Coptis (Huang Lian)

Botanical Name: Western – Coptis trifolia. Eastern – Coptis chinensis.

Coptis is considered one of the 50 fundamental herbs in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It is well known in TCM for its ability to treat Damp Heat, a condition that impedes digestive function and is associated with bladder infections, diarrhea, and bowel irregularity. Coptis contains the powerful chemical compound berberine, famous for its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. The herb is commonly used as a digestive aid.

Watch a short video, from Ann Christensen, Founder and Creator of White Rabbit Institute of Healing™ – Two Key Aspects of Coptis.

Below is an overview of coptis, combining the best of Western Science, Oriental Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shamanism, Folklore, and a wide range of healing modalities. Gain a balanced and thorough understanding of the healing properties of coptis.

How to take FULL advantage of Coptis's healing powers...

Coptis (Huang Lian)

JOIN ME in an exploration of the healing herb, Coptis (Huang Lian). Dive deep into the benefits and applications of Coptis, from Eastern and Western perspectives, and so much more!


Western Name: Coptis

Also Known As: Golden Thread, Yellow Snake Root, Canker root, Chinese Coptis

Organs/Systems: Digestive System, Liver, Heart, Respiratory

Key Actions: Antimicrobial, Immune Enhancing, Anti-inflammatory, Antioxidant, Analgesic, Detoxicant, Antipyretic

Medicinal Uses: Diarrhea, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, psoriasis, anticancer, respiratory infections.


Pin Yin: Huang Lian

Also Known As: Goldthread, Canker Root

Meridians: Spleen, Stomach, Heart, Liver, Large Intestine

Key Actions: Clears Heat, Dries Damp, Eliminates Toxicity, Drains Stomach and Liver Fire, Stops Bleeding due to Heat

Medicinal Uses: Diarrhea, blood in the stool, high fever, gastrointestinal disorders, nausea, vomiting, acid regurgitation, stomach ulcers, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), dysentery, jaundice, gallstones, hepatitis, atherosclerosis, red painful eyes, high cholesterol, diabetes (a Wasting and Thirsting Disorder), scarlet fever, diphtheria, typhoid fever, tuberculosis, ulcerative colitis, canker sores, nosebleed, insomnia, restlessness, delirium, psoriasis, acne, boils, abscesses, burns.

Basic Habitat / Botany:

Coptis is a genus of about 10 to 15 species in the flowering plants Ranunculaceae. It is a stemless perennial herb. Its roots and rhizomes are yellow, branch often, and are covered with many fibrils. The leaves are basal with flowers that grow singly or in doubles and that are equal or longer than the leaves of the plant.

Coptis is native to Asia and North America. It likes the humid mountainous areas in low temperatures.

Parts Most Frequently Used: Root, Rhizome

Flavors/Temps: Bitter, Very Cold

Caution: Considered safe but can cause nausea if taken in larger doses over a long time. It should be avoided if you are using antihypertensive medications.

Key Constituents: Alkaloids (including Berberine, Palmatine, Coptisine, Epiberberine, Hydrastine) Ferulic acid, Tannins

History/Folklore: Coptis is considered one of the 50 fundamental herbs in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is commonly used in medicinal formulas for treating digestive issues, diabetes, Lyme disease, insomnia, acne, weight loss, psoriasis, respiratory infections, and more.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the root’s bright yellow color suggests the herb’s affinity with treating conditions of the Spleen and Stomach. Both these systems are identified with the color yellow and the Earth Element in the ancient Five Phase Theory of medicine. As a bitter yellow root, it is noted for relieving Damp Heat, a condition that can, among other functions, impede proper digestion. From a western perspective, it is thought to reduce acids in the stomach that can cause digestive issues.

Coptis contains the constituent berberine, well known for its immune-enhancing and antimicrobial properties. Berberine has been studied for its ability to help prevent obesity, fatty liver disease, and lowering cholesterol levels by activating AMPK (Adenosine 5’ monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is an enzyme that plays an important role in the body’s ability to consume and produce energy.)

Coptis is used to prevent parasitic infections caused by leishmaniasis and trichomoniasis.

Coptis is often combined with other herbs to treat Damp Heat anywhere in the body. This includes vaginal ulcerations, dizziness, epigastric discomfort, poor digestion, palpitations, diarrhea, dysentery, insomnia, and other symptoms associated with Damp Heat.

The herb can also be dry-fried to help it enter the blood and warm its cold properties. Ginger-frying the herb will also warm the herb and make it easier on the stomach while helping to stop vomiting. Coptis can also be taken with fresh ginger to help counter the herb’s bitter flavor. The recommended dose is 1 to 9 g of the dried roots or rhizomes.

While the roots can be harvested in the spring or fall, the roots harvested in the fall are considered superior.

Both coptis and gentian roots (Gentiana longdancao/Long Dan Cao) have Drain Liver Heat properties. The difference is gentian is considered stronger and more effective at Draining Liver Heat than coptis, but unable to harmonize the Stomach functions. In fact, too much gentian can cause nausea and vomiting! When a gentler approach combined with Stomach harmonizing benefits is needed, coptis is the preferred choice.

Coptis japonica is a species of Coptis native to Japan. Coptis trifolia, is the species native to the Adirondacks in the Northeastern U.S. It is sometimes commonly called canker root as early settlers and Native Americans chewed on the roots to relieve canker and other mouth sores.

The threadlike yellow rhizomes are also used as a dye, especially for wool.

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Did you know?

Yellow Rhizomes

The yellow color of the plant’s threadlike rhizomes is largely due to their high alkaloid content.


Sting Your Eyes

An old legend says, coptis is so bitter that it could sting your eyes just by looking at it!
Fun fact!

A Substitute for Goldenseal

Coptis is often used as a substitute for goldenseal.

How to use Coptis (Huang Lian) and take FULL advantage of it's healing powers!

Find out how to safely use this powerful herb and get specific recipes you can make use of immediately. Dive deep into Eastern and Western perspectives about HOW and WHY this herb works. Includes uses, benefits, essential oils, gardening tips, and much, much more.

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ATTENTION: All material provided on this website is for informational or educational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for the advice of your healthcare professional or physician. Redistribution permitted with attribution. Be Healthy. Be Happy. Be Whole. Be Free.

ATENCIÓN: Todo el material proporcionado en este sitio web es sólo con fines informativos o educativos. No es sustituto del consejo de su profesional de la salud o médico. Esté sano. Sea feliz. Siéntase completo. Sea libre.

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