Scientific name: Coptis chinesis (Chinese), coptis anemonaefolia (japan), coptis trifolia (India), coptis trifolia (North America)

Common names:  Goldthread, Chinese Goldthread, Mouth Root, Cankerroot, Yellowroot, Coptidis, Mishmi Bitter, Chonlin. 

Ayurvedic names:

Chinese names: Huang Lian

Bangladesh names:

Arabic names:    القبطيس (al qabtees)

Rain Forest names:

Family: Ranunculaceae ??  (Barberry)

Approximate number of species known: 15

Common parts used: Whole herb, sprouts

Collection: April to july

Annual/Perennial: Perennial/Evergreen

Height: 3 to 4 inches

Actions: Tonic, stomachic

Known Constituents: Berberine and coptisine

Constituents Explained:


In China it prefers ro grow in the cooler climate.  It grows particulary in the province of Szechwan. In North America it prefers to grow in the East  

The rhizomes are coloured gold.

Traditional Use: 

Evenn though it is not well known in the west, it is one of the 50 basic herbs in TCM.  In both North America and China it has been used as a mouthwash or eyewash. It has been used as a vaginal douche for yeast infections.

It has been used for a variety of digestive disorders from upper digestino to lower digestion.  

Interestingly, it contains berberine, the same substance in barberry,golden seal and oregon grape.  Berberine when extracted is white or yellow and is water soluble.

The herb has also been used for Cholesterol.

Clinical Studies:

Non-small cell lung cancer is associated with high expression of multidrug resistance (MDR) proteins and low production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Coptis extract (COP), a Chinese medicinal herb, and its major constituent, berberine (BER), have anticancer properties.

A study investigated the effects of COP and BER combined with chemotherapeutic agents, including fluorouracil (5-FU), camptothecin (CPT), and paclitaxel (TAX) on cell proliferation, ROS production, and MDR in A549 human non-small cell lung cancer cells.

A549 cells were treated with different doses of COP and BER, combined with 5-FU, CPT, and TAX. Cell viability was measured by an XTT assay. 

Intracellular ROS levels were determined by measuring the oxidative conversion of cell permeable 2′ ,7′ -dichlorofluorescein diacetate to fluorescent dichlorofluorescein. MDR of A549 cells was assessed by rhodamine 123 retention assay.

Both COP and BER significantly inhibited A549 cell growth in a dose-dependent manner. Combinations of COP or BER with chemotherapeutic agents exhibited a stronger inhibitory effect on A549 cell growth. In addition, COP and BER increased ROS production and reduced MDR in A549 cells.

As potential adjuvants to chemotherapy for non-small cell lung cancer, COP and BER increase ROS production, reduce MDR, and enhance the inhibitory effects of chemotherapeutic agents on A549 cell growth.

Another study aimed to make a therapeutic membrane with aqueous extract from coptis root and explore its adjunctive effects for treating chronic periodontitis.

Drug membrane from coptis root aqueous extract was developed. 4 teeth in 30 patients with moderate to advanced periodontitis were randomly divided into four groups: coptis root membrane, iodine glycerin, single drug membrane and blank control group. 

All parameters including plaque index (PI), probing depth (PD), attachment loss (AL) and bleeding on probing (BOP) were measured at baseline, 4 and 7 weeks after treatment. Analysis of variance and chi-square test were carried out for analysis.

In all four groups, there were significant differences of PD, AL, BOP between baseline and 4,7 weeks after treatment, the treatment effect of coptis root membrane was significantly superior to that of other three groups. Moreover, all the parameters improved continuously.

Use of coptis root membrane as an adjunctive method after scaling can significantly improve the treatment effect of periodontitis.


He C, Rong R, Liu J, Wan J, Zhou K, Kang JX. “Effects Of Coptis Extract Combined With Chemotherapeutic Agents On ROS Production, Multidrug Resistance, And Cell Growth In A549 Human Lug Cancer Cells.” 2012 April

Wu YH, Jiang GS, Zhang SZ, Bian HZ, Zhu SP. “The Clinical Study On The Adjunctive Effects Of Aqueous Extract From Coptis Root For The Treatment Of Chronic Periodontitis.” 2004 August