Coptis chinensis

Herbs gallery - Coptis

Common names

  • Chinese Gold Thread
  • Coptidis
  • Coptis
  • Coptis Rhizome

Coptis (botanical name Coptis chinensis), a close cousin of the peony, is a low-growing plant that is indigenous to the mountainous regions of China. In herbal medicine, the roots of coptis are used. The roots of this herb are dug up in autumn and cut up.

Different species of coptis are perennially growing herbs having elongated leaf stalks that emerge straight away from the ground. These plants produce lobed and delicately divided leaves and bear small flowers having a greenish-white hue. The rhizomes of coptis have a brownish exterior, while the color inside is yellow or orange. Besides the species Coptis chinensis, there are many other species of this genus that are used in the traditional herbal medicine in North America as well as in the Orient. These species include Coptis japonica (Japan), Coptis trifolia (North America), Coptis deltoides (China) and Coptis teeta (India).

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Parts used

Dried rhizomes.


Coptis (Coptis chinensis) is an herb that possesses a number of therapeutic properties. Being an East Asian close cousin of the American herb goldenseal, coptis is most familiar for enclosing an active element known as berberine - a chemical compound that is found commonly in coptis as well as other herbs, including goldenseal, barberry and Oregon grape root. Coptis offers us several health benefits and some of the condition specific benefits of coptis are briefly discussed below.

When coptis is added to bath water, it augments the ability of the skin to soak up 5-fluorouracil, a medicine that is employed to treat actinic keratosis - a precancerous condition of the skin; as well as basal cell carcinoma - a type of skin cancer. Moreover, berberine, an active chemical present is coptis, helps in stopping the reproduction of human colorectal as well as liver cancer cells.

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During experiments undertaken in laboratories, it was found the coptis helped to lessen the levels of blood-cholesterol and, at the same time, encouraged the production of chemicals that impede the advancement of atherosclerosis. Additional, researches have discovered that berberine present in coptis has the aptitude to bring down the blood sugar levels in animals suffering from diabetes.

According to the findings of one study, 30 people suffering from tuberculosis and spitting blood with cough and fever were given coptis capsules for a period of three months. At the end of the treatment with coptis capsules, all the patients were relieved of their symptoms.

It has been established that coptis obliterates the microorganisms that result in giardiasis and trichomoniasis contagions of the urinary tract and, at the same time, cures eye problems and osteomyelitis - an infection of the finger bones. It is believed that coptis possesses antifungal and antibiotic properties and these help people enduring infections of the urinary tract (UTI), eye contagions, for example conjunctivitis and a number of bone infections.

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In addition, the herb coptis is a wonderful booster of the immune system and is suitable for people who often peter out. Coptis is also an useful natural medication for women suffering from pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) and the herb also possesses attributes that alleviate pain, for instance easing stomach cramps that are related with this health condition.

Among other things, coptis is also suitable for people enduring irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), since it facilitates the digestive process and also has the aptitude to put off diarrhea. Coptis also possesses analgesic as well as anti-inflammatory properties that alleviate the intestinal spasms related to irritable bowel syndrome. In addition, coptis is a gentle tranquilizer that is helpful for curing insomnia or sleeplessness or aiding people who are making an effort to overcome nervousness and strain.

Coptis encloses tannins that facilitate in healing wounds as well as curb the flow of blood or hemorrhages. This herb is ideal for employing in the form of poultices and compresses on open wounds, broken skin as well as to lessen bruises and swellings.

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Coptis roots are believed to be an astringent cooling and drying medication. This herb possesses the aptitude of eliminating a variety of germs as well as getting rid of infections, as it has antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties. This is a useful medication for reducing fevers, as an anti-inflammatory agent and is an excellent anti-pyretic remedy. Some herbalists also employ coptis to treat high levels of blood cholesterol.

As it possesses anti-inflammatory and anti-diarrheal properties as well as being a stomachic agent, coptis is also employed to cure gastrointestinal problems. In addition, coptis possesses pain killing as well as pain relieving attributes, which facilitate in easing muscle aches as well as abdominal cramps.

One important action of coptis is that it has sedative properties, helps to comfort strains/ stress and lessen nervous anxiety. Hence, it is an useful herbal medication for treating health conditions like tetchiness, insomnia and overdrive. It is also believed that coptis is an useful stimulant for the immune system and a potent antioxidant. Coptis also has the ability to encourage interferon production in the body and set off the self-protective powers of our body.

