Coptis

Latin Name
Coptis chinensis (or Coptis deltoidea)

General Description
The rhizome of the coptis plant, sometimes called Chinese goldthread, is an antibiotic and fever-reducing herb frequently prescribed by Chinese medicine practitioners. It contains the antimicrobial substance berberine, which seems to inhibit many of the bacteria that cause dysentery. Look for a reddish yellow cross section in Coptis chinensis, the form most often available commercially, or for a pure yellow cross section in Coptis deltoidea. Chinese herbalists characterize the herb as cold and bitter.

Target Ailments
Taken internally for:

Applied externally for:

Preparations
You can obtain coptis in bulk at Chinese pharmacies, Asian food stores and some Western health food stores. It is also possible to buy the medication in tablet form. Look for a powder or ointment for external use to treat eye problems.
Combinations: With skullcap and gardenia, coptis forms a preparation to treat conditions marked by high fever, irritability, dry mouth and throat and dark urine. Combined with Chinese foxglove root, coptis is prescribed for insomnia and delirium, and also for serious illnesses with high fever. Coptis and aucklandia are mixed to treat dysentery. And a combination of coptis and Chinese wild ginger, usually with gypsum, is used for toothaches, swollen gums and ulcers of the tongue and mouth. Consult a Chinese medicine practitioner for advice about dosages and other herbal combinations.

Special Information

Possible Interactions
Some herbalists believe that coptis should not be taken with pork. They also advise patients to avoid the herb in combination with chrysanthemum flowers (Chrysanthemum morifolium), scrophularia, dictamnus root bark and silkworm. Coptis is also believed to counteract the beneficial effects of coltsfoot flower and achyranthes root.