A group of researchers at UC Irvine have identified the active ingredient in the Chinese herb Yan Hu Suo (the root of the plant Corydalis yanhusuo) which has been used for centuries to treat menstrual, abdominal, and hernia pain. The active compound is dehydrocorybulbine (DHCB), and they found that it is effective at decreasing pain from both tissue damage as well as pain from damage to the nervous system.
This may sound only kind of cool, but it becomes really cool when you realize that there are currently no adequate treatments for pain from damage to the nervous system! Moreover, DHCB does not generate tolerance over prolonged use. Way to go Chinese herbs!
Of course they're hoping this leads to the development of future pharmaceuticals so keep your eyes peeled or...you know...just go see your local licensed herbalist.
Fun Fact: "Yan Hu Suo" is translated in English to "Extended Barbarian Rope"
The research is published in today's issue of Current Biology.