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There are several common names for this stemless perennial herb, which is native to China. Chinese goldthread, ch’uan-lien, coptis rhizome, golden thread, and huang lian are all used to describe the dried rhizomes. The yellow color of the rhizome is largely due to the high alkaloid content and it has been used as a dye as well as a traditional Chinese herbal remedy. Most of the historical information on use of this plant comes to us from traditional Chinese, Japanese, and Korean herbal uses. This plant can be used as a substitute for Goldenseal.


In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) color as well as configuration of an herb suggests the therapeutic corresponding action. Yellow herbs tend to affect the Stomach and Spleen (here referring to systems not specific organs), and the adverse climate of dampness. Bitter Yellow roots are said to clear Damp Heat through eliminative action. It is no surprise to find that it has been used to promote a healthy digestive environment, as well as a healthy microbial environment in cases where immune support is indicated. Berberine alkaloids in Coptis have been researched for their influence on microbes in animal tissues.

Uses of Coptis


This information in our Herbal Reference Guide is intended only as a general reference for further exploration, and is not a replacement for professional health advice. This content does not provide dosage information, format recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription drugs. Accordingly, this information should be used only under the direct supervision of a qualified health practitioner such as a naturopathic physician.

Active Constituents

The major constituents are berberine and related protoberberine alkaloids. Berberine occurs in the range of 4–8%, followed by palmatine, coptisine and berberastine.

Parts Used

  • Dried Root (rhizome)

Important precautions

Not for use during pregnancy or lactation. If you have a medical condition or take pharmaceutical drugs please consult your doctor prior to use.

Additional Resources

Pharmacopoeia of the People’s Republic of China (English ed.). Guangzhou, Guangdong Science and Technology Press, 1992.

Ikuta A, Kobayashi A, Itokawa H. Studies on the quantitative analysis of protoberberine alkaloids in Japanese, Chinese and other countries Coptis rhizomes by thin-layer chromatography-densitometry. Shoyakugaku zasshi, 1984, 38:279– 282.

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