going on with the interaction between these drugs and the body, we can unlock the answer to a better way to treat pain. And that could be the secret to ending the opioid epidemic.

If you or someone you love is experiencing a substance use disorder, help is available. Call (800) 407-7195(Who Answers?) today to speak with a treatment specialist.

the Take-Away

Awareness is up. New remedies are in the works. But the stats related to the opioid epidemic are still staggering. Opioids were involved in nearly 50,000 overdose deaths in 2019. In 2019, 7 million people misused prescription pain relievers. In 2020, U.S. doctors wrote more than 142 million opioid prescriptions. (In some counties, they wrote …