Isoquiniline alkaloids as well as proto-berberine alkaloids, including coptisine, epiberberine, palmatine, worenine, jatrorrhizine and berberastine, and scientists are currently taking great interest in these substances, as working in conjugation with therapeutic preparations with coptis, these contribute to the efficacy as well as the useful effect of coptis in the human body.

In addition, ferulic acid and tannins enclosed by coptis may possibly be of assistance in combating against specific health problems. While ferulic acid is likely to work in the form of an antioxidant and get rid of the free radicals from the body, the tannins present in coptis facilitate in stopping hemorrhages, healing wounds, as well as sustaining a fit and fine digestive system.

Traditionally, coptis has been employed to treat health conditions like diarrhea, dysentery, vomiting, and blood in stool, excruciating bowel movements and also to cure gallbladder problems. In recent times, many herbalists also prescribe coptis with a view to augment the digestive process.

Coptis is also used to prepare poultices and compresses that are directly applied to the affected areas of the skin, wherein there may be burns, acne, boils and abscesses. In addition, coptis is also employed in the form of gargles and mouth washes with a view to facilitate the treatment of conditions, such as swollen gums, sore throats, toothache and canker sores.

On the other hand, vaginal infections are cured using douches prepared from coptis. This herb is also used to cure eye disorders, such as inflammations, redness and/ or conjunctivitis.

Apart for therapeutic uses, coptis is also employed for other purposes. Owing to the potent coloring attribute of berberine present in coptis, this herb has also been traditionally used in the form of a dye, particularly for different fibers and wood.

Other medical uses

Habitat and cultivation

Coptis is indigenous to the relatively cool regions of Asia, especially China, where this herb is currently cultivated extensively owing to its therapeutic, particularly healing properties. Coptis grows and thrives best in moist swampy locations in the forestlands and has a preference for light, somewhat acidic soils as well as plenty of moisture. Although coptis thrives well in sunlit locations, it also has the aptitude to grow in partially shaded areas.

The Himalayan region in India as well as North America is the home of many relatives of Coptis chinensis, which is a perennially growing herb and, hence, has leaf throughout the year. The plant flowers during the period between February and March and produces fruits during the period between April and May.


Chemical analysis of coptis (Coptis chinensis) has revealed that it contains isoquinoline alkaloid in the dried rhizome to the extent of approximately 5 per cent to 7 per cent, alongside other supposed proto-berberine alkaloids (counting coptisine, palmatine and berberastine). The other species mentioned above also enclose the alkaloids named here and they appear to be different only from the quantitative view.

Usual dosage

The standard daily dosage of the raw product of coptis is anything between 1.5 g and 6 g.

Side effects and cautions

People using coptis or medications prepared from this herb ought to be aware of the side effects caused by this herbal medicine. For instance coptis rhizome as well as berberine may possibly be mutagenic (capable of inducing mutation) and, hence, these products ought to be avoided by women during pregnancy. In addition, others using these products should do so with caution.

In fact, there are only a few side effects of using coptis as a herbal medicine that have been reported thus far. It is highly recommended that you should seek professional medical advice prior to starting treatment with this herb or its products. It may be noted here that while it is commonly believed that coptis has the aptitude to impede the efficiency of specific antibiotics, this herb itself possesses antibiotic properties.

It is important to note that coptis or products made from this herb ought not to be used by people who wish to self medicate without consulting their healthcare provider from before. In addition, one needs to be careful with the dose of this herb and in this case too they should essentially seek the advice of a professional and competent medical practitioner. Coptis is available commercially in a variety of forms, including powders, capsules, tinctures and ointments. In addition, the herb may also be used externally in the form of poultices and compresses.

Here is a word of caution. While you are using coptis or any of its products, it is extremely important that you closely monitor the dosage of the herb. Taking small doses of coptis has the aptitude to stimulate the brain and cause alertness, while using it in large doses may result in drowsiness. Likewise, small doses of coptis may even raise the blood pressure. However, taking it in large doses may lower the blood pressure.

It has been found that the use of coptis results in numerous comparatively unusual side effects. There are a number of evidences that show that berberine present in coptis may obstruct the soaking up of tetracycline antibiotics by the body. In addition, coptis may also bring down the level of blood sugar and, therefore, if you are enduring diabetes and have not tried this herb earlier, it is advisable that you need to use it with extreme caution. Tannins present in coptis tinctures may possibly result in stomach irritation; therefore, tinctures prepared from the herb ought to be avoided provided you are suffering from diarrhea as well as persistent heartburn. People suffering from Raynaud's disease who use comparatively elevated dosages of coptis or its products may find that it worsens lack of sensation and itchiness. Nevertheless, this effect is trivial and impermanent.


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