The Forager's Path - School of Botanical Studies

Plant Profile: Corydalis

Botanical Name:Corydalis
Corydalis spp.
The local species is Corydalis aurea
Yan Hu Suo (TCM) – Corydalis ambigua

Family: Papaveraceae

Common Names:
Golden Smoke
Turkey Corn
Scrambled Eggs

Habitat in Which it is Found/ Harvesting Season/ Special Considerations:
It is challenging to give a precise description of this plant’s habitat. I have encountered it in ponderosa drainages, in riparian habitats at 3,500′, in the pinon/ juniper zone, along trails inside the Grand Canyon, in a fire recovery area of Oak Creek Canyon and in people’s backyards growing among the weeds and on steep hillsides that have been replanted around Flagstaff.
The one thing all these places have in common is the soil has been disturbed or had natural compost added from deciduous trees and the extra foliage found near streams and drainages.

Energy & Tastes:
TCM classifies Corydalis as acrid, bitter and warm.

This herb contains a wide range of alkaloids. The TCM community considers corydaline to be the most potent constituent.

Herbal Actions:
Calming, relaxing, nervine, analgesic, blood mover

An effective herb for relieving many types of pain. Pain formulas in both Western Herbalism and TCM frequently incorporate this herb into larger formulas. The TCM view is that pain is caused by blocked or stagnant blood or chi. Corydalis restores the flow of blood and chi by relaxing the tension inhibiting it; thus its label as a blood mover.

Herbal Combos:
It is rarely, if ever, used alone. One possible combination is combing it in equal parts with California Poppy and Jamaican Dogwood. It also combines well with Skullcap.

To be most effective, the Corydalis-based pain formula can be combined with herbs that are relaxing nervines and/or anti-spasmodics. This larger formula works to further reduce tension that may be inhibiting the flow.

Safety Issues & Contraindications:
As Corydalis is a Blood Mover, it is strongly contra-indicated in pregnancy.
Its relaxant quality varies with the individual plus the amount and frequency taken. Some people find it strong enough to be more of a sedative. Others find they are able to function normally throughout the day while taking small  doses as needed. Use this herb with caution until an individual’s response is determined.

Preferred Method of Preparation:
In TCM, only the root is used as either a tea or alcohol extract. In Western Herbalism, the whole plant in flower is tinctured fresh. This is the way I use it.

The Plant Profiles are brief materia medica summaries of plants encountered during plant walks or introduced during class on our longer programs. They are presented here to help students organize plant info on an ongoing basis. Although the Profiles are not meant to be comprehensive, they are offered here to the public in the hope that others find these pages useful.


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