|Pharmacological & Clinical Research
Coptis rhizome and one of its ingredients, berberine, has a very broad antimicrobial
spectrum in vitro. It includes very strong inhibition of hemolytic Streptococcus
pneumoniae, Neisseria meningitis, and Staphylococcus aureus. This herb
strongly inhibits many of the bacteria that cause dysentery, especially Shigella
dysenteriae and S. flexneri. It is more effective than sulfa drugs, but less so
than streptomycin or chloramphenicol.
Experiments on chicken embryos have demonstrated that Coptis rhizome has a certain
effect against various influenza viruses and the Newcastle virus.
Preparations of this herb have shown a strong inhibitory effect in vitro against many
pathogenic fungi. Preparations of both this herb and berberine have relatively strong
killing actions against Leptospira.
The results of studies on the effects of Coptis rhizome against pertussis differ. One
study showed that while the in vitro concentrations if the herb necessary to
markedly inhibit the growth of Hemophilus pertussis were greater than those of
streptomycin or chloramphenicol, the herb was at least as effective clinically.
Capsules of powdered Coptis rhizome were given to patients with typhoid fever, with very
good results. The average duration of fever after beginning treatment was 5.6 days. In one
report, two cases that were resistant to antimicrobials responded to this herb.
Coptis rhizome and berberine have been used in treating bacillary dysentery with very
good success. Studies have shown them to be as effective as sulfa drugs or
chloramphenicol, but without any serious side effects.
Berberine has a cholagogic effect and is able to increase the formation of bile, as well
as reduce its viscosity.
Berberine also has some antiadrenaline effect.
Part used as medicine (Dried root)
Part used as medicine (Dried root)
- Thirty cases of pulmonary tuberculosis with hemoptysis, fever, and cough were treated
with Coptis rhizome for three months. All experienced the disappearance of all symptoms
and an improvement of the chest X-ray, and 83.3% had negative sputums.
- A 10% solution of Coptis rhizome was used in treating 44 cases of scarlet fever, all of
which recovered uneventfully. It was as effective as penicillin, or the combination of
penicillin and a sulfa drug.
- Coptis rhizome has been successfully in treating diphtheria. In one study the fever
subsided in 1-3 days, the false membrane retreated on the average of 2.6 days, and
cultures were negative on the average of 2.8 days.
- Preparations of Coptis rhizome promoted healing and reduced the incidence of infections
in first and second-degree burns.
- Injection or oral administration of berberine to anesthetized cats, dogs, and rabbits
and nonanesthetized rats led to a lowering of blood pressure. In normal dosage the effect
was not long in duration, and repeated doses led to neither greater effect nor tolerance.
- In experiments on organ specimens as well as on intact organs, berberine in small doses
had the effect of potentiating the effects on various organs of acetylcholine or vagal
stimulation, and inhibiting this effect at large doses.
- In long term experiments berberine has been effective, given either orally or
intramuscularly, in lowering serum cholesterol in rats.
- Berberine in small doses stimulates the cerebral cortex, while larger doses increase the
- In one series of 49 cases of Trichomonas infections of the vagina, a 20% preparation of
Coptis rhizome applied locally had over a 95% cure rate.
Cautions & Contraindications:
yin deficiency, nausea or vomiting due to stomach cold from deficiency
and diarrhea due to Spleen or Kidney deficiency.
Long-term use is discouraged as it can injure the Spleen or Stomach.
According to some traditional sources, this herb antagonizes Flos Chrysanthemi, Cortex
Dictamni Dasycarpi Radicis, and Bombyx Batryticatus, and counteracts Flos Tussilagi
Farfarae and Radix Achyranthis Bidentatae.
Some also say that it should no be taken with pork.
- Contraindicated in cases of
Both the herb Coptis rhizome and berberine are relatively safe with few side effects
and no adverse effects from long-term administration. Up to 2g of berberine or 100g of
Coptis rhizome powder have been taken at one time with no side effects